Monday, January 21, 2013

Wild Honey on Main - Restaurant Review

This review is overdue, but it's a case of better late than never for this Port Washington gem.  Delicious, unique food, cozy atmosphere and an intimate space will keep us coming back for more.

We first dined here a few months ago with friends.  We had reservations--a necessity on a Friday or Saturday night--and came a bit early, planning to have a drink at the bar.  Unfortunately, there was no room at the cozy bar (which only seats about four), since people were eating dinner there.  I get that whole "we'll just eat at the bar" thing when you show up on a Saturday night without a reservation, but it definitely kills the concept of having a pre-dinner drink at the bar when there are people camping out on bar stools with their plates, forks and knives.  We opted to go across the street to Finn McCouls while we waited for our table.

It was worth the wait...  They first serve you fresh baked rolls with strawberry mango butter and regular butter.  The hot rolls melt in your mouth--it's hard not to get stuffed on the rolls and wine before the 'real food' is served.  The narrow dining room space glows warmly with candlelit tables and sports exposed brick walls adorned with hand-painted works of contemporary art.

Our appetizers -- crispy calamari with Asian dressing, baked oysters and salad with dried cranberries, pears and walnuts -- were all delicious.  The calamari was the stand-out, and great for sharing.  It was fried to perfection, not to greasy, not too rubbery, and the sweet/sour/spicy Thai BBQ sauce on top gave the calamari a new twist.  On our next visit, I tried the calamari as a topper on the salad.  I noticed that duck sliders were on the appetizer menu -- it will no doubt be my app next visit.

Though it's not on the menu--and may be up to the chef's whim--we were served little cups of pureed asparagus soup between courses.  It was delicious--savory, vegetable-green,  and a fun amuse-bouche. Served very hot, I dipped the homemade rolls in the soup while it cooled -- heaven.

Over the course of two visits, I've chosen two entrees, and sampled a third.  If you like a heavier entree, definitely choose the Cracklin' Pork Shank.   It falls off the bone in tender morsels and is served on a bed of creamy saffron orzo drenched in a sherry sauce.  There's a bit of carmelized red peppers and onions resting on top of the shank, but if you're looking for a serious vegetable side dish, these will disappoint.  They add a bit of flavor, but you'll have to get your fruit/veggie food pyramid fix elsewhere.  But why not indulge in major meat once in a while?  I could barely eat a third of the pork shank, and gladly took it home to repurpose as pork tacos, etc.  Next visit I might opt for the filet mignon with garlic mash, topped with blue cheese.

For a lighter entree, I'd recommend the Pan Seared Sea Scallops served with Eggplant Caponata.  It's light and healthy, but may leave you hungry for more.  The description lists several vegetables, but they're diced up so finely that they end up looking like garnish than an accompaniment.   My husband had the Marinated Shrimp Saute on our second visit, which was likewise light, served with a melange of Green Mango, Baby Bok Choy, Baby Carrots and Soy Rice with a Lime Cilantro Sauce.  I liked it, and it had a bright citrus flavor, but I personally prefer the heartier option of the Pork Shank.

Both visits I had the berry crisp, served with vanilla ice cream.   Again, I think the heartier the better at Wild Honey on Main, and the bright berry flavors of the crisp meld nicely with the crumb topping and cool ice cream. I'll probably get it as long as it's on the menu, since the other dessert options are somewhat limited. My husband had the sorbet and decided that it was "just okay."

The Sunday night prix fixe is a deal not to be missed--three decadent courses for $26.95.  Also impressive is that amount of selection on the prix fixe -- some of my favorites are available on the prix fixe menu (4 apps/5 entrees and 3 desserts to choose from).

Overall, we loved the food and overall experience at Wild Honey on Main and will be going back soon.  Just make sure you get a reservation!


