Sinatra Lives Again at Table 13

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Table 13 in Addison, Texas, is named after the original Rat Pack! Bogart would approve.

Table 13 in Addison, Texas, is named after the original Rat Pack! Bogart would approve.

I kept looking for Count Basie to show up with his band. Alas, it was not to be, however the ambiance at Table 13 in Addison, Texas would have made the legendary piano player feel right at home. This fine dining restaurant, located in a northern suburb of Dallas, did a fine job of keeping the bland, chain restaurant-filled strip mall atmosphere outside its doors. When we walked through the front portal, we were transported back a few decades to a time when service was great and the food even better.

Courtesy of a friend’s Facebook post, I had seen Executive Chef T. William Reemtsma, CEC, CCE on a YouTube video. A few weeks later I found myself in Dallas so it was only natural to try dinner on the chef’s home turf, Table 13. This decision did not disappoint. Chef Ted, as he is locally known, produced a fine meal; and his staff served with subtle panache. Let me show you:

The appetizer tells all. A good one creates anticipation of excellent cuisine to come; a bad one portends a trip to the pharmacy for something to smooth the stomach. Table 13’s seared scallops were perfectly cooked. Light in texture and delicate in flavor, I could have eaten four servings and called it a day. The garnish was a treat as well, with Texas red grapefruit slices adding a little sweet acidity and bits of red onion giving some bite. A few avocado slices cooled things off, presenting a nice creamy texture. The first course was delicious on all counts.

Seared Scallops at Table 13.

Seared Scallops at Table 13.

Table 13 offers many types of entrees, from seafood to steak (Chateaubriand for two, anyone?) My dining partner opted for the grilled salmon meuniere; I ordered the mushroom bucatini. For a side dish we chose the green bean amandine. For lagniappe (an unexpected extra) our server brought out fresh bread and a plate of pimiento cheese. Chef Ted later explained he actually makes the farmer’s cheese himself before concocting his luxurious pimiento spread. Yes, the meal was off to a great start!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so let me finish this review by tempting you with candid photos of our dining experience, taken using my iPhone. (Ansel Adams’ reputation has nothing to worry about with these shots, but you will get the idea. Enjoy!)

Pimiento Cheese, finely crafted by Chef Ted at Table 13.

Pimiento Cheese, finely crafted by Chef Ted at Table 13.

 

Green Bean Amandine, almost a meal unto itself!

Green Bean Amandine, almost a meal unto itself!

Grilled Salmon at Table 13 in Addison, Texas

Grilled Salmon at Table 13 in Addison, Texas

 

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Mushroom Bucatini, with soba-style noodles. Intense depth of flavours this one possesses.

And last but certainly not least, the best Bananas Foster I have ever had. The bananas were warmed thoroughly yet retained their firm texture. The rum sauce, flaming as it arrived of course, gave the dessert an elegance not often found in restaurants these days. And for you vegans, Chef Ted is working on an almond milk and/or rice milk version of the ice cream. Huzzah!

Bananas Foster! Of course, the flame went out just as the photo was being taken.

Bananas Foster! Of course, the flame went out just as the photo was being taken.

There are many restaurants to choose from in the Dallas area. Next time I visit? I am going right back to Table 13. Chef Ted’s cuisine, and his gregarious personality, will make for a truly fine dining experience to remember. And here’s a prediction: one day, we will see Chef Ted on either the Food Network or the Cooking Channel. With his own show.

I can’t wait!

Chef Ted and yours truly.

Chef Ted and yours truly.

Table 13 on Urbanspoon

Heart Healthy and Tasty, too!

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Emma Pearl Merlot, 2009

The problem with cooking good-tasting food is that it gets eaten before anyone can get a decent photo! Fortunately, my intrepid (and future Pulitzer winning) pho-tog, Emma, had already taken a photo of the wine – an integral part of this heart-healthy dinner.

Easy to cook, not too time intensive, and definitely tasty – try this sometime!

Ingredients:
1 cup long grained rice
2 cups water

3 – 4 serving sized fresh salmon fillets (wild caught preferred)
4 dashes of lemon juice
2 ounces of light brown sugar
2-3 ounces of lite soy sauce, just enough to dissolve the brown sugar

3-4 head of fresh broccoli
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions:

Steamed Rice
– Okay, this is easy if you use a rice cooker. Just follow the directions. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then go get one! I use a Black & Decker model (see disclaimer post) that costs $11. That’s two trips to Starbucks. Just do it!

When the rice has about 15 minutes to go…

Grilled Salmon
– Dribble the lemon juice on the salmon fillets
– In a bowl, mix brown sugar with soy sauce. Dribble some on the fish.
– Spray some non-stick cooking spray into a skillet, then begin to heat skillet on the stovetop, set to medium high.
– Carefully place the salmon in a the heated skillet, skin side down. Cook for about 8 minutes or so.

Okay, while the salmon is cooking for that 8 minutes…

Stir Fried Broccoli
– Heat up a sauce pan, add some Olive Oil once the pan is noticeably warm.
– Add some fresh broccoli, chopped to a size of your preference.
– Stir in a little minced garlic (you can never have too much garlic!)
– Stir.
– Don’t burn the broccoli, you may need to reduce heat.

