Foodie by April

Local restaurant reviews by an food explorer & enthusiast!

Azulejos, St. James, NY

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There’s a new Mexican restaurant in Smithtown (really St. James)  and you’ll find it where the former spot for Uncle Bacala’s was on Middle Country Road (near the Toyota dealership and some auto body shop that I can’t think of the name of right now). It’s definitely located in a challenging spot since it’s far from the main part of town in Smithtown. It’s just a few minutes from the Smithaven Mall – you must try this place for authentic and very tasty Mexican food!

We went there about a week after they opened, the weekend after Memorial Day weekend, and I made a reservation a couple of days beforehand.  It is a small place, but they were getting ready to open the upstairs section for patrons.  I would check out the upstairs section next time we go there.  When we went, they were only open for one week, and so we expected they needed to “work out some kinks” before everything was running smoothly.  Some people weren’t as patient as we were with their service, but I expected that it would take longer for our food to arrive.  The place was packed, and the downstairs portion doesn’t fit a whole lot of people.  Everything was fresh and tasty.  The fried calamari appetizer was slightly overcooked, but was still very good.

I had the vegetable fajitas and my boyfriend had the chicken fajitas. I tasted the chicken and it was well seasoned without being overly salty. 

We we skipped dessert that night. I would try something next time we go there. Check out their site (including the menus) at:

http://www.azulejoscuisine.com/.

This place has great food, and ambience. Definitely worth stopping by for a tasty, authentic Mexican meal. Planning on going back there very soon myself. Enjoy. Here’s a quick review of Azulejos in a local magazine:

http://www.etweekmedia.com/featured_restaurants.cgi

 

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Quinoa and Kale Salad – I cooked something!

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Although I love eating out and having an exotic, ethnic meal prepared for me, once and a while I like to actually cook.  In my case it’s been some baking here and there.  Years ago I found a recipe online for peanut butter cookies called “The Whole Jar of Peanut Butter Cookies”, but I’d usually cut the entire recipe in half, since I didn’t want to have 5 dozen cookies lying around.

I’ve subscribed to Smitten Kitchen for a few years, and once I made her green bean and tomato salad.  Most of the time, I just glance at the recipes and forget about them.  Life seems too busy for me to cook a recipe myself.  Then I saw this recipe for the above salad and made it last week and it was delicious!  Go to http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/03/kale-and-quinoa-salad-with-ricotta-salata/ for the Smitten Kitchen recipe.  I pretty much followed her recipe, except we went vegan (sans ricotta salata) and it was still wonderful.  Trying to watch the cheese (cholesterol), as we’re all getting older.  I left some of the rib in for the kale for extra texture.  I used toasted sliced almonds; this way, I didn’t have to toast them (saved time).  It can’t hurt to eat lighter, but who says it can’t taste decent?  The combination of the dried cherries (got mine from Trader Joe’s), two different kinds of mustard and white wine vinegar – was the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  We both had lunches for most of the week last week and it just tasted better each time I ate it.

If you’re someone who doesn’t cook much (like me), this is something you can even handle.  I felt really proud of myself after making this, and that’s my photo above.  (Smitten Kitchen has her own photos of the salad on her site.)  Most of the time, I am doing the eating out and taking photos of food that someone else carefully made.  It felt like I really accomplished something when I made this salad.  You can do it, too!  It’s healthy, but it has so much flavor going on.  Raw kale, but it’s mixed with all the other ingredients and flavored so well that it just might turn you on to kale.

Happy cooking and eating….and happy spring, too.

South Edison, Montauk, NY

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We headed out to Montauk for two nights at the beginning of July, and it was hard to choose where we were going to eat dinner. I’m glad we took a chance and tried South Edison. Reservations are a MUST during the high season in Montauk, and usually I’d make sure to have ours set up about one week in advance. But this time I waited until we checked into our hotel and called South Edison and they weren’t super busy for a Monday night. The key is that this wasn’t the weekend, or we wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting in.  When we arrived, the place was buzzing and quickly starting to fill up. It’s only because we arrived at about 6:30 that we didn’t have to wait for our table. Soon enough, the place was packed!