Wild Honey on Main
172 Main Street
Port Washington, New York 11050

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thyme Restaurant & Cafe Review, Roslyn, NY

We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary at Thyme Restaurant in Roslyn, NY, and it was a fitting location...  We enjoyed the excellent food, intimate atmosphere, live acoustic guitar and a beautiful view.
Thyme is in a renovated house in the heart of Roslyn, at 8 Tower Place
My husband had the crab cake appetizer ($11), which was quite good, while I had the lobster corn chowder ($8) -- it was delicious and full of lobster, potato, carrots and corn kernels...a meal in itself.  We both had the crab crusted Mahi Mahi as a main course ($28).  The crab crust was delicious, and the fish was perfectly cooked and moist -- probably the best Mahi Mahi I've ever had.  It was served with grilled asparagus and pommes Anna, thin layered potatoes baked in butter.  Yum.  I'm always thankful when a main course is served with vegetables that I like as sometimes is the deciding factor in what I order.

We shared a dessert -- banana bread pudding with bourbon sauce and whipped cream ($8.50).  It was flavorful and tasty, but I think I would have preferred vanilla ice cream to the whipped cream.

We were seated inside, but there's also a deck with outdoor seating that overlooks the Roslyn Pond (past the parking lot) and an upstairs area for private events.  The forecast for Saturday was sunny with highs over 100--it cooled off by the evening, but we still wanted to be inside.

In the bar area, a guitarist began playing around 7:30pm or so--mainly Billy Joel/Elton John favorites.  The music was unobtrusive and added a lively touch.  It was quiet and intimate in the beginning of our meal (we had 6:30pm reservations), but around 7:45/8:00pm, the dining room filled up and became a bit noisy.  I'd suggest going on the earlier side, since service was better and more attentive when we were one of only a few tables. It seemed to take half and hour to be served dessert, which was slightly frustrating.

Overall, we loved the experience and will definitely be coming back.  They have a three course prix fixe for $27.95 Tuesday thru Thursday 4pm-9pm / Friday & Saturday 4pm-5:30pm / Sunday 4pm-8:30pm.  We didn't feel like eating early on our anniversary, but I'd definitely consider the prix fixe option in the future, since all of the items we ordered were on the prix fixe menu.

For more information, visit their website:


Monday, June 18, 2012

My Mediocre Winnie the Pooh Cake

My daughter Sophia turned four this past weekend and I baked her a cake for her Winnie-the-Pooh themed party.  I searched the internet for Winnie the Pooh cakes, looking for ideas, but most were either the shape cake types (where you have to buy a cake pan shaped like Winnie that you'll never use again and fill it in with hundreds of little stars/flowers of frosting) or fondant (I don't like how fondant tastes, nor have I ever used it before) or bakery type cakes that had little figures stuck on them.

Where was just a Winnie the Pooh sheet cake that had a frosting picture of his face?  I decided to try to do it on my own.  My cake decorating skills are limited, at best.   I had gone out to dinner the night before with my parents who were in town, and by the time I put our daughter to bed, it was getting quite late.  

I made a batch of buttercream icing (recipe follows) and then squirted some yellow liquid food coloring into it.  I wanted a lemon yellow base.  I frosted the cake, saving a bit of the yellow frosting to use for a darker color.  I took a tooth pick and sketched out an outline of Winnie's face, eyes, nose and mouth, using a Winnie the Pooh paper plate (purchased for the party) as my model.
My Winnie the Pooh Model - a Paper Plate!
Then I added more drops of yellow + one or two drops of red.  This golden orange color was for Winnie's face and arms.  I used a smaller frosting knife to get his face filled in, then used store-bought red frosting to frost his shirt (I figured using red food coloring would not be 'rich' enough red).  I used store-bought black gel icing to fill in his eyes, nose and mouth.

I have a cake decorating kit -- nothing fancy -- but it came to my attention that the smallest nib (the pencil thin one used for piping in writing) was missing.  It must have been lost when we moved here last January.  I tried to write Happy B-Day Sophia using a larger thick nib, but it looked like an orange hot mess.

