Daring Bakers Chocolate Crepe Cake Challenge

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Daring Bakers, Food Blogging Event, Rant, Recipes

sbdaringbaker

Bringing up the rear as always (I was supposed to post this yesterday, but procrastinator that I am, once again I’m a day late and a dollar short), just let me preface this rant by saying: I officially *hate* Martha Stewart.

Lucky enough to be accepted as one of the lovely and talented Daring Bakers, I was so ready to jump into this month’s challenge and totally rock the results. Nevermind that this would be the most complicated recipe I ever attempted in my life – I can do it!

Or not. Two piles of ruined crepes and a burnt Le Creuset saucepan later, let me just say – I’m not worthy! I will, at this point, readily admit that this recipe kicked my ass. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s a bad recipe, or a lack of skill on my part (most of the women had spectacular results after one or several tries), but I didn’t have the patience and/or funds to give this one another try. So no pics, no pretty yummy cake here at Columbus Foodie. Instead, check out the Daring Bakers links on the sidebar for some more spectacular results. And as gracious as the lot of them are, they’ve allowed me to give next month’s challenge a try. :)

For those of you brave enough to give this one a try, here’s the recipe, from the Martha Stewart website. Use it at your own risk, no refunds will be given if the recipe doesn’t work out for you (laughing):

Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus melted for pan
8 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Cups whole milk, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions :
Bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate until completely melted.

Set aside. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Add chocolate-butter mixture, whisking until smooth.

Pour through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard lumps. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet with melted butter. Heat over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan, swirling to cover bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low; return pan to heat. Cook, flipping once, until edges are golden and center is dry, about 30 seconds per side. Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating pan with butter as needed. Crepes can be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.

Place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with about 3 tablespoons hazelnut filling. Top with another crepe. Continue layering with hazelnut filling and crepes, using about 32 crepes and ending with a crepe on top. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely. Refrigerate until glaze is firm and set, about 20 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Garnish with toasted and candied hazelnuts.

Hazelnut Filling
Makes about 8 cups

2/3 Cup heavy cream
6 large egg whites
1 2/3 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 Cup hazelnut cream, (available from Whole Foods Market, www.wholefoods.com)
1 (tsp?) salt

Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees;, 2 to 3 minutes.

Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes. Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.

Chocolate Glaze
Serving: Makes about 2 cups

1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 (tsp?) salt
10 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium- medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; swirl pan to cover completely with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.

Candied Hazelnuts
Serving: Makes 9

9 hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
1 Cup sugar

Thread each hazelnut onto tip of a long wooden skewer; set aside. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop; set a baking sheet on floor next to edge.

Cook sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let boil until syrup turns light amber, about 5 minutes; remove from heat.

Let stand until slightly cooled, 8 to 10 minutes. Dip 1 skewered hazelnut into syrup, coating completely and letting excess syrup drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure end of skewer under cutting board, letting caramel string drip over edge onto sheet. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel has hardened, about 5 minutes. Break strings to about 4 inches. Carefully remove skewers.

Balsamic-Braised Short Ribs

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Cooking Light, Food Porn, Healthy, Recipes, Weight Watchers

In my quest to eat healthier, I’ve been trying to use more Cooking Light recipes – and at the same time, I’m trying to clear out my overfilled fridge, freezer, and pantry. So instead of making mashed potatoes with this (since we had no potatoes), I made spaetzle instead, and served it with some sauteed spinach.

shortrib

Also, I thickened the gravy with a little bit of cornstarch, which doesn’t considerably change the nutritional breakdown. Be aware, the nutrition values given below reflect serving it with the mashed potatoes, not my version.

The taste was superb – sweet and meaty, similar to sauerbraten if I had to compare it to a known quantity. It paired well with the spaetzle, and would be equally good with orzo, potatoes, or pasta. It would even make a wonderful stew (since it makes so much gravy) if that’s more your style. This one is going into the keeper file, to replace my goulash recipe.

