Food Review: Pastabilities (x2)

Hello everyone! Since this is the last post of 2012, I decided I would do something new.  Chris and I ate at Pastabilities in Greensboro, NC on two separate occasions.  For this entry, I’ll compare the visits, so let’s go ahead and dig in!

Decor

Pastabilities is located in Irving Park Shopping Center and is a small space in this strip mall.  Outside they have a store-front display space that was decorated for Christmas on both visits.  A tall, creepy looking Santa was on display.  This is one of the decorations that moves, and Santa looked like he was punching you in the head if you sat on the bench outside of the restaurant.  This was rather comical, but that Santa was way too creepy.  I heard other diners say the same thing, so I’m glad that I’m not the only one with this opinion.

Inside, the restaurant is small and tables are packed close together.  There is a small bar area at the back as well.  One side of the restaurant features a built-in wine shelf and wine bottles decorate the wall.  The other side is decorated with paintings and other wall hangings (there’s a huge spoon that’s pretty cool).  A nice touch is that there are small tea candles on each table for a romantic ambiance.  The decor is simple and suits the space well.  It’s not overdone.  The only complaint I have is that since the restaurant gets really crowded on Saturday night, it is very loud inside and feels claustrophobic.  I recommend going for lunch or dinner during the week to avoid the crowd.

Rating: A-

Service

1st Visit: The service on the first visit, which was at the beginning of December, was good.  Our waitress arrived at our table promptly and gave us enough time to look over the menu.  After we ordered our appetizer, I asked for a wine list and had to wait for around 5 minutes to get it, but it was busy so I understand.  The waitress had a good personality and was very friendly.  We did have to wait about 25 minutes after ordering to get our food, and I was really hungry so this wasn’t a great first impression of the restaurant.  I do have to reiterate that this visit was on a Saturday night around 7:30 PM, so I definitely understand the wait for the food, but I wish it was a little faster.

Rating: B

2nd Visit: Our second visit to Pastabilities was much better than the first.  This visit was the week before Christmas on a Thursday evening around 5:00 PM.  The restaurant was much less crowded and we were able to seat ourselves.  Our waitress came to the table right after we sat down.  She was also very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu.  Our food came about 15 minutes after ordering.  Our waitress even read the whole, long list of desserts to me.  The desserts aren’t listed on a menu, but on a white board at the side of the restaurant opposite of where we were sitting.  Since I was having trouble reading the board, she told me all of the options, which I thought was a nice thing for her to do.

Rating: A+

Food

1st Visit: On our first visit, Chris and I ordered the Mozzaluna appetizer (Crispy crescents of mozzarella, breaded with herbs and Romano cheese.  Fried and served with our marinara…..$5.99).

Mozzaluna Appetizer

Mozzaluna Appetizer

The appetizer was warm and fried until crispy.  I was pleased that the crescents were a decent size and the marinara was delicious.  It complemented the mozzarella well.  This different take on mozzarella sticks was a delight.

For my entree, I ordered a Build Your Own Pasta dish.  I chose Plain Linguine ($5.99) with Cream Sauce, Mozzarella cheese, Italian Herbs (Basil and Oregano) and Chicken Tenderloin (add $1.79).

Build Your Own Pasta (Linguine with Cream Sauce, Mozzarella and Chicken Tenderloin)

Build Your Own Pasta (Linguine with Cream Sauce, Mozzarella, Italian Herbs and Chicken Tenderloin)

The pasta at Pastabilities is house-made.  This linguine was cooked perfectly and was very tender.  The cream sauce was creamy, but lacked a lot of flavor.  I also wish there would have been more spices for a bit more “oomph” as the dish was kind of bland.  The chicken had a nice texture and the taste was reminiscent of rotisserie-style chicken.  While it was good, I probably would not have it on another dish.

I also ordered a glass of the Shooting Star Chardonnay (Mendocino Vinyards, California) to go with my pasta.  This chardonnay is one of the best I’ve had.  It was very smooth and slightly sweet.  It paired perfectly with the cream sauce on my pasta.  I’m now on a mission to find this wine at the grocery store.  The glass was around $7.00.

