Saturday, April 28, 2012

NYC Pizza brings the feel of the neighborhood

We were greeted with a pleasant "How ya doin?!" as we walked into NYC Pizza so we knew they put a little extra love into their food.  As we approached the counter it was a bit confusing since they don't have a menu board but all we had to do was ask and the kid behind the counter handed us one.  They offer the standard pizza shop fare so we ordered the large meat combo and a couple of sodas. I ate too much pizza this time but they also have cannolis so I'm going to save some room next time to try one.

It only took 10 or 15 minutes and the pizza came out piping hot and smelled like heaven with the Italian sausage, meatball, pepperoni and Canadian bacon.  There was also a hint of oregano and garlic in the air as we let the pie cool before we dug in and yes the waiting wasn't easy.

The first thing I noticed was the sweet flavor of the Italian sausage.  It was the perfect flavor to blend with the sauce which also stood out.  The sauce was full of flavor but didn't overpower the other ingredients.  You could say everyone played well together.  I also thought the dough was very well done.  It was a very simple and honest recipe but you could tell they knew how to make it.  It had just enough tooth to it as your teeth broke through the crust but wasn't overworked and chewy.  That seems to be a problem at many other places we've tried over the years so when we find a good dough maker we tend to go back. NYC Pizza fits the bill for the style.

They also offer a Sicilian style thick crust that we'll be trying soon since that's one of Steph's favorites but remember to leave room for the cannoli.

NYC Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Billy Ray's satisfies when my tummy rumbles

We headed down the road to Billy Ray's for some barbeque on a Tuesday night and they didn't let us down. The special was the Sausage Dinner so I ordered it with potato salad and cole slaw while Steph had a two meat sandwich with fries.

The sausage was a polish style that they grilled up and sauced liberally.  I liked the flavor of the sausage and the sauce and ate it all.  The sides weren't standouts but I can't say there was anything wrong with them.  The potato salad was the mustard type with mostly potato and now that I think about it I think it was missing the relish. The cole slaw was fresh but needed a little more dressing on it as I found it a bit dry. I still enjoyed them and really we go for the meat so no foul.

Steph had the sausage and chopped beef sandwich.  The chopped beef was smoky and full of flavor. They must mix in the sauce and let it marinate all day, for me that's the best way to do a chopped beef barbeque sandwich. I'm sure some will agree and disagree with that statement.  The fries were the standard frozen shoestrings so Steph wasn't impressed but they weren't terrible. Fried up crisp and salty they added a little crunch to the sandwich.

Even though the waitress was working alone and several parties came in at the same time she kept up with all of us so you have to give her some respect for bringing that extra bit of service.

Given the quality and price I'm sure we'll be back to Billy Ray's and I've heard they have great catfish so we'll have to try it next time.

Billy Ray's Catfish and BBQ on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Mi Tierra brings the flavor of South America

This may be my first taste of South American food but it certainly won't be my last. It could be described as a fusion of American Chinese and Italian with a little bit of heat but that's not quite the right description. I didn't see anything with tomato but they did use several different preparations of corn that I hadn't seen before. One was a corn beer sauce that sounded good but I didn't try it this time, the other sounded like masa. They had tamales on the menu too but I didn't try that either.  The thing that stood out to me was how much different it was to Central American cuisine. No tacos, no tortillas and only a little touch of heat. Just a little bit though, certainly nothing like TexMex. Let's call it mellow and delicate but not bland.

 We started with an empanada filled with plantains and cheese. You might not think those sound good together but they really are a delicacy.  The corn pastry dough was a little crispy and had some tooth to it but not tough. It was a little greasy on the plate but didn't really taste greasy.  The plantains were soft and sweet like a banana which I didn't expect as the plantains I've tried before weren't very sweet but I think they were just fried. Speaking of fried plantains, you get a little plate of them with a wonderful sauce to dip instead of corn chips and salsa.  The dip was something like cilantro and a little garlic in a crema type base. It might have been sour cream but there really wasn't that acidic twang you would expect and it didn't have the taste of mayonnaise. That dip was one of the stars of the show.