Balsamic-Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
courtesy Cooking Light

Short ribs are the meaty ends of the rib bones. Choose cuts from the chuck, which are the most flavorful, or from the rib, which are a bit leaner. Packages labeled “short ribs” in the supermarket are likely to come from the chuck. Start this recipe a day ahead. It will taste much better, and chilling the ribs in the cooking liquid will make the solidified fat easy to remove.

Ribs:

Cooking spray
4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 cups finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
2 cups low-salt beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups chopped plum tomato (I used canned diced)

Potatoes:

2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
3/4 cup warm 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300°.To prepare ribs, heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add half of ribs to pan; cook 8 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining ribs; remove from pan.

Add onion to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Return ribs to pan. Add broth, wine, vinegar, sugar, and tomato; bring to a simmer.

Cover and bake at 300° for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Cool slightly. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Skim fat from surface of broth mixture; discard fat. Cook over medium heat 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

To prepare mashed potatoes, place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain. Combine potatoes, milk, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Mash potato mixture with a potato masher. Serve with ribs and cooking liquid.

Yield: 7 servings (serving size: 3 ounces beef, about 3/4 cup mashed potatoes, and 1/3 cooking liquid)

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 463(26% from fat); FAT 13.4g (sat 5.6g,mono 5.7g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 27.2g; CHOLESTEROL 64mg; CALCIUM 100mg; SODIUM 649mg; FIBER 4.2g; IRON 4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 53.5g, 10 WW Points

Zen Cha Tea Salon

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Meta

I had an enjoyable (3+ hour!) brunch this weekend with Rosie and Lisa, over at Zen Cha Tea Salon on High Street in the Short North. I’m not much of a tea drinker, so I stuck with a known quantity – bubble tea. This one is green strawberry bubble tea with milk and extra tapioca pearls.

zenchatea

I had never been before, but they have a nice brunch menu on the weekends, with both sweet and savory items. I chose these delectable chocolate waffles:

zenchawaffle

One of the things we were discussing is having an Ohio food blogger picnic sometime soon. Anyone game?

Review: Sushiko

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Actually, more like a mini-review – since I plan on going back to enjoy their sit-down menu as well; let’s just consider this a separate review of their take-out sushi.

I’ll be up front with you all. For the most part, I’m pretty meh about sushi. I’ll eat it, with a good dousing of soy sauce, but don’t find it to be, under most circumstances, something I’d go out of my way to get. That is, until I tried Sushiko’s sushi.

My previous experience with sushi has been of the grocery store variety – from horrible (Trader Joe’s stuff is about the worst stuff ever) to almost edible (Whole Foods brown rice crab California rolls and Philly rolls aren’t bad at all with soy sauce). In my past few years of sushi eating, I discovered a few key things.

First, I don’t like the taste of nori. I understand the necessity of it in sushi, but it’s not my thing. Therefore, if I do eat sushi, the nori has to be on the inside, and the rice has to be on the outside. Second, sushi doesn’t improve with age. And unless you’ve just seen it made in front of your eyes, there’s no telling how fresh or not fresh your sushi will be if you’re buying it in a grocery store.

Given those two things, I decided to give Sushiko a try – I’m SO glad I did. The difference between this sushi and grocery store sushi is like night and day! This stuff is as fresh as it gets, and tasty. So much so, that I didn’t use soy sauce AT ALL (it tasted great on its own, and the rice was nice and moist already), and I was able to eat more than 4 pieces (my previous limit for sushi before it got cloying).

My husband and I both have the same favorite roll – the Sunday Morning Special Tempura Roll ($6.95 for 8 pcs) – it consists of salmon, cream cheese, and asparagus, and is deep fried in a tempura batter.

sushikosun

In addition, we also split a Philadelphia roll ($5.95 for 6 pcs), which is smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. Much tastier than Whole Food’s, in this version the cream cheese is actually creamy rather than thick and gummy, and the smoked salmon adds a nice saltiness that normal salmon doesn’t. We also got a bit adventurous on this trip, and decided to try something outside of our comfort area, and it turned out to be a successful experiment. The Spider roll ($8.95 for 5 pcs) scared us a little bit, because it has masago (roe) on it, and we didn’t know whether we’d enjoy that or not. Masago isn’t fishy, it’s a bit more salty. But definitely tasty, although I don’t know if I’d like it on its own. But paired with the rest of the roll, which included soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber, asparagus and spicy mayo, it worked well.

sushikospider

As I said before, we’d like to go back again for a sit down dinner, but this is now one of our favorite takeout spots for when we’re feeling the sushi love.