By now, the salmon has cooked for those 8 minutes…

– Flip the salmon; cook for a minute – just enough to sear the top.
– Flip the salmon back onto the skin side. Add a little more of the brown sugar-soy sauce marinade.
– Cook until salmon is flaky. It probably won’t take too long.

If everything works out as planned…

– The salmon will be done when…
– The broccoli is hot, dark green, and still al dente, and…
– The rice cooker “dings!”

Pairs very well with a glass of red wine. I used a nice Merlot, shown above!

Great taste and great for Heart Health, too!

Cheers!

Bananas for Charity and Spam Fritters!

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Tonight I had the great fortune to witness an event that happens only once in a band’s career – the ”first gig.” Three young ladies, all still in high school, had the opportunity to play an acoustic set at the Oasis Café and Bar, located in a shopping center on North Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach. All three sang solo and in combination of duet and often as a trio. Two named Hannah and one named Charity, they perform as the group, Bananas for Charity.

While not quite ready for the proverbial record contract (yet) it is obvious that they take their music seriously and, more importantly, have the music in their hearts. Bananas for Charity gave the crowd a variety of well sung tunes, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and Kansas to Norah Jones, Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Train, and Antsy Pants. A crowd favorite was John Denver’s Country Roads, which had plenty of audience participation. I could go on about the sheer number of different artists covered, but many over the age of 30 may not know The Postal Service, Oasis or Snow Patrol. I did recognize one tune from the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, too.

The girls had excellent stage presence, interacted well with the crowd, and didn’t let the occasional flub dampen their spirits. Bananas for Charity had fun on stage and the audience connected with them. No easy feat for established bands, let alone first timers who are not yet old enough to have a pint at the pub they are performing in.

The café’s owner, who I did not get a chance to speak with so I haven’t his name yet, is to be commended for seeking out local talent and providing such a welcoming place to play. The Oasis Café and Bar is set as a pub, which makes sense since the owner is an actual Brit, not a faceless corporation with a marketing department trying to create what “they” think “we” think a pub should be like. The food was excellent, as was the service. Considering there was just one server, plus a bartender/owner/dishwasher, and presumably a cook somewhere, the packed house looked to be very satisfied with the service and food offered.

The Food
Our party of six had a mix of entrees. The presentations, simple yet thoughtfully executed, were met with looks of approval and anticipation. The hamburger and cheeseburger platters looked home-cooked, not prepackaged. The salads, one Caesar with grilled chicken and one house salad, were full of fresh ingredients and looked fabulous. Unlike salads offered at higher-priced restaurant chains, these salads were large, yet not overwhelming. One of us had the grilled salmon bites, slathered with a garlic butter sauce. The one-word comment I kept hearing was “Awesome.”

Since we were at a “British pub,” I just had to try the fish & chips. Judging by the dozen or so platters I saw leaving the kitchen, many others ordered this, too. After a bite or two, I could see why. Two large pieces of breaded and deep fried cod, served with steak fries, young peas and two slices of bread made for a filling dinner. But wait, there’s more! I opted for an additional side dish, labeled on the menu as something for “True Brits.” Spam Fritters. Yes, you have read correctly. A half inch slab of Spam, breaded and deep fried like the cod. I actually liked this better than the fish! What memories that little side dish brought back from my youthful days in Scouting, where fried Spam was a veritable staple for survival. Good for your arteries? Probably not. Tasty and worth getting again? Most definitely!

I will keep my ears open as to when Bananas for Charity will perform again, hopefully at the Oasis Café and Bar. There are enough enticing menu items remaining untested to keep me coming back for many more times. Well played, ladies and well cooked and served, sir.

The Oasis Café and Bar is located at 1348 North Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach. That is per Google and the Oasis Facebook page. The address on the door reads 1314 N. Great Neck. Take your pick, I guess.

Disclaimer: As with everything on Exploding Potatoes, I have received no remuneration or consideration for my review. Heck, the staff did not know anything about me, which is how I like to keep things, that is to say – anonymous. Also, I am not related to anyone in Bananas for Charity, although my daughter did know one of the singers. Would I have given the same music review had my daughter not had that connection? Probably. Those who know me will tell you that I was in the music business way too long to tolerate poorly performed music. If it sucks, I say so. Notice that I did not use that word anywhere in my review. What counts is (1) did I put some cash into the tip jar? Yes. And (2) will I come back and pay again, probably for much of the same set list? Absolutely. Bananas for Charity is a joy to listen to and the Oasis Café and Bar is one of those undiscovered best-kept secrets of Virginia Beach. See for yourself!

You can cook like a celebrity chef, too!

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So we were about “turkey’d out” from Thanksgiving and with three out of four of us having various self-imposed meat restrictions, our Christmas dinner options were in short supply. What to do?  Hmmm…

Food Network to the rescue!  By spending just a few minutes searching the website, I created a dinner using recipes from some of our favorite chefs. Except for a fish substitution, followed the recipes exactly (for once) and everyone was thrilled with the results.

Here’s the WIIFM (what’s in it for me): If you can read a recipe, you, too, can be a celebrity chef in your own home!

The best part: fed a family of 4 for a total cost of… under $58.

Here we go: