Monthly Archives: May 2012

All Shook Up

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I can’t help falling in love with this french toast.

Naturally sweet bananas, creamy swirls of peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey. Sounds like someone has the same taste buds as I do. See, I didn’t come up with this flavor combination – I was inspired by Elvis’s favorite sandwich! He loved all of the ingredients above smashed together between two slices of white bread. That’s a sandwich that no one would return to sender.

Now, maybe you’re wondering why I suddenly seem to love Elvis. I mean, you all know that I’m obsessed with any combination of flavors that relates to peanut butter, but I’ve never professed any obsession with Elvis’s music or anything like that before. So why am I making french toast that seems to have everything to do with Elvis?

I met him. Okay, okay, maybe I only met an Elvis impersonator, but it still felt like a big deal. In the same night I met Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Michael Jackson, and the Blues Brothers (obviously they were all impersonators as well). I went to see a show called Legends in Concert with my mom and it was a really great show! I have some exciting news related to the show, too. The reason I went to see it was because I’m working for the Branson Chamber of Commerce this summer as a guest blogger. They are having a special feature on their social media pages in June called 30 shows in 30 days, so I am reviewing as many as I can for June. This week, I’m going to 5 shows in 5 days, so if I’m posting less on digintobooks it’s just because I’m spending a lot of time at shows and at my job at the bed and breakfast. I’ll post the link to the Branson blog in a few days on here so anyone interested can read my reviews of shows that I’m going to!

Whew, that was a lot of gabbing. Let’s get a little less conversation on this post and get to the real reason we’re all here: to dig into a hunk of burnin’ love some really, really good french toast.

Here’s my recipe for some Elvis-fied french toast. This’ll make enough for two to share or for one hungry, Elvis-lovesick girl who just got back from a tough run. It’s so good you’ll want to make it for lunch and dinner, too!

Heartbreak Hotel French Toast
Ingredients
4 slices whole wheat bread
1 egg white
1/8 cup almond milk
1/2 banana sliced very thin
2 tablespoons peanut butter (divided)
2 teaspoons honey
How To
1. If you want to make your french toast into a broken heart shape like mine, I suggest lightly toasting the bread first and then cutting the bread into your shape of choice. If you just want plain ole’ square toast, don’t worry about toasting it.
2. On a large plate, mix the egg white with the milk.
3. On a separate plate, assemble the stuffed french toast. Grab a piece of bread, smear 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter on it and then set it to the side. Do the same thing to one other piece of bread.
4. Place banana slices on top of the peanut-butter topped bread slices. Then, grab the unused slices of bread and place them on top of the topped slices (as if you’re making a sandwich.

5. After you make the little french toast ‘sandwiches’, go ahead and turn up your favorite Elvis tune and get ready to shake, rattle, and roll the next few minutes. It’s important to work quickly in the next few minutes so your toast turns out perfectly.
6. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and then set it on a burner at medium-high temperature. Then, quickly douse your sandwiches in the egg mixture until they are almost saturated, and are coated with the mixture. Gently place the sandwiches onto the skillet.
7. Let the french toast cook for a few minutes on each side, ensuring that the coating is well cooked. Once you’re happy with the looks of your toast, scoop the sandwiches off the burner and drizzle honey and the remaining peanut butter all over them (heat the peanut butter in the microwave/mix a little almond milk in if you want it to be more liquidy).
8. Sit yourself down and dig into your heartbreak hotel french toast. Make sure Elvis is crooning somewhere nearby.
9. (Optional: I put a few extra banana slices on the skillet when my toast was done and cooked them for about a minute on each side. I put a dollop of vanilla yogurt on my plate to add extra texture and flavor to the dish and then topped it with the bananas. Other fun toppings would be a handful of walnuts, or a little maple syrup. If you really want to be like Elvis, crumble a little bacon on top – it’s said that one of his favorite variations on his honey-pb-banana combo was to add a thick slab of his momma’s home cooked bacon).

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Snacker Day Saturday: 5/26

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Alright, alright. You caught me.

I can’t get enough peanut-butter and chocolate in my life.

Every week I try to think of some new flavor combination for a snack that will really surprise your taste buds. But if we take a look back real quick, here are all of the snacks I’ve come up with: Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Pretzel Bites (the title’s a mouthful, but the snack is easy to pop in your mouth), Frozen Orange Slices, Chocolate Peanut-Butter Bars, Oven-baked Squash Chips, Peanut Butter Bars, Sinless Cinnabon Rolls, and  Healthy Chocolate Cake . That’s 4/7 snacks that involve peanut butter and chocolate. And, I’ve done it again today.

There’s something irresistible about the semi-salty taste of creamy peanut butter mixed with the rich tones of chocolate. I know that eating Reese’s 24/7 isn’t exactly the healthiest though, so I usually try to get my fix of this addictive combination in more nutritionally sound ways (note, I said try). Today’s snack mixes fiber-filled, naturally sweet fruit with protein-packed Greek Yogurt (I know, surprise, surprise). I packed the Greek Yogurt with peanut butter, a smattering of good-for-you nuts, and a drizzle of chocolate that’ll make any of you pb&choco lovers out there swoon.

I’d recommend making this snack in large batches. Actually, make it in quadruple-billion extra-large batches. So what if ‘quadruple billion’ isn’t a feasible number…it’s how much you’ll want to eat of this stuff. And really, it takes 2 hours to make, so I highly recommend making a bunch while you’ve got the oven on for that long. This snack is just one more excuse to hang out with your family on a sunny afternoon or invite a bunch of friends over for a barbeque. Oh wait- you’re probably already doing that this memorial day weekend! So go right ahead and use this recipe as a fun snack or healthy dessert. Everyone will thank you for it with huge chocolate-covered smiles on their faces. The recipe below serves one – mayyyybeeeeee two people (if you’re not a hungry snacker like I am) so keep that in mind when you’re making portions.

Apple Chips
Ingredients
1 apple
How To
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Slice the apple as thin as you can, getting rid of seeds and stem as you cut.
2. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay the apple slices out on it. Cook apple slices for 2-2.5 hours, flipping them about halfway through. Before eating, let the slices cool for like three minutes so they get crunchy.
Loaded Peanut Butter-Chocolate Dip
Ingredients
1 5oz. container plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon peanut butter
4 or 5 nuts (I used a mix of almonds, macadamia, and cashews)
Chocolate sauce (such as Hershey’s syrup)
How To
1. In yogurt container, mix peanut butter in until the two substances are combined.
2. If plating the dip, go ahead and pour the yogurt into a small dipping cup or onto a plate at this point.
3. Crush up the nuts (or cut them up with a knife) and sprinkle all over the top of the dip. Then, swirl chocolate sauce on top.
4. Grab an apple chip (or a handful), and dunk them into pure bliss. Trust me, your taste buds will love you for it.

Need a little reading snack to keep you from shoveling these chips ‘n dip faster than chocolate melts on a hot summer day? Thought so. Today, I suggest reading “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor. I love reading O’Connor because her writing is unexpected and eerily beautiful. It resonates within every reader even though the subject matter sometimes seems too strange to be related to life as we know it. In this story set on a farm, a strange man comes to town and well, things happen. I highly suggest reading it, not only because you’ll be dumbfounded by the end, but because O’Connor writes about nature in a way that is almost unparalleled by anyone else. I love the way she uses nature in figurative imagery to project what she is trying to say.

With that said, enjoy your snacks of literature and food and have a wonderful weekend with family and friends! Try not to eat too much of this dip over the long weekend.

Oh, who am I kidding? Go ahead – stuff your face with this snack! It’s healthy!

Potatoes ‘n Parsley

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As you probably have realized from reading my blog, my mind works in a way where almost everything is connected to food. Which means when I’m reading (for pleasure or for study), I constantly relate what I’m reading to food in some way. Whether it’s conjuring up an image of a character’s favorite meal, or coming up with a recipe that reflects a text, I always find a way to daydream about eating while I’m reading. This explains why I stuck parsley on top of mashed red-potatoes because I thought it would look like trees on top of a mountain.

I did this because I’ve been reading a book that my grandma recommended called The Education of Little Tree. It is such a good book, and different from what I’ve been reading lately! It’s a book about a boy named Little Tree who lives with his ‘Granma’ and ‘Granpa’ and is raised with the traditional Cherokee values that they instill in him. He is able to roam free through the woods, learns how to harvest properly from the earth, and receive a different education than traditional schooling. While most children his age are enrolled in traditional school, Little Tree observes his grandparents and soaks up their beliefs, values, and experience. His Granma reads to him from Shakespeare plays, he is instructed to learn 5 words per week from a dictionary and use them in conversation, and his Granpa instructs him in his whiskey trade that supports the family. At an extremely young age, Little Tree possesses not only textbook-type knowledge, but an ongoing learning relationship with other people and the earth. His curiosity in regards to how he can better engage in a relationship with the world around him is astounding; he constantly notes the actions of creatures around him – the wiliness of a fox, the tenderness of a mourning dove, and the passiveness of fish relaxing in deep holes in the creek bed. He knows when to harvest plants and maintains a deep respect for mother earth when taking anything to eat for himself. And perhaps the most beautiful aspect of his ‘education’ comes from the wisdom imparted from his grandparents, both vocally and through actions. A quote from this book that really hit me is this:

“Granma said everybody has two minds. One of the minds has to do with the necessaries for body living. You had to use it to figure out how to get shelter and eating and such like for the body. But she said we had another mind that had nothing atall to do with such. She said it was the spirit mind.
Granma said that when your body died, the body-living mind died with it, and if that’s the way you had thought all your life there you was, stuck with a hickor’nut spirit, as the spirit mind was all that lived when everything else died. Then, Granma said, when you was born back – as you was bound to be – then, there you was, born with a hickor’nut spirit mind that had practical no understanding of anything.
Then it might shrink up to the size of a pea and could disappear. If the body-living mind took over total. In such case, you lost your spirit complete.
That’s how you become dead people. Granma said you could easy spot dead people. She said dead people when they looked at a woman saw nothing but dirty; when they looked at other people they saw nothing but bad; when they looked at a tree they saw nothing but lumber and profit; never beauty. Granma said they was dead people walking around.” [59-60]

I think that this quote has a lot to do with the major themes of the book which are living in harmony with yourself, others, and nature. Every aspect of the characters’ actions contain consideration for others. The connections to nature and a deep appreciation for other humans throughout the story are especially inspiring and lead to reflection. I really enjoyed reading the book! And I also enjoyed both making and eating these parsley-topped mashed potatoes!


Yum.

As I cooked, I thought about The Education of Little Tree and was glad I had fresh parsley to sprinkle on top since in the book, Little Tree explains that “everything growing wild is a hundred times stronger than tame things…and just a handful would carry more flavor” [101]. Although I didn’t just stumble across a parsley plant in the wilderness, I took more time than I usually would to appreciate the freshness of the herb. The flavor of fresh herbs are always so much more potent than the dried and bottled type.

These potatoes are packed with parsley and are a lovely side to light-fish dishes, hearty summer greens, or tofu hot-off-the-grill. They are flavorful, healthy, and if you plate them the right way, they kiiiiiiinnndd of look like potato mountains with parsley trees growing off the sides. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch, but hey, I tried my best.

Potatoes ‘n Parsley
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 red potatoes
2 tablespoons butter (or earth balance)
1/2-1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (plus a bunch more for garnishing at the table!)
How To
1. Put potatoes (with skins still on) in a large pot. Add water to the pot until the water sits about two inches over the potatoes. Set the pot on the stove top and crank the heat up to medium-high or high.
2. Boil the potatoes for about 30-40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender enough to break with a fork.
3. Pour the potatoes into a strainer and dispose of the water. When the potatoes have drained, put them back into the large pot that they were boiled in.
4. Add about 1/2 cup of broth to the potatoes and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Leave the skins on through the entire process- they add nutrients to the dish and a great chunky texture! Continue to add broth as needed, until the potatoes are well mashed and smooth in consistency. Add in butter and stir well. Add parsley and chop more to set out on the table for garnishing. Also, add salt and pepper to taste!
5. Take a little time to thank the earth for the potatoes ‘n parsley, share some food with family and friends, and then dig in!

Summer Spaghetti Supper

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To me, summer is as much about soaking up time with family as it is about soaking up sunshine. Now that my brother and I are in college (on different sides of the country), it’s a big deal for us to sit down as a family to supper. Summertime is special because it acts as a window into years past, where eating dinner as a family was simply routine for us. My parents always sought to make healthy meals to share with the family, so I quickly learned habits from them; incorporating vegetables into every meal, serving a huge bowl of fruit for the family to share, and accommodating meals for the entire family to enjoy.

Since I’ve been home from school (and unabashedly professed my love of cooking to the world), I’ve put myself in charge of cooking family dinners several times a week. Cooking is an outlet for me. Often more importantly than that, it’s a way to show people close to me how much I care for them. I love cooking meals that satisfy everyone’s taste buds, nutritional needs, and are loaded with fresh, seasonal veggies which is why I came up with this versatile dinner that everyone felt good eating.

(Spaghetti squash on the left, spaghetti on the right)

Since my brother can eat nearly a box of spaghetti by himself and I can pound nearly a whole spaghetti squash in one sitting, I decided to play up both of our strengths and offer options to the family. I made a simple, light, broth-based sauce to top either of the bases with, and roasted a slew of summer-fresh vegetables to pile on top. Sadly, we weren’t able to dine as a family because of hectic schedules, but everyone was well-fed with a home cooked meal.

This meal is perfect for making on those days where you feel like you’re running all day and getting nowhere. It’s quick, versatile, easily microwaveable, and easy to adjust for anyone’s diet. Plus, it takes advantage of some delicious summer flavors that you won’t want to miss. Not to mention, it looks pretty too!!

Summery Spaghetti Supper
Ingredients
A base: 1 spaghetti squash, 1 box spaghetti, 1 box penne noodles
1.5 cups broth (vegetable or chicken broth)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons ground Italian seasoning
Cooking spray
15 cherry tomatoes
8 stalks asparagus
1/2 yellow onion
10 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
Optional toppings: parmesan cheese, extra Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, fresh parsley
How To
1. The roasted vegetables will take the longest, so start with those. In a lightly sprayed large casserole pan (or a cookie sheet), place whole cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves. Next, break asparagus at natural breaking point and then chop them into bite-sized pieces. Add to pan. Chop the onion up and add to pan as well. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over all of the vegetables.
2. Put the vegetables into the oven and cook them at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Be sure to stir a couple times while they are cooking.
3. While the veggies are roasting, prepare the base of your meal. Cook spaghetti squash in the microwave by puncturing it lightly with a fork or knife several times and then cooking for 10-15 minutes, checking it to ensure it doesn’t explode. Cook pasta according to package directions.
4. Prepare the ‘sauce’ by mixing broth with vinegar and seasoning in a large bowl. Mix well and let them sit so the flavors meld together as the dinner is cooking.
5. To assemble, simply pour strained pasta into the bowl with the sauce mixture and stir well. Then, use a slotted spoon to serve pasta on plates. Top with roasted vegetables. If eating spaghetti squash version, simply put spaghetti squash on a plate or in a bowl, then pour a small amount of sauce on top. Top with roasted vegetables. *Note: you will need FAR LESS sauce if you make only spaghetti squash, as the vegetable is liquidy and therefore does not soak the sauce up as well. However, pasta will soak up some of the flavor and sauce so use the directed amount.
6. Sit down with your family and a huge bowl of fresh strawberries and blueberries, and dig into a great summertime meal!

Snacker Day Saturday: 5/19

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It’s gonna be a great Saturday if you spend a couple minutes in the kitchen whipping these up. Yep, you heard me right – a couple minutes for a perfect sweet and salty snack that’ll blow your tastebuds right out of the kiddie pool and into a lounge chair in the sunshine where they belong. Bonus? They’re so cute that if you managed not to inhale them all straight after making them, they’d be perfect to bring to a summery barbeque, a memorial day picnic, or just as a little snack to pass around during a late-night summer movie with the family. Another bonus? You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.

Summertime always reminds me of s’mores, which kind of inspired this snack. My brother and I used to sit out in the backyard on fallen logs and roast a bag of marshmallows each over our homemade firepit. I’d brave swarms of ticks and chiggers in the high grass just to find the perfect roasting sticks while my brother fanned the flames. Once the fire simmered to the point in which little coves of scorched logs trapped heat, and we were able to lightly brown our marshmallows by simply twisting our sticks a couple times, we’d break into our bags and start chowing down. And I wasn’t joking when I said we ate a bag of marshmallows each.

Now I know you might be thinking, what do s’more have to do with this snack? There aren’t any graham crackers. Or marshmallows. Or flickering flames lapping up a creamsicle sky. Truth is, I’ve never loved graham crackers. My favorite way to eat marshmallows over a fire is to stuff a marshmallow with a thin sliver of chocolate and then smear peanut butter all over the outside of it after it finishes roasting.

Since my house is currently being rebuilt (it was hit by a tornado), I don’t really have access to our usual firepit. I almost bought marshmallows at the store the other day but it felt wrong to eat them before puffing them up and adding a crispy outer layer to them in the flames. So I did what I do best: I switched up a recipe so it is almost unrecognizable. Case in point – traditional s’mores: graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow. My revamped summer snack-attack version: pretzels, peanut butter, banana, chocolate. This snack is s’more like in its’ layers, chocolate-laced character, and satisfying sweetness. Oh, and in crowd-pleasing abilities. Trust me, everyone will swarm to these snacks like flies to the sticky-sweet chocolate bars that always melt near the flames. I like to think though, that they’re a little better than s’mores, if only because of the fact that they are nutritionally superior. These nibbles are filled with potassium, protein, and antioxidants. So go ahead, get snackin’!

PB&Choco Banana Pretzel Bites
Ingredients
1 banana
7 pretzels (+1 for sprinkling)
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
.5 oz dark chocolate
How To
1. Set out 7 pretzels on a small plate.
2. Spread the peanut butter evenly on each pretzel.
3. Chop the banana into 7 sections (be sure to cut off the two ends of the banana and eat them or discard them – don’t use them on the pretzels). Top each PB covered pretzel with one slice of banana.
4. Place the dark chocolate on a microwave safe plate or bowl and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Check on the chocolate and stir a little bit. Then, put the chocolate back into the microwave for another 15 seconds and check on the chocolate. If necessary, microwave for 10-30 seconds more, ensuring that you don’t burn the chocolate.
5. Once the chocolate is melted, spoon a little bit on the top of each banana. Smooth it out and let the chocolate start to harden. While it’s hardening, crumble a pretzel into very small pieces and sprinkle the pretzel on top of each chocolate topping. Then, let the chocolate harden for a while, or just eat the pretzels as is. Either way, I guarantee you’ll want s’more!

So I know I usually recommend a short story or poem, but today I have a little something different to share as far as reading materials go. Yesterday I blogged about a sweet potato and apple casserole that Jane Brody included in her book Jane Brody’s Good Food Book. I’ve been reading the opening chapters of the book that details a nutritional outline of what humans need and how Brody believes these requirements are best met. She includes tons of information about foods that seem common but have been neglected because of the introduction of technology, food processing, and various diet-references to certain foods. For example, she talks about white potatoes (and how they are healthy!!), wheat and how it has been stripped of most nutritional properties, and more plant-based methods of attaining full and complete nutrition than what society relies on today. Since I’m so into the book, I figured I’d recommend it as a snacker day Saturday read. Best part about this book? You can read as little as a section per time, or as much as the whole book (which would take you a few days because it’s loooonngggg). Also great? The book has hundreds of healthy recipes at the end that follow the nutritional guidelines she suggests. Hope you have a great snacker day Saturday!

Sweet Summertime

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Summertime is full of sweet things. Juicy watermelon, ice cream melting on a sunny day, snow cones, funnel cakes, fresh strawberries and blueberries, and apple pie on warm nights. Sweltering summer days are sometimes cooled best by a cold cup of sweet tea, or a heaping serving of cantaloupe.

This being said, you might not think that ‘casserole’ is necessarily synonymous with summer; in fact, you probably cringe at the word casserole right now. Hot, rich, heavy, filling. You probably think Thanksgiving or blustery, bone-chilling days when I say the word casserole. So when my dad said he wanted me to try a sweet potato and apple casserole that I used to hate when I was a kid, I was a little tentative.

Since my dad had to work today, I was in charge of making the casserole. It only has five ingredients which made me even more tentative. Five ingredients? And it tastes good? Without my dad here to supervise, I was left to my own devices to ensure I sliced the sweet potatoes and apples thin enough and layer them properly in the dish.

I made this casserole throughout the day, using an awkward break between appointments to peel and slice the potatoes, and then another break in the day to peel, core, and slice the apples. Before dinner I was able to neatly pile and layer the ingredients in a casserole dish and then put the dish in the oven for the long hour and fifteen minutes of cooking time it requires.

When we all sat down to dinner and I finally got to try the casserole that I disliked as a child and worked hard on all day today, I was anxious. It looked so plain on my plate; no seasonings, only two main ingredients, and a mixture of fruits and vegetables. However, upon the vibrant orange and pale yellow thin slices hitting my mouth, I regretted not consuming entire casserole-dishes of this recipe as a child. I mean, what was I thinking?

The sweet potatoes and apples work perfectly together to create a casserole light enough to serve alongside any dinner dish. Barbeque tofu, grilled salmon, a slice of lentil loaf; you name it, this side would work perfectly. The thinness of the fruits and vegetables give the casserole a summer-y vibe. I’m proud to say that I ate three huge servings of the casserole (to keep pace with my dad who said that I made it just like he used to), and that everyone in my family liked it. It’s easy to make, versatile, light enough to eat in the midst of the heat, and packed with nutrition. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the recipe; the taste is incredible without any added spices or sauces.

I know I’ll be making up for lost time as a neglectful sweet potato-eater as a child and eating this casserole a ton more in the future. Hope you love it as much as I do now!

Sweet Potato and Apple Slice Casserole
(Recipe from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book)
Ingredients
4 sweet potatoes
3 apples (Red Delicious recommended)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance to veganize the recipe

How To

1. Peel the sweet potatoes. Slice them as thin as possible.
2. Peel the apples. Core them. Slice as thin as possible.
3. In a large bowl, mix apple slices carefully with lemon juice.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. In a large casserole pan, put down a layer of sweet potatoes so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered. Next, put a layer of apple slices on top. Continue until you reach the top layer of sweet potatoes. Try to layer the sweet potatoes in a pretty formation.
6. Pour the apple juice into the casserole pan, over all of the slices. Scoop the butter on top and then cover the casserole pan with foil.
7. Cook the casserole for 1 hour with the cover on. Then, remove the cover and cook for an additional fifteen minutes. After that, you’re free to serve this delectable creation alongside any meal and enjoy the taste of sweet summertime!