If you’d like to go: Sushiko, 122 Hutchinson Ave (near the Marcus cinema in the Crosswoods complex off of Rte 23), Columbus, 614.985.6441

Sushi Ko Japanese on Urbanspoon

Review: Cameron’s American Bistro

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

I was pretty exhausted by the time I got off the plane yesterday, so rather than go home and cook, I suggested to my husband that we stop in somewhere to eat. I missed him dearly and wanted time to catch up, and also because I was craving something with a bit more panache and flavor than I’ve had the past week. Originally, I was thinking along the lines of a nice steak. We had to drop off my sister in Delaware, so we figured that we’d stop off at the Branding Iron for some steak and baked potatoes. Wrong. Either it was closed for the day, or it’s closed permanently. We couldn’t find any signs that told us either way.

Since we were working our way down 315 anyway, I suggested Cameron’s – we had been there previously and liked it immensely, and their menu is just what the doctor ordered. We arrived fairly early, and beat the dinner crowd. I was quite pleased, because the hostess sat us somewhere that had a lot of natural light, always a plus in my book.

Cameron’s American Bistro is what I would consider upscale casual – more upscale than say, Cap City Fine Diner, but definitely a lot more casual than M or Columbus Fish Market or Mitchell’s Steak House. Either way, actual table linens and glasses were a welcome change from the styrofoam boxes and deli paper I’ve been eating out of all of last week.

Every table receives a loaf of Cameron’s fantastic sourdough bread, still warm from the oven:

Cameron's Sourdough Bread

along with one of the more unique presentations of “garlic butter” that I’ve seen – a whole head of sweet and mild roasted garlic along with a small ramekin of sweet butter.

Cameron's Garlic Butter

For appetizers, my husband and I decided to split a salad and some soup. Bear in mind that the following two pictures are half portions of what you normally receive, as our waitress was kind enough to split it for us before serving.

The Chop Salad ($5.95) is one of their new menu items, described as “asparagus, corn, hard boiled egg, smoked bacon, gorgonzola, red onion, grape tomato and golden balsamic vinaigrette.” We opted to leave off the asparagus, because while I like asparagus, my husband does not. It’s not what I’d consider a “traditional” chop salad, but the flavors worked well together; I was worried that the gorgonzola would overwhelm everything else, but the mild gorgonzola that they used lent creaminesss rather than an overwhelming medicinal kick.

Cameron's Chop Salad

We also chose their soup of the day, Parnsip Soup, a creamy root vegetable puree with a velvety mouth feel. As served, it was a bit sweet – too sweet for both of our tastes, but a turn of cracked black pepper turned this sweet soup into a savory one which we both enjoyed. It was garnished with a bit of braised short rib, which was excellent – I really wish they served the short ribs as an entree unto itself.

Cameron's Parsnip Soup

Since I was in the mood for steak, for my entree I chose their Steak “Benedict” ($24.95), a layered concoction consisting of three (in order) green onion potato pancakes, applewood smoked bacon, sauteed spinach, tender filet mignon medallions, lump crab and hollandaise sauce. The dish was finished with squiggles of olive oil and a sweet balsamic reduction. The presentation was spectacular, and the individual components of the dish complemented the medium rare filet. This dish is meat, side, and veggies all in one, and just the right amount of food for an entree.

Cameron's Steak Benedict

My husband chose the Lamb Porterhouse ($23.95), perfectly grilled jumbo lamp chops served with sauteed red cabbage and spinach, parnsip and Yukon Gold potato gratin, and a red wine reduction. I was hesitant to try it because I’m not a lamb person, and discovered that I don’t dislike lamb – just badly prepared or overcooked lamb. I was a bit jealous because his entree had the “in your face” steak flavor I desired, and coupled with the sauce it was just glorious. The other components of his entree were also very good, especially the gratin which was quite creamy and very cheesy.

Cameron's Lamb Porterhouse

We both had cleaned our plates, but I was the only one in the mood for dessert, and chose my usual “go to” dish if it’s on the menu, classic creme brulee ($5.95). This one in particular really hit the spot because it was served with berries, which I usually add a la carte if possible because I love the combination of the sweet vanilla custard with the somewhat tart berries. This one also came with a lovely butter cookie, and the presentation was quite impressive. My husband wasn’t able to resist the call of the creme brulee, and did manage to sneak in a bite or two.

Cameron's Creme Brulee

Overall, this is a place we can see ourselves returning to time and time again, as it usually offers great food and a decent price, with competent (albeit slow at times) service. It’s equally great for dates as it is for business dinners and family gatherings (although, I need to note – not the best choice if you have kids – I didn’t see anything on the menu that would appeal to them, and loud kids would particularly stand out). They are open for dinner hours only, so bear that in mind when making your plans. I’d have to say that this is probably the favorite one of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants, with Cap City a close second.

If you’d like to go: Cameron’s American Bistro, 2185 W. Dublin-Granville Rd (Rte 161), Columbus, OH, 614.885.3663

Cameron's American Bistro on Urbanspoon

South Jersey Edition: Main Discount Liquors and Deli

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

When I asked for cheese steak recommendations, I consistently got two answers – Crown Market (reviewed here) and Main Liquor. While I kind of was already aware of the former, the latter was truly a surprise to me. After driving by and seeing a sign outside that said “Voted Best Cheesesteak in 2005″, I knew I’d have to give it a try. Bear with the limited information, because I’ve misplaced the menu and can’t find an online presence for them.

The location is smack dab in the rear part of a liquor store, and generally has the same clientele and ambiance as the rest of the liquor store; I didn’t see any seating, so this is a takeout operation only. Also, it has fairly limited hours (the deli closes at 7 nearly every night, while the liquor store stays open longer). I went in, and asked for my usual – cheesesteak with fried onions, mayo and ketchup. Preparation was fairly quick, and the price was mostly in line with what I saw elsewhere ($5.25, I believe – for a 12″ cheesesteak, as opposed to $4.50 for a 10″ inch cheesesteak at Crown). What you see here in close-up is only half of the hoagie I received:

maincheese

My impressions? The flavor was good, and the seasoning was right, but the steak was chopped very, very fine – almost like ground beef, and much finer than I enjoy it; the sandwich itself was very, very greasy, and very, very messy to eat. Good, yes – but not the best. Crown Market still holds that title, hands down. As for me? I think I’m cheeseteaked-out for a while.

If you’d like to go: Main Discount Liquors and Deli, 106 S. Main Rd., Vineland, NJ

Main Discount Liquor & Deli on Urbanspoon

South Jersey Edition: Five Points Inn

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

After the underwhelming filled pasta at Larry’s II failed to sate my craving for Italian food, I had avoided eating Italian all weekend in order to save my appetite for what I thought would be an ideal compromise – the Monday Pizza & Pasta buffet at the Five Points Inn. Their web site indicated that it was held every Monday from 5-9 at both the East and the West Side locations – I knew that the West Side location at Delsea & Landis had closed (not by anything indicated on the building, mind you – I kind of figured it out when I never saw any cars there), so I headed over to the East Side location way out on the other end of Landis Ave in anticipation of enjoying a buffet that I knew would be excellent, as I had it on my last visit to New Jersey.

I was disappointed to find out that the Monday buffet had discontinued a few weeks before, with no updates on the website to indicate that. Rather than waste a trip (since this location was way out of my way), I took a look at their menu to see if there was anything comparable I could choose a la carte. On their specials menu, they had a filled pasta combo ($9.95) that included 2 manicotti, 2 ravioli, and 2 stuffed shells that came with bread and butter and your choice of soup or salad.

5 Points Inn Pasta Combination

The pasta was good, as is most pasta in South Jersey. The true test is in the marinara – their version is good but not great. I think I’ve been spoiled by the excellent pasta and marinara I’ve been getting at Carfagna’s for the past 5-10 years. It has become a benchmark to compare everything else to. But I digress – it was definitely edible. And even though I thought it was originally drowning in sauce, in the end it was just the right amount. The only thing missing was grated cheese, which unfortunately they didn’t include at all.