Chris had the Roast Beef and Crumbled Bleu Cheese sandwich (With sauteed mushrooms and black pepper aioli on a French roll…..$7.99).  All sandwiches are served with chips, but Chris substituted fries for an additional $1.29.

Roast Beef and Crumbled Bleu Cheese Sandwich with Fries

Roast Beef and Crumbled Bleu Cheese Sandwich with Fries

Chris commented that the roll and roast beef were great.  The beef had a lot of flavor.  The bleu cheese was strange because it wasn’t very sharp.  It had the classic bleu cheese flavor at first, but it wasn’t strong at all.  He also loved the fries because they are crispy and different from traditional French fries.

Rating: B-

2nd Visit: On the second visit, Chris ordered another sandwich, the Jumpin’ Jack (Smoked turkey, Pepperjack cheese, lettuce, tomato and Dijon on a hoagie roll…..$6.99).  He subbed the fries for the chips again for an additional $1.29.

The Jumpin' Jack Sandwich with Fries

The Jumpin’ Jack Sandwich with Fries

Chris enjoyed this sandwich more than the roast beef sandwich he had on our first visit.  The bread and turkey were very fresh and the Pepperjack added a hint of spice.  The fries were also perfectly done just like on the first visit.  Chris says that these fries are probably his favorite out of all the fries he’s had at other restaurants.

I ordered the Lasagna (Delicious and homemade, layers of cheese, meat and our marinara sauce…..$8.99).

Lasagna

Lasagna

This portion of lasagna is huge for the price of $8.99.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and the meat, marinara and cheese blend was lovely.  There was plenty of melted cheese and sauce in this dish.  I also really liked the spices on top because they added just the right amount of extra flavor.  The dish also comes with a salad, but I decided to skip it so the waitress brought me a fresh baked roll instead.  The roll was small and just the right size to go with the meal.  This lasagna is one of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had A LOT of lasagna).  It was definitely better than the lasagna I had at another Greensboro pasta restaurant, Cafe Pasta.

For dessert we had the Chocolate Chip Kahlua Pound Cake (I didn’t note the exact price, but it was around $5).

Chocolate Chip Kahlua Pound Cake

Chocolate Chip Kahlua Pound Cake

This pound cake was moist and delicious.  It was also really chocolatey, so I recommend it if you’re a chocolate lover.  The whipped cream helped break up a bit of the richness.  The Kahlua also added a great, sweet flavor and there were pieces of chocolate chips for added texture.  This cake reminded me of a Bailey’s cake my mom makes during the holidays.  It’s the perfect way to finish off a meal and isn’t too heavy.

Rating: A

Overall, our second trip to Pastabilities was much more enjoyable than the first.  The restaurant was less crowded and the food was tastier.  Pastabilities offers good-sized portions without breaking the bank and is a great local gem if you’re looking for a pasta fix.  The service is friendly and the food delicious.  Just a warning, it does get busy on Saturday evenings so be prepared if you’re going for dinner.  If you prefer a quiet, more intimate dinner I recommend going during the week.  You’ll be much happier.  They also offer takeout and delivery services, so this may be a better option for enjoying Pastabilities on Friday and Saturday nights.

Overall Rating: A-

Pastabilities is located at 1726 Battleground Avenue in Greensboro, NC.  Please visit their website at http://www.pastabilitiesgso.com.

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Food Review: Firebirds

Today I’m sharing my experience at one of my favorite nice restaurants: Firebirds in Winston-Salem, NC.  Chris and I decided to try it out a few months ago and we loved it.  We go occasionally when I’m craving a good steak.  This visit was during the first week of December.  My apologies for not remembering the exact date.

Decor

Firebirds reminds me of a winter home in Aspen.  The inside has dark wood and low lighting to create a warm, intimate atmosphere.  Outside there is a patio with a fireplace and I often see groups of friends and couples outside enjoying a glass of wine.  Speaking of wine, a focal point of the interior design is a huge shelf housing wine bottles.  This makes for an upscale feel and adds interest to the room.  It’s one of my favorite things about the restaurant.  While the design is simple, all of the elements work together to make the restaurant a cozy place to dine.

Rating: A+

Service

You expect great service from a restaurant on this scale, and Firebirds does not disappoint.  Each time I’ve eaten here, the service has been impeccable.

On this particular visit, our waitress was very personable.  She had brief conversations with us but did not intrude on our meal.  She was also attentive and made excellent suggestions.  One thing I really appreciated was her wine suggestion.  She offered samples of a new wine (Greystone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon) and did a great job of explaining the flavor.  I took her up on this offer and ordered a glass to go with my filet.  The wine paired beautifully with the steak and I was very impressed with her expertise.

Rating: A+

Food

Firebirds offers a bread service while you wait for your meal.  The bread is served warm with creamy butter.

Bread service

Bread service

The bread has a nice, light flavor and a crispy texture.  On this visit, it was a little too crunchy for me, so I only had a small piece.

Chris ordered his favorite, the Spinach Salad (Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, balsamic vinaigrette….$9.35).  There is also an option to add Chicken, Salmon, Tenderloin, or Seared Tuna to the salad.  Chris usually skips this option because the greens by themselves are great.

Spinach Salad

Spinach Salad

The spinach is shredded and the other ingredients are nestled into the bed of greens and balsamic vinaigrette is thoroughly mixed throughout.  The eggs decorate the outside of the plate.  Chris always enjoys this salad because all of the ingredients together create a harmonious flavor.  The spinach is fresh and has a great texture and the balsamic vinaigrette really makes the meal.  I’m not much of a salad person, but I tried this salad and loved it.  I would definitely eat it again (which is something I don’t say often about salads).

I ordered the Bleu Cheese Filet (Our bacon wrapped wood grilled filet topped with bleu cheese sauce and port mushrooms….$26.95).  I do not like mushrooms, so I asked if I could just have the port sauce.  The kitchen was able to accommodate this request and I was delighted because I absolutely love the flavor of the port sauce with the bleu cheese.

Bleu Cheese Filet

Bleu Cheese Filet with Port Sauce (left) and Bleu Cheese Sauce (right).  Please excuse the camera angle.

For my side I had the Loaded Colorado Russet Baked Potato.  Since I ordered my filet medium-well, it was butterflied to reduce cooking time.  The filet was tender and juicy and the bleu cheese sauce was creamy and flavorful.  The port sauce was delicious as always and married well with the bleu cheese.  The potato was perfectly baked and had a nice consistency, and the toppings were wonderful.  I love that there is coarse-ground salt on the potato skin.  This enhances the flavor and is great if you like to eat the skin.  The only way I would improve the potato is by adding more sour cream.  The filet is a great gluten-free meal if you exclude the sauces.

For dessert, we had the Creme Brulee Cheesecake ($7).

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

Creme Brulee Cheesecake

The cheesecake was very creamy and the Creme Brulee on the top added a satisfying crunch.  The plate was garnished with a delicious raspberry sauce and fresh fruit.  If you’re looking for a fluffy, creamy dessert to finish your meal, I definitely recommend this cheesecake.

Rating: A

Firebirds is a great place to take a date or dine with friends.  The warm atmosphere, excellent service and delicious food will not disappoint.  I recommend ordering wine to go with your meal, and if you don’t know wines, no problem.  The wait staff is great at making recommendations that are sure to pair perfectly with your meal.

Overall Rating: A+

Chris and I visited Firebirds located at 1215 Creekshire Court in Winston-Salem, NC.  For more information about Firebirds and to find a location near you, please visit their website at http://www.firebirdsrestaurants.com/.

New Things are Coming!

Hello readers! I just wanted to take a second and let you all know that I haven’t forgotten about you.  I’ve been collecting notes and pictures of my recent dining experiences to share with everyone.  I’m sorry there haven’t been any new posts recently and I really appreciate your patience.  Lots of fun new things are coming to Cheeseburgers & Nail Polish (including the long-awaited beauty reviews) soon.  Expect a post either later today or tomorrow!

PS: I’m going to finish my Christmas shopping.  I hope everyone else is already finished and ready to celebrate!

I also wanted to share this funny LOLCat I’ve seen floating around Facebook.  Enjoy!

Image

Food Review: Cafe Pasta

On Friday, Chris and I went to Cafe Pasta in Greensboro, NC for dinner.  We both wanted a non-greasy meal for dinner so we decided to search for pasta restaurants on Google.  Cafe Pasta was one of the top results and we decided to try it out based on the reviews and because it’s a local restaurant we’ve never been to.

Decor

Cafe Pasta’s website states that they’re “Newly Remodeled,” but when I stepped into the place I felt like I had just walked out of a time machine into the 1980s.  If this place is newly remodeled, what did it look like before?! I just kept feeling like I was in a scene from Scarface while I was there.  If a 1980s chic club scene is what the owner was going for, he nailed it.  There are mirrors on most of the walls and the dining room is a multi-level set up.  The tables are small and decorated with a diamond-shaped cloth napkin underneath a slab of glass.  The chairs are of the “S-shaped” variety.  I only saw one piece of art that looked like it would belong in an Italian restaurant.  The rest of the pieces were black-and-white 1980s-style glamor photographs.  The wall sconces are black with a graphic squiggle design on the front, and the flooring is a cheap looking white laminate material.  I can’t downgrade the decor because as horrible as it is to the modern eye, this place is full-on 80s chic.  I must confess that I liked it…just a little.

Rating: B

Service

When Chris and I first walked into the restaurant, I wasn’t sure how service was going to be.  The vestibule is odd and you have to walk through a long hallway to get to the hostess station.  It was awkward because we were standing right at the entrance of the bar/dining room area, and there was no one there to greet us when we came in.  A man who I assume is the owner shouted at a girl to come seat us.  As we were walking to our table, he kept yelling at her to take us to a different table.  I was a little confused by this unprofessional attitude, but decided not to let it affect my judgement of the wait staff.

We were promptly greeted by our waitress and she was very friendly.  She was very knowledgeable about the menu and answered my questions with confidence.  She kept our drinks full and had our food to us quickly.

There were only two waitresses that I saw in the restaurant.  Both were dressed very professionally; not in T-shirts and black pants like in other establishments.  I thought this added to the upscale atmosphere in the restaurant.

When we left, the owner was much friendlier and thanked us for coming.  This made up for the first encounter we had with him.

*A note about the menus: The dinner menu was cheaply printed and laminated and the dessert menu was printed on a piece of regular printer paper.  Since Cafe Pasta seems to want to have a more upscale feel, they need to improve the menus to make them look like something you would see in a fine dining establishment.  Chris and I had a good laugh about the dessert menu when we saw it.

Rating: A

Food

Our meal started off with bread service.  Our waitress brought us two wheat rolls with a marinara sauce for dipping.  The bread was definitely not house-made, but it had a good flavor.  The marinara sauce was also not house-made, but was very nice.  It had a robust, spicy flavor and there was plenty of cheese on top.  It was served cold and I think it would have been a lot better if it were warm.

Bread service

Bread service

For our appetizer, we ordered Raspberry Brie (Baked Brie with a raspberry compote served with toasted crustini. $8.95).

Raspberry Brie appetizer

Raspberry Brie appetizer

The brie was absolutely delicious; however, the bread was unremarkable.  It was not very toasted and tasted pretty bland.  I would have preferred a more flavorful bread, but the brie more than made up for the lackluster dipping material.  The sweetness of the raspberry compote nicely complemented the saltiness of the brie.  The consistency of the brie was runny, but it thickened as it cooled.  Overall I was very impressed with this appetizer.

Chris ordered the Ahi Tuna Salad (Over mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots topped with crispy noodles with a wasabi dressing. $10.95).

Ahi Tuna Salad

Ahi Tuna Salad

He said that the tuna was overcooked and he was disappointed that the kitchen had not seared it and served it rare (if you are unfamiliar with Ahi tuna dishes, it is normally rare).  Despite being overcooked, the tuna had a nice flavor and texture.  He also commented that the lettuce was crisp and the wasabi dressing was great.  He just wished that there had been a little more dressing on the salad.

I had the Lasagna (Classic Chef prepared Italian Lasagna. $12.95).  The kitchen makes a different style of lasagna every day, so the menu states to ask your server which type of lasagna is being served on your visit.  This lasagna was a meat dish with ground sirloin.

Lasagna

Lasagna

I normally don’t eat pasta dishes with meat, so I asked our waitress if I could order the lasagna without the meat.  She told me that the kitchen prepares the lasagna every morning, so it wasn’t possible to special order it.  I was a little disappointed that the restaurant doesn’t offer a vegetarian or meatless option.

Even though I couldn’t get the lasagna without meat, I decided to take a chance and order it anyway.  I was surprised to see the portion size when it arrived at the table.  I was expecting a piece about half the size that I received.  The noodles were cooked perfectly and there was plenty of sauce and cheese.  The sauce was really bland and not house-made.  Also, the lasagna wasn’t straight-from-the-oven hot, but I found it to be an acceptable temperature.  The addition of the spices on the plate was nice, but I wish that more spices would’ve been added to the sauce itself to improve the flavor.

I also ordered a glass of Gabbiano Chianti to go with my lasagna.  This wine paired nicely with the pasta.  Cafe Pasta’s wine list is extensive and it offers descriptions for those of us who aren’t wine savvy.  The menu stated that the Chianti would be an excellent pairing with pasta, and I was pleased to find that this was a great suggestion.  The wine really rounded out the meal nicely.

For dessert, we had the Milk Chocolate Mousse.  The mousse was served with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

cafepasta5The mousse was very rich and had a smooth consistency.  The whipped cream was dense, but had a good flavor and paired well with the mousse.  I was afraid that the dessert would be boxed (aka, Jello) mousse, but I was glad to find that it was not.  The portion was a shareable size.  I thought the dish would have been better without the chocolate syrup as it was already rich enough without this addition.

Rating: B

Cafe Pasta offers a nice, intimate environment and is a good date spot, if you don’t mind the tacky 1980s decor.  The service is excellent, but most of the food leaves a little something to be desired.  The portions are huge though, so you’re getting a good value.  If you’re looking for a place to have a drink, I would recommend Cafe Pasta because of their wine list and bar offerings.  If you go, definitely try the Raspberry Brie.

Overall Rating: B

Cafe Pasta is located at 305 State Street in Greensboro, NC.  You can visit them online at http://www.cafepasta.com/.

Food Review: [B]Ski’s

Hello everyone! I spent this past weekend in Durham, NC with my boyfriend Daniel.  We celebrated our anniversary (3 years!) with lots and lots of food, almost none of which was gluten-free (sadly).  One of the places we visited was [B]Ski’s, located on Franklin Street in beautiful Chapel Hill, NC.  I was first introduced to [B]Ski’s in my freshman year of college and I always make sure to visit when I’m in the area.

Side note: Sorry for the delay in publishing this post. I started it on Monday and never got a chance to finish it.

Decor

The decor inside the restaurant is very simple.  There are posters and Carolina pennants on the walls and one HDTV, for keeping up with sports, of course.  There is plenty of seating, which is awesome because the place can get really crowded after the clubs on Franklin close at 2:00 am.

Rating (considering the location): A

Service

[B]Ski’s is a mix of self-service and table service.  You walk in and order your food at the counter and the cashier gives you a number placard for your order.  If you get a drink, you fill your cup yourself at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine (more on this in the Food category).  After choosing a seat, you put your number on the edge of the table and the food is brought to you by one of the friendly kitchen staff.

I like the mixture of services because if you need a refill you don’t have to wait on someone to bring it to you.  Also, waiting for someone to bring your food to the table is a lot easier than having to listen for your number to be called and wading through the other diners to retrieve your order.  On this visit, both the cashier and the waitress were very friendly.  I have always found [B]Ski’s cashiers to be extremely knowledgeable about the menu and they are helpful with making recommendations if you’re struggling to choose just one of the delicious wraps they offer.

Rating: A+

Food

Now on to the best part! You may be wondering what exactly [B]Ski’s serves.  Quite simply, this is a tortilla wrap grill.  A “ski” is a tortilla filled with all sorts of delicious ingredients– chicken tenders, steak, veggies, cheese, an assortment of condiments, etc.  They even offer breakfast skis for those who are craving eggs and bacon after a long night of dancing.

(From top to bottom)AK-Ski, medium fries, Original T-Ski

(From top to bottom)
A.K. Ski, medium fries, Original- T Ski

Daniel ordered the A.K. Ski (Chicken tenders smothered in hot sauce, pepper jack, lettuce and ranch…..$6.75) and I ordered my favorite and go-to ski, the Original-T Ski (Chicken tenders, cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo…..$6.75).  I’m not a huge fan of lettuce, so I asked them to leave it out.  I also made my meal a combo with a drink and medium fries for an additional $3.25.  The fries are generously portioned and enough to share.  There’s no way I could finish a medium fry by myself after eating my wrap.  The fries aren’t consistent, though.  On some visits they are perfectly cooked and crispy.  Other times they’re a bit soggy and greasy.  This time, I was pleased that the fries were crispy and hot.

The skis are always stuffed full with delicious ingredients.  I find it easier to eat the wrap if you cut it in half.  This also allows you to portion it and take the other half home for a late night snack.

Daniel said that his A.K. Ski was fantastic.  It had just the right amount of hot sauce and the pepper jack and ranch added delicious flavor.  He also commented that the chicken was tender and juicy. The A.K. Ski is one of the most popular skis at [B]Ski’s.  If you like hot wings, this wrap is definitely for you.

My Original-T Ski usually never disappoints.  I like how the cheddar melts and sticks to the tenders and the tortilla so you get cheese with every bite.  I also really love mayo, and I like how it adds a nice flavor to the wrap.  One day I would like to try this ski with ranch.  On this visit, the chicken tenders were a little overcooked so they were a bit too tough.  This is the first time I’ve had a bad experience with the chicken in 6 years of eating at [B]Ski’s, so the food is pretty consistent.

One of my favorite things about [B]Ski’s is that they offer drinks from a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.  If you’ve never been to a restaurant that has one of these, you’re really missing out! The machine is a touch screen and you select your soda (Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Fanta, etc).  This then brings you to a second menu that offers different flavors.  I always get Coke Lime because you can’t find that in bottles at the grocery store anymore.  There are other interesting flavor combinations, like Raspberry Coke, Grape Sprite and Peach Fanta.  I’ve seen these machines popping up in restaurants all over the Triad and Triangle, and hopefully it won’t be long before most establishments have them.  If you’re interested in finding a restaurant with a Coca-Cola Freestyle in your area, you can visit their website here.

Rating: B+ (because of the inconsistent fries and the overcooked chicken on this visit)

If you’re in Chapel Hill, I really recommend visiting [B]Ski’s.  It’s a great local restaurant and it offers a lot of variety.  They offer late night hours and a delivery service.  If you’re not on campus and need to drive to Franklin Street, you can park in one of the parking decks or find a metered space on Franklin.  I would recommend visiting on the weekend as there is usually less traffic and it’s much easier to find a parking space.

[B]Ski’s is now offering franchising opportunities.  I would absolutely love it if someone could open one up in High Point or Greensboro!

Overall Rating: A-

[B]Ski’s is located at 147 E Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC.  For more information, please visit their website at http://www.bskis.com/.