My daughter loves colors like red, pink, purple -- the usual.  But she definitely does not like black or brown.  Should I use the left over black gel to pipe in Happy B-Day Sophia on top of the orange?  The built in applicator was pretty thin, but the gel did tend to smear.  I decided to go for it and ask for forgiveness later.  (Sophia asked "Mommy, why did you write in chocolate?"  and I tried to explain...)  Overall, she was happy, but told me she wished she had gotten to help me (seemed sad about that).  She also asked me why Winnie was holding her name with his a Mom, I find that some questions are just hard to answer.
My Mediocre Winnie-the-Pooh Cake!

So here's my end result, a mediocre--but home-decorated--Winnie the Pooh cake.  No one ever asks me "Did you get this at a bakery?" when I decorate my cakes, but hey, I like the homemade look.  It took a lot of time and I'm proud that I didn't just buy a figurine or two (which they even use on bakery cakes!) to take the easy way out.  It seemed to make people happy, and most people wanted a slice of the cake rather than the chocolate cupcakes I had on hand.  Sometimes, mediocrity can be the very definition of success.  Just looking at his slightly loopy face makes me smile.

Winnie the Pooh Cake, made in the shade

Buttercream Frosting
1/3 c. butter (5 tablespoons)
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4-1/3 c. milk

Beat butter in mixer until soft.  Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, blending slowly.  Add vanilla and milk to desired consistency.  For thicker frosting (better for decorating), add less milk, for spreading smoothly on sheet cakes, add more milk.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sleep Tight Spray Repels Ants, Too (Review)

A few months ago we moved to the 'burbs.  It's been awhile since I've written a blog post -- too busy packing, moving, settling in, yada yada.  As much as I love having a yard of our own, we've noticed quite a few uninvited guests.   Where roaches were once a problem in our Manhattan apartment, we're now facing armies of ants.  They aren't as offensive as roaches, and our garden variety black ants (sugar ants?) don't bite.  But they are annoying, especially when they 'discover' unwrapped cookies, Lifesavers or crackers in our pantry.

What's a homemaker to do?  With a three-year old daughter and a young dog, I didn't want to blast the place with Raid ant spray (although I bought some, I have to be very careful where I spray it).  And the pantry is no place for pesticide.

I read a lot of blogs that discussed organic remedies.  Cinnamon oil, citronella and mint oil were recommended as natural pesticides -- great, but where would I buy these essential oils?  I found some on the internet, but they seemed costly once shipping and handling were added in.

I was at Rite Aid the other day, mulling over my anti-ant options in the pesticide aisle.  I saw a spray bottle of Sleep Tite, a product by the company 'Natureside,' which featured a couple's feet crawling with bed bugs.  Eew...but I was intrigued.  We don't have bed bugs, but I wanted to know what was in this spray that was safe enough to use on a bed.  I read the ingredients:
Cinnamon Oil - 4.0%
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - 2.0%
Lemongrass Oil - .33%
Clove Oil - .33%
Mint Oil - .33%
Inert Ingredients - 93%

I waited a week, then caved.  The ants had come back in a vengeance and I had to do something fast.  The Sleep Tight spray was $10.29, which seemed pricey.  Thankfully, as a gold level Wellness member at Rite Aid, I automatically get 20% off most purchases, so I was able to buy it for $8.23.

Success!  I sprayed Sleep Tight in the cabinets and it killed the ants in seconds.  I wiped down the cabinets, leaving the Sleep Tight residue to repel future ants.  For two days, I didn't see a single ant.  Then I saw just one, and another the next day.  I re-sprayed the cabinet doors (on the inside) to keep them away.  (I'd already placed all of the crackers, cookies, etc. in plastic zipper-lock bags...but these ants were pretty insistent.)  I never spray it on food, just around the cabinets, and all the food is fully covered in bags, boxes or cans.  Even if it is organic, I don't want to be eating this spray.

It's been a few weeks and the Sleep Tight spray has been a huge plus.  My only problem with the spray is that the cinnamon smell is very intense.  If I spray too much or too often, it's almost nauseating (the smell must be what keeps the ants away!)  However, a little goes a long way.

What I love about it is that it's (for the most part) natural.   It's not going to harm my dog or my daughter....or us.   However, it does have a cautionary statement on the bottle about not ingesting, drinking water to dilute product if accidentally ingested, and calling poison control.  So it's not as safe as water, but obviously anything that kills ants isn't going to be perfectly safe.   It's main ingredient, Cinnamon Oil, is safe for cooking, but isn't meant to be ingested undiluted or used on the skin.

I give this product 4 stars ****.  It's effective, kills AND repels ants, and is easy to use.  I'd give it 5 stars, but the smell is annoying.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner and/in a Movie Theatre- Nighthawk Cinema Review

Yesterday my husband and I had a rare date...  We went to Nighthawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for Brunch and a Movie, The Ides of March.  The movie was good, great performances by Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney, but the experience is even better: at Nighthawk, you get dinner AND a movie IN a theatre, all at the same time.  Nighthawk is in a converted warehouse, and has two bars (upstairs and downstairs) to lounge in before or after the movie.  With three screens, the venue is cozy, without feeling cramped (Angelika in Soho, take note).

Both times we've been to Nighthawk, we've seen movies in the first theatre, which may be the biggest of the three.  The chairs are upholstered with fabric, and they're comfy.  Between every two chairs is a small triangular table with a little nightlight.  You write down your food order (there's a menu at each table) and a server takes your order for food and/or drink.  There are cup holders built into the tables, which is nice because they serve the sodas/iced coffee/teas in real glass and you wouldn't want them to spill or fall.  The first time we went to Nighthawk, we saw the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, and I had the grilled chicken on a pretzel roll w/tarragon mayo ($13).  It (the sandwich) was okay... good, but not great. The movie was one of Allen's best in a long, long time.

Yesterday we went to Nighthawk for brunch, but I opted for the Drive-Thru special:  A In-n-Out Double Double Burger with Fries and a Soda for $12.  The double patty burger with American cheese sauce was delish, and the fries were hot and crispy.  Root Beer to wash it all down, with free refills on sodas.  (The Drive-Thru special was themed to match another movie they were showing in the theatre, Drive.; they also were serving an antidote to the movie Contagion:  Chicken Noodle Soup.  Clever, eh?)  My husband had the Veggie Burger both times, with fries.  I had a bite -- very tasty.

They also serve appetizers like mini corn dogs (puppy dogs), hummus, queso, seasoned popcorn, etc.  and desserts (soft service ice cream, root beer floats, home-made ice cream sandwiches, brownie sundaes, etc.)  They used to serve beer and wine, but there's some law that needs to be ironed out before they can serve alcohol again in a theatre.  We'll see.

Oh, and they serve the food on real plates and hand out silverware....not plastic.

What I love about Nighthawk is the feeling that it's an experience.  You get there early ON PURPOSE, not just to get a good seat, but because they show videos, short films, and quirky vignettes starring the film's actors (we saw Woody Allen clips before Midnight in Paris and Philip Seymour Hoffman zany clips before the Ides of March), as well as standard trailers.  It feels like an event....ordering food, being served, eating decent cuisine during a film....and it's FUN.

Review:  *****  Nighthawk is a welcome and excellent addition to the neighborhood.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

U and I and Me: A Tale of a Nicholson Baker book signing

I've been rereading the book U & I, by Nicholson Baker, a book that was assigned to me back in grad school.   It's a hilarious 179-page essay about his imaginary friendship with John Updike.   It brought to mind my one and only meeting (if you could call it that) with Baker, on a stormy night at a Barnes 'n' Noble in 2004.  I went home that snowy night and wrote down what transpired....  Here's a blast from my literary past.


U & I & Me.

I have just walked home in the slush from a reading at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, where Nicholson Baker read from A Box of Matches, his new novel.  My right hand that is typing on this very keyboard just shook his right hand.  Except for handing the sales clerk my credit card to purchase said book, the hand has touched little else, as it was swaddled in a warm glove for protection from the cold and germs that would otherwise infiltrate the connection I’d just had with a great author. 