5 Points Inn Escarole Soup

I chose the chicken escarole soup as my side. One of the things I’ve learned about cooking escarole into soup is that you have to add it right at the end, or the broth and everything in the soup becomes very bitter if it’s allowed to boil afterward. Unfortunately, this soup suffered that fate, and was too bitter for me to finish.

5 Points Inn Meatballs and Sausage

In addition, I ordered a side of meatballs and a side of sausage (price unknown, not on the menu, but I think they were $2 each side) – both were excellent – the meatballs were HUGE and flavored nicely, the sausage was left in link form and still juicy.

While it did end up costing twice as much as if the buffet was still active, it wasn’t bad – unfortunately, it also wasn’t as good as it used to be, and I’m sure there’s much better Italian to be had in Vineland. I just didn’t have enough time there to explore to find the best that Vineland has to offer. Any of you South Jersey locals have an opinion?

If you’d like to go: Five Points Inn, E. Landis Ave and Tuckahoe Rd, Vineland, NJ, 856.691.6580

There’s No Place Like Home

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Life, New Jersey, Travel

After a long day of travel yesterday, I am finally back at home in Ohio. While I did thoroughly enjoy my visit to New Jersey, I am so happy to be back – living out of a hotel room and eating take out every meal for a week gets very old very quick. Although the food is great, I’m looking forward to getting some fresh produce and healthy food into my system.

The miracle of the whole thing? Even though I ate food that was horrible for me all week, I didn’t gain a pound. I didn’t lose weight, either – but I’m relieved that I at least held steady.

I’ve still got a couple of reviews of South Jersey food to write – one for Main Discount Liquors and Deli, and another for Five Points Inn, which should go up later today.

And since neither myself or my husband felt like cooking last night, we ate at Cameron’s for dinner last night, and I’ll be posting a review of that soon as well.

Updates on the other stuff (events, etc.) will be forthcoming. I’ve got a lot to catch up on. But again, I’m *so* glad to be home.

South Jersey Edition: Jim’s Lunch

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

Rather than stay in Vineland today, I took a little trip to Millville, a small town right next to Vineland. While Vineland is very diverse and ethnic, Millville is home to mostly blue-collar working stiffs, most of whom are employed at the city’s glass factories.

Jim’s Lunch is a Millville institution, having been around for over 75 years now. Closed during the summer, people line up in droves during the rest of the year to get their fix. During busy times, there are lines out the door, and a wait for a booth – if you’re in a hurry, opt instead to eat at the counter.

Even though I spent many years living in Millville, I had never gone there for one of their famous burgers. It wasn’t until I saw this review by Brantastic (and her pics are *so* much better than mine ) that I *knew* that this would be something that I had to try, or it would end up haunting me until I got back to this area again). So it was off to Millville this morning through the remnants of the N’oreaster that brought us buckets of rain and even snow (snow?? in April?) last night.

jimsburger

Luckily by the time I got there the lunch rush was over, and there wasn’t much of a wait, as they very efficiently churn out burgers at the grill by the front door. I opted for a pair of cheeseburgers ($2.25 each), with everything. Everything in the Jim’s sense is mustard, onions, and the secret brown sauce (which tastes an awful lot like Cincinnati chili to me – regular beanless chili with some cinnamon and cocoa added in). I could barely contain myself on the drive back to the hotel, as the burgers were burning a hole in the paper sack as the mesmerizing smell filled my rental car.

No sooner did I get in my hotel room than I ripped off the paper and scarfed these burgers down like eating was going out of style. These are FABULOUS. If I still lived here I’d camp out in front of Jim’s every day for these burgers.

But don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourself. In addition to great burgers and weiners, they have just about everything under the sun on the menu, including wonderful daily specials.