In all of my adventures in eating so far, I hadn’t tried grilled baby octopus. We had the baby octopus tacos. It took me by surprise that the baby octopus was extremely flavorful from some Mexican cheese and a bit of Serrano pepper (not too hot for me and I am a baby when it comes to heat) , and not at all chewy! The octopus was cooked perfectly. The presentation at South Edison was beautiful – each dish was crafted by an artist who took great care with how the dish was plated. I stepped outside of my comfort zone even further, and had something else I never had before – porgy. This was one of their seasonal specials, and it was not fishy at all.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat salmon anymore.  I used to like it, but one day I found it to taste very fishy, and that did it for me. I just can’t eat it without it tasting extremely fishy. That being said, my first question to the server was to determine if porgy tastes anything like salmon, which I can’t stand. As I write this, it’s hard to remember what type of sauce gently covered the porgy since it was over two months ago when we were there, but I know it was very flavorful without being overbearing.  The portions aren’t huge at South Edison, but that’s okay with me – I don’t like leaving dinner feeling overly stuffed. I did taste the Black & Blue local sea scallops dish that my boyfriend had, and the large scallops were super sweet and I loved the flavor from being charred from the grill. I was almost sorry I didn’t order the scallops, but I love scallops and wanted to try something different.  He thought the portions were on the small side though. I was happy with the size of my meal, as I had room for dessert at the bakery in Montauk.  (Don’t miss out on trying the jelly filled croissants at the Montauk Bakery!)

Montauk is pretty crazy during the summer or high season (July and August), but it’s also the place to be to check out great local seafood.  I’ve been in Montauk in November also and it has a quiet charm during winter that’s worth exploring as well. Their website is http://www.southedison.com/.

Hope you have an exciting food experience yourself soon :)

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Javier’s Café, Smithtown, NY

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There’s a new breakfast/lunch place in town and it competes with one of the other heavy hitters for breakfast and lunch (Maureen’s Kitchen) – it’s called Javier’s Cafe on Main Street in Smithtown.  They don’t have a website yet, as they just opened their doors about a month ago (in mid-June)…but here’s some info I found when I googled them:  http://long-island.newsday.com/restaurants/feed-me-1.812004/javier-s-cafe-new-for-breakfast-and-lunch-in-smithtown-1.5573344 (Newsday’s brief announcement about their opening).  Or, here’s more detailed info from the Smithtown Patch:  http://smithtown.patch.com/groups/business-news/p/javiers-cafe-opens-doors-awakens-a-dream.

It’s hard to write this and not compare Javier’s to Maureen’s Kitchen, since the chef and owner, Javier, worked as the chef for Maureen’s for 16 years.  If you’ve been to Maureen’s before, and came to Javier’s then you’d definitely have the feeling that this was a smaller version of Maureen’s – every bit as tasty and the service was great!  We went there at the end of June, and since we were only two people, we got seated right away.  The steady stream of customers kept flowing in.  The servers were very attentive and seemed that they really cared and wanted you to be genuinely happy with your meal and dining experience.  I had the Spanish Omelet and they happily made it semi-healthy for me (half egg whites and half whole eggs) – it was great and had this thick and chunky authentic Spanish salsa piled on top and they gave me some to taste prior to my meal on the side.  Like I said, they really cared that I would enjoy my meal. My boyfriend got Stuffed Peach Pecan French Toast made with fresh Challah bread – he loved it…and this is coming from someone who always gets this at Maureen’s Kitchen (sorry Maureen’s you’re still great).

I recommended this place to my coworker, and she’s already been there twice.  I’ve yet to get back there myself, but she said that her and her other half got there on a Sunday around 12:30 and could see it was getting crowded.  I’m really hoping they do well.  So far I’m very impressed with both the food and service and the decor is clean and fun – they had a very large spoon on the wall I liked :)  Plan on going back there soon.  Oh, and here’s another link to a local paper with info on Javier’s Cafe and other local spots as well: http://www.etweekpub.com/featured_restaurants.cgi (scroll down for the review/info).

Enjoy!