And!  He answered my question:  “My question is about U & I – after the book was published, did John Updike acknowledge you or did you become friends?”  He repeated the question for the benefit of the audience and gave a brief summary of the book – that he basically worshipped Updike and set out to write a book about the influence Updike had had on him, using quotes from U’s work, but entirely from memory.  He answered my question by saying that from what he’d heard from people that Updike waited awhile to read it.  “Eventually,” Baker said, “Updike sent me a letter and a signed book, saying ‘to the man that made me famous.’  But no, we haven’t been out to dinner or anything.”  I realize now I’m quoting Baker, perhaps misquoting him, not unlike how he tried to quote Updike.   In fact, I vaguely recall – and vaguely recalling something was good enough for Baker in U & I – that he had went to one of Updike’s readings and had him sign a book.  So now, having had Nicholson Baker, an author I have admired and tried to emulate in my own writing, sign “To Catherine  --Nicholson Baker,” in one of his books, I feel like the process has come full circle.  U & I & Me.

Why Me?  Well, I’ve recently written a novel, and incorporated footnotes –only when they seemed called for—placed at the bottom of pages, not unlike the placement of the footnotes in Baker’s novel, The Mezzanine.  His attention to the minutiae of every day life has inspired me on countless occasions, and his essay from Lumber and Other Thoughts has forever changed the way I look at seemingly idle book placement in catalogues from Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and the like.

Baker was older than I expected, with white hair and beard, very soft spoken and congenial.  With all of the fuss about Vox and Fermata, I figured he might be a little creepy, a little bit sleezy even, but no.  He seemed like the kind of guy you’d want to have as a neighbor, or a professor.

I want to write a review of Box of Matches, but I wonder whether my take on the book will be overly colored by his new celebrity status in my mind.  He’s no super-author, he’s no Tom Clancy, Ann Rice or Stephen King, but he has the kind of cult following you’d want if you were an author.  Literary, artsy types.  There were a lot of men in the crowd of listeners, and he probably liked that.   Not because he’s gay, that’s not what I meant--he’s married and has two kids—but because I suspect a literary author would want masculine readers, not readers of chic lit.  This was no Bridget Jones’ Diary reading, no.

While he was signing my book, I said, “Thank you for answering my question about U & I.”  He responded “It’s my best book -- I’m glad you asked.”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gold Fellow Review

You've probably seen the commercials...a woman with broken or unwanted gold jewelry sends her loot to Cash4Gold.  I'd read some bad reviews of that company in the past, including ones by the actual "appraisers" who used to work for the company, so I did a little research and found Goldfellow LLC.

I used their online tool, printed out a Fed-Ex label and sent in some stuff -- a broken gold chain, a broken sterling silver chain, a gold cross (may have been gold fill...wasn't marked), a gold (or worthless gold fill -- not sure) bracelet, an old white gold ring with a topaz 10K, an old gold 10K ring and an old gold 14K ring with an amethyst.  None of these items were very nice, none of them had significant sentimental value, none of the narrow-band rings had much gold, and none of them were items that I've worn in the past five-ten years.  With the price of gold so high right now (I think it's around $1600 an ounce), I figured what do I have to lose?  I was hoping for around $100, but frankly I would have been happy with even $60.

I was extremely pleased with the fast turn-around.  I Fed-Exed the items (shipping was free) on Friday 7/29/11 evening.  Monday 8/1/11, I received an email saying that my package had arrived.  Tuesday 8/2/11, I received an email evaluating the jewelry, item by item, with a total worth of $121.  I was quite happy!  I logged into my account and clicked on the acceptance button.  This was easier than even I had thought it would be.

I'd requested a return of the gemstones, which is a $10 return fee.  I received today (Saturday -- just eight days after I sent the package), a check in the mail for $111.12.  Yea!  My husband and I can have a nice dinner date somewhere.

My review for Gold Fellow LLC is 5 Stars, for the following:
-Uses Fed-Ex, ensuring quality, quick shipping and insurance
-Quick turn-around in evaluating the jewelry
-Evaluation seemed fair enough -- I had modest expectations to begin with
-Transparent evaluation methods and gold karats measured by a meter
-Quick cutting of the check...faster than expected!