If you’d like to go: Jim’s Lunch, 105 East Main Street, Millville, NJ, 856.327.1299

Jim's Lunch on Urbanspoon

South Jersey Edition: Esposito’s Maplewood III

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

I had held off going to Esposito’s Maplewood III, even though its menu sounds divine, because of a misguided assumption that I would need to dress up to go there. But my desire for seafood outweighed my desire to fit in, and my sister and I decided that “Family Day” would be the perfect opportunity to blend in if we were dressed casually.

Oh, boy – am I glad we did. I *so* have a new favorite restaurant in Vineland; everything we were served – from beginning to to end – was spot on. And since we were going on Sunday, i.e. “Family Day”, we were offered three menus to choose from – the regular menu, a specials menu, and the Family Day Menu.

I ordered from the Family Day menu – a true value because it includes soup or salad, fresh baked bread and dipping oil, the entree and a dessert for less than $20. I chose the “Crab Lovers Crab Cake” entree, which is described as “our famous pan fried all crab “crab cake” served with a side dish of lump crab in white or red sauce over Barilla linguini fini.” ($19.95). You’ll have to excuse my pictures, the lighting in Maplewood III is dim enough that it was necessary for me to use a flash, and because of that, the pics turned out a bit harsh.

The baguette that they brought out was still warm from the oven, crispy on the outside and soft-chewy on the inside, served with a flavorful olive oil dipping sauce. We liked it so much we finished off two loaves between us.

m3bread

I chose the soup instead of the salad, whose chicken broth had such excellent flavor that it reminded me of the dumpling soup my Oma used to make me when I was a child. Full of chicken, carrots, celery and escarole, I made sure not a drop went to waste.

m3soup

My entree was absolutely amazing. The crab cake was just that – all crab, almost no filler. The flavor was intensely fresh crab, seasoned in such a way that brought out the sweetness rather than overpowering it. This hamburger-sized crab cake alone nearly filled me up.

m3cc

In addition to the crab cake, my entree also came with a “side” (side? this is an entree unto itself!) of linguine with a crab filled clear “scampi-style” broth – the sauce was so perfect with this dish that I wish I could bottle some and take it home with me. It wasn’t a traditional scampi-style sauce – it kind of reminded me of clam sauce with out the clams. Not the canned stuff, mind you – but the fresh kind that can’t be reproduced unless you’re by the shore. That was what impressed me more than anything – the freshness of this seafood was beyond compare. They delivered just the scratch that I needed for my fresh seafood itch. Sorry, Ohioans – but the stuff we get out there isn’t even close. Next time you’re out by the ocean, get seafood. You’ll thank me later. :)

m3cl

My entree came with dessert, but I chose to box up the rice pudding for later consumption, and instead ordered off the dessert menu – I chose the Creme Brulee Nocello Walnut Crunch ($5.95), an intensly vanilla creme brulee with a salty-sweet walnut topping that melded perfectly with the sweetness of the custard.

m3creme2

My sister opted to order from the Specials menu, and got the “Seafood Trio Royale”, described as “shrimp, scallops, and jumbo lump crabmeat sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Then we add artichoke hearts, sweet peas, cream and sundried tomatoes. The creamy sauce is tossed with Barilla penne pasta and finished with a drizzle of house-made basil pesto.” ($21.95) Instead of getting penne, though – hers came with linguine as well. She absolutely loved it, declared it the “best meal ever”, and commented that the seafood was super-fresh and the combination of flavors excellent. The portion size was so large that she took half of it home with her.

m3trio

Her entree came with a salad as well:

m3salad

For dessert, she opted the “Hot Xango” ($6.59?), a cooked to order “banana caramel cheesecake wrapped in crisped pastry served piping hot, drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream” – from tasting hers, it kind of reminded me of bananas foster deep fried cheesecake – but again, the portion size was so large that she was full to bursting before finishing it.

m3xango

All in all, this restaurant hits the mark on so many levels, that a comparable meal in Columbus would easily cost much more than what we paid here. Service was impeccible, the food was excellent, and the atmosphere was welcoming. What more can you ask for in a dining experience?

If you’d like to go: Esposito’s Maplewood III, 200 N. Delsea Dr., Vineland, NJ, 856.692.2011

Maplewood III on Urbanspoon