Friday, June 21, 2013

#11: Garces Trading Company

As I was going through my posts and doing some calculating, I realized that I have only gone to 10 restaurants in 14 weeks. This does not accurately portray my blog title: 52 Restaurants in 52 weeks. I decided I had two options. Either I change my blog title, or I start going out to eat more. I chose the latter.

My gift card was eligible at any of Jose Garces restaurants, so I had a really hard time choosing between Amada, Village Whiskey, Distrito, and Graces Trading Co. But,  Brendan and I were looking for a different BYOB spot to try & we've both heard amazing things about Garces Trading Company- so we went with that.

Garces Trading Company also has a market inside the restaurant. You could buy & take home a variety of different things from a counter such as pastries, olive oils, breads, coffee, etc. There was also a small wine store in the restaurant. Although we brought wine with us, we also bought a bottle there because we could and for some reason thought we might drink 2 bottles of red at dinner (we're ambitious).

We had an 8:15 reservation and sat down right away which was great. We knew prior to going that we wanted to get the deep dish pizza and that it took about an hour to cook, so we put that in right away with our waiter. Someone recommended it to Brendan and I was intrigued. I also wanted to compare it to the authentic deep dish pizzas that I've had while visiting my sister in Chicago during college. While we waited for the pizza we drank our wine and put in some appetizers. I wanted to try the baby artichokes. After I ordered, Brendan asked "What are artichokes?" This is what I have to work with. The artichokes were good- probably could have had more flavor but I really enjoyed them. They were served in a preserved lemon sauce with honey and roasted walnuts.It was the perfect light appetizer to preface our 4lb stuffed pizza.

Garces Trading Company had a pretty extensive cheese menu as well. Since we know absolutely nothing about cheese, we went with the Chef's Selection Cheeses paired with condiments. I couldn't tell you what type of cheese we ate but I liked it. Each cheese was paired with a sweet sauce. My favorite was the middle cheese in the picture (again, my lack of detail is embarrassing). It had the texture of a mozzarella but much more flavor. The grape jelly dipping sauce was a great addition, too. 

 Then, the pizza came. Although it took an hour, it really didn't feel like we were waiting too long. The flow was nice and they spaced out our apps pretty well. Welp, I can't eat cheese for a month. This 4lb deep dish pizza was amazing. Definitely comparable to Chicago's pizza. We ordered spinach in the pizza because I felt like having some sort of vegetable in it would somehow make me feel better about myself. The most obvious way this pizza differed from a traditional deep dish would definitely be the cheese. It was a mix between Gruy√®re and fresh mozzarella. It was heavy but it still didn't stop me from eating 2 slices.

 I loved Garces Trading Company. Somehow they were able to transform a gourmet deli into a classy restaurant. Plus I got to hang out with this guy...

I think we will definitely be venturing back to try some of the other menu items (Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu, Scallop Risotto, Pistachio Pesto Pizza anyone?). And the prices didn't shock me. Brendan and I always play the "guess the bill game" and he guessed too high at least 3 times. $60 & no corkage fee!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#10 DiNardo's

DiNardo's Famous Crabs. Summer time to me equals seafood so this was the perfect spot for last night! One of my oldest and best friends adores my blog (thanks Stephie) and while going through my list of restaurants she told me that she loves DiNardo's and that she used to go with her family for big occasions while growing up. So, I had to take her. Plus it was an excuse to get her out of Pottstown, PA and down to the city.

I was a bit wary of DiNardo's and their claim to having "famous crabs". I've spent my summers growing up down the shore in Sea Isle and I wasn't sure how DiNardo's would compare to Mike's or Busch's or Marie's. But- DiNardo's was an entirely different experience. We walked in and I immediately felt like I was transported back in time. I highly doubt that DiNardo's has changed their decor since it's grand opening. Red cushioned seats and wooden--well everything. Their main choice of decor were fishing lures.... I am going to go ahead and say that they spend most of their time focusing on their food, not their ambiance. We sat at the bar for a drink while waiting for a table. The bartender was, I hate to say it, awkward as hell. Avoided taking our order until I literally flagged him down, and then while answering Steph's question about their beers, looked at me the entire time. He was probably too entranced by my beauty, or too scared of Steph's, I couldn't tell.

We finally got to our table after a 10 minute wait (with a reservation). Monday night is all you can eat crab night, so that's what we attributed the crowdedness to. We sat in a tiny booth that reminded me of a diner. Actually a lot of DiNardo's reminded me of a diner- the booths, the menu, the house salad, the soup.

At first our waiter made me a little nervous. The beads of sweat on his forehead made me think "how is that not getting into my food?" I will have to refer to Steph's comment about him: "Our waiter was of African American origin. His skin the color of Columbia coffee and his demeanor as sweet as the complimentary chocolate cake". All I can add is- yes. Two free crabs, one piece of free cake, this guy was great. 

Food time. We went big, because, why not. I mean it was, Monday. Steph started off with a house salad and steamed clams. The salad was pretty standard, the clams were pretty standard. I tried some and have had better. But, I guess that is why they are known for their crabs. I started with New England clam chowder, and again unimpressed. Now that I am on gift card #10 I am allowed to be snooty about my food- right?

God must have read my mind about the appetizers and blessed me with an amazing entree. Crabs. I got 3 Sauteed Garlic Crabs & Steph got 3 regular Steamed Crabs. Holy moly. My garlic crabs were a MESS. I am not sure if I am just not used to Maryland crabs or because of the amount of garlic and herbs on my crabs, but I was having major difficulty finding the meat at first. I was getting mouthfuls of more shell than meat and was super frustrated. My fingers and hands were disastrous and I was feeling defeated. I wanted my dad there to help me crack the shells and get this meat. But, eventually I got the hang of it and by my 3rd crab I was a pro.


Steph was already a pro. She knew all the tricks to breaking the shell and knew just where to find the meat. Since she was so thorough with her crabs, it took her a bit longer to finish them. I think I was done with my 3 crabs before she had even started her 2nd. Luckily our amazing waiter brought me over 2 more crabs so that I didn't have to sit and watch her eat. At that point I couldn't fit anymore crab meat in my system, but it was a nice gesture. 

After we were finished, as if we weren't full enough, our waiter brought over a piece of chocolate cake. I hated him and loved him at the same time. There is always room for dessert, I guess. 

I have to say that DiNardo's crabs were a lot of work, but the return was totally worth it. I definitely suggest the garlic crabs- wow. Out of this world. Really like nothing I have ever tasted before. I will probably stick to my shore restaurants when I want really good seafood, but  this place was an adventure for sure. Overall, the crabs were great and the staff was amazing. When giving my gift card with the bill, the staff flocked over to our table to ask about my Restaurant Week prize and all of the details. 

My hands still smell like crabs, so there's that. Thanks DiNardos for making #10 and my Monday so enjoyable!