Smoke [Restaurant Review]

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Cue jazz music. A hint of blues.
Paint the walls with cozy brick. Decorate them with local artwork.
Spot the restaurant with sleek wood tables, black cloth napkins, and leather enclosed menus.
Sophisticated, suave, and smoky.

All of this can be found at SMOKE., a restaurant located on Cherry Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A relatively new establishment, this restaurant has made itself popular with people looking for good food and a place to kick back and smoke a cigar. Wait, what? Oh yeah, I can’t neglect to mention the enclosed cigar room popular with those looking to snack on elaborate appetizers or sip from a variety of adult beverages while smoking a cigar. This addition within the restaurant almost gives the place a 1920’s feel.

If you’re not a fan of smoking, you can still experience smokiness through tasting any of the delicious offerings of the place. Local food and seasonal vegetables are utilized in dishes to optimize taste and just to be neighborhood-friendly. All of the meat is prepared specially so that it infused with a noteworthy smoky flavor that enhances each bite. How do I know this? We went for $5 burger night on Monday and I can say that I’ve never tasted a burger quite like it in my time. Rich, smoky flavors flood your mouth with each taste. Even the bed of lettuce under my burger took on the grill-fresh taste of the burger because it was so pungent. Delicious. And I haven’t even started describing my local, seasonal hot-off-the-grill okra that replaced the standard serving of fries. It made me want to rush home and put my own slew of okra on the grill. Subtly charred, the okra packed a flavor punch that I didn’t think it capable of.

My dad, brother and I all scooped up a deal with the $5 burgers (a deal that’s so popular you need to make reservations on Mondays to get a table), while my mom dined on the wood grilled salmon which was served over a bed of vegetables. She was sweet enough to slice a piece of the fish for me to try and I savored every morsel. The flavors that only such an innovative and well-executed style of cooking the meat could bring were phenomenal and transformed the meal from “just another salmon fillet” to a dinner I’d consider dropping by SMOKE. specifically to indulge in.

We all lingered over our meals, raving over the flavors of the burgers and the thinness of the shoestring fries. And my brother loved his burger so much that he ordered another one. Thankfully, the waiter was completely understanding and said it happens all the time. If that doesn’t tell you how good the burgers are, I don’t know what would.

While my brother dined on his second round of dinner, my dad asked to see a dessert menu. Expecting another classic, black leather-bound menu to come out, I was surprised to see the use of an iPad to show us drool-worthy pictures of each dessert they had available that night. Banana-foster inspired bread pudding, creme brulee, flourless chocolate cake, and finally the clincher: peanut butter and chocolate torte. My dad ordered one of those and we all took a bite. Surprisingly light and fluffy, the torte packed less of a peanut-butter punch than I expected, but it was still good. The plating was exceptional, with the torte resting among caramel and chocolate dots swirled onto the plate that were perfect for dipping. As my brother explains, the dessert was like an “oversized Reese’s that was a lot more fluffy”.

I would highly recommend SMOKE. It’s a restaurant backed by chefs who have extensive culinary expertise, flavorful imaginations, and a penchant for local ingredients that would please any crowd. Whether stopping by for a drink, a sampling of appetizers, a cigar with friends, or a $5 burger, there is so much versatility in the menu that nearly everyone would be happy to dine on the fare. From fried green tomatoes to grilled romaine, to oysters grilled in bacon-tabasco butter for appetizers, to grilled scallops, potato gnocchi, or a classic steak for a main course, this restaurant is innovative and comfortable at the same time. The prices are on the higher end for most entrees, but if you live like a local and make reservations for a Monday night special, you’ll receive the same incredible service, food, and atmosphere for a fraction of the price. Obviously, this just means you’ll be able to indulge in more of the desserts at the conclusion of the meal!