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Hotoke Japanese Steakhouse, Smithtown, NY

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Hotoke is a local Japanese Hibachi restaurant that I once thought was pretty decent, but I hadn’t been there in almost a year and a half. They kept sending us coupons periodically and I had one that was expiring by June 30th- so we went on the 30th. Their service and food was not impressive and we will not be back. My boyfriend said he was “underwhelmed” to say the least. Visit their site at http://www.hotokejapanese.com/

We started with two appetizers:  crab cake and vegetable tempura.  The crab cake was imitation crab!  There — I said it.  As soon as I tasted it, I knew it was fake crab meat.  The imitation style has that red color.  I’ve had better crab cakes frozen from COSTCO that are from Maryland.  The veggie tempura was good – it’s hard to screw that up.  They brought out our entrées right after the servers brought us the two appetizers – within a couple of minutes of us starting to eat the appetizers we were being rushed into our dinners!  And the place wasn’t busy; they weren’t even half full.  I even had to tell them flat-out they were rushing us – not impressed at all (:

Not sure I remember what I ate there when we were there last, but I’m thinking it was hibachi shrimp.  Had the shrimp Teriyaki there and it was super bland.  My boyfriend had the Sushi Dinner from the Sushi Bar entrée section of the dinner menu.  As I said from the start, he was comparing the sushi at Hotoke with another place that we went to six months ago that he loved, and Hotoke left him feeling very underwhelmed.

Like most Japanese restaurants of late, Hotoke likes to seem “trendy”.  I guess this means that they must play loud club music while eating your meal. We thought we were getting a break from this, but at some point during our recent visit they started blasting the dance music.  Don’t know about you, but I like more traditional Asian music during my dinner experience, or more soothing low-key music.  Loud club music doesn’t help me enjoy the meal, it gives me indigestion :)

We were glad to have not paid full price for our dinner.  That was the last time I would get sucked into going there with the lure of the coupon they send. Next time, the coupon goes right in the garbage, and we’ll head somewhere else.

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Crazy Crepe Cafe, Smithtown, NY

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Checked out a new small cafe in town called the Crazy Crepe Cafe. They have another location in Suffolk County, in Selden. So it’s good to see they’re doing well enough to open a second location.

Had a delicious vegetarian savory crepe- created my own crepe with spinach, feta cheese and roasted veggies. My boyfriend had a dessert crepe called the Elvis- granola, honey, peanut butter and sliced banana. He loved it!  I was impressed with my savory crepe- it was huge and I was so stuffed. And his sweet crepe was yummy.

It’s a casual, and stylish little place that’s definitely worth checking out. Website is http://crazycrepecafe.com/

Cafe Baci, Westbury, NY

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We met our friends at Cafe Baci a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night for dinner.  They don’t take reservations; so you have to get there no later than 5 pm to get a decent parking space and so you don’t have to wait at least 30 to 60 minutes for a table.  We got there at about 4:45 and walked in at 4:50 – parking was a breeze and there was no waiting at all.  We were seated immediately.  I’ve been there a few times for our work holiday lunch, and so I know the food is very good. Plus the portions are generous and the prices are reasonable.  It’s a decent sized space; plenty of tables, but if you get there even after 5:30, forget it, you’ll have to wait.  The food is that good.

Since my girlfriend is a regular at Baci, they brought us over an appetizer on the house right away.  It’s good to have friends with connections.  I went meatless that night since I’m trying to watch my fat intake more and didn’t get a dish loaded with cheese; my dish was called Fusilli Ortolana.  Maybe this entrée is new and the menu on their website hasn’t been updated, as this dish wasn’t listed on the menu online.  At either rate, I ended up feeling like I missed out in my attempts to “be good”.  Next time maybe I’d get the cheesy dish or at least a chicken or shrimp entrée.  On the other hand, my girlfriend got a breaded chicken dish called Fusilli Formale that she felt was a little heavy – I ended up having a few bites to make my dinner more interesting :)

On the whole, the food is very good and the service was great.  It’s a hopping place to be on the weekend, and I’d recommend this restaurant as a fun environment to meet good friends for a decent meal at reasonable prices.  Check out their site at http://www.cafebacirestaurant.com/about.html

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