Steph ordered the Pabellon Criollo ( Pulled Beef with Beans and Rice ) and I ordered the Arroz con Mariscos ( Seafood and Rice ).  Steph liked the dish but wasn't completely thrilled with the texture of the meat. It was very flavorful and stewed in a spicy, but not hot, broth but it was a little stringy. Personally I thought it was good but I only had one bite. The black beans were just that and the rice was plain too. She loved the fried ripe plantains, they were just like the ones inside the empanada. In the end Steph just wanted a few tortillas to wrap around the meat. I guess South American dishes aren't served with some notion of bread.

I loved the Seafood and Rice dish, Arroz con Mariscos.  It was like the traditional Italian Frutti De Mare on top of a bed of risotto with vegetables.  They served up a huge plate and while I gave it the old college try it looked like I hadn't even touched my plate.  The seafood was cooked nicely with shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari and fish.  There were a few pieces, the calamari I suspect, that were a little chewy but I think all calamari is chewy. Comment below if you feel differently.  The vegetables were pretty standard; corn; carrots; peas.  They said it had seaweed in it but I didn't notice or miss it.  I loved the creamy rice and the spices as they mixed with the pieces of seafood. The dish had just a hint of heat but they certainly let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Another hit of the night was the iced tea. It wasn't just Lipton's in a glass, this stuff was a flavorful mix of fruit juices. Not too sweet and not too strong mind you just a nice flavor that would have gone well with a shot of barrel aged rum.

If you like TexMex but can't take the spice anymore you might find these South American dishes the perfect substitute and if you like good food then you definitely want to give them a try. Great food, great prices, great service. Oh, if you plan to order something not like it is written on the menu be sure to bring your Spanish hat because you'll need it.

And to that I say, Adios Mi Amigos!

Restaurant Mi Tierra on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pigout Palace in Henryetta promises you won't leave hungry

We headed south on the Okmulgee Beeline this weekend to find something to eat and ended up at The Pigout Palace in Henryetta. I drove Steph through Beggs but the place I remembered from a decade ago was long closed so we continued south to Okmulgee.  It was Sunday so most places were closed and we just kept going until we found something that wasn't corporate. Along the way we saw all the lush green rolling hills of Green Country, the new calves and their cow mamas, a few horses that had seen better days and a couple of perfectly good shoes.  Who throws a shoe out?

As we walked up to the door at Pigout Palace we noticed several people leaving with a smile so we were a bit excited by the time we hit the door.  A sign at the front said the building seated 300 pigs or humans and Huck the Pig promised "If you leave here hungry it ain't my fault."  Huck was right and we didn't leave the least bit hungry.

Pigout Palace offers a fairly extensive menu of comfort foods, breakfast all day plus an all you can eat food bar with things like stuffed peppers, pulled pork, fried chicken, many sides and a salad bar. It looked pretty good and seemed like most of the people that came in were asking for the buffet. Since we were looking for BBQ we instead went with the "All The Meats" platter.  Sliced brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, beef bologna, one side and a house salad.  Steph and I split this mammoth mound of meat and it filled both of our tummies. That said there were some highs and lows to the meal.  I think the best thing on the table were the fresh baked yeast rolls.  They brought out four, after we asked. Two wheat and two white. They were pure heaven. Just a little sweet, soft in the middle and served with plenty of butter.  The pulled pork was really good too.  Not too fatty, not at all chewy and it had a little bark on it though I'm pretty sure all the meats were done in the oven.  They served it with a nice sweet, smoky and slightly spicy sauce that held up to all the different meats.  We ordered cheese fries as an appetizer so that became one of our sides.  The fries themselves were just standard frozen Ore-Ida from a bag but they covered them with real shredded cheeses and real bacon bits. Very tasty.  The onion rings appeared to be homemade. They were fairly thick sliced, well breaded and while they looked overcooked they tasted great. Just the right ratio of breading to the soft onion innards.  The beef bologna was fried up a bit on the flattop before they put it on the plate and had that nice fried bologna taste you would expect.  It wasn't sliced very thick so I suspect it was presliced from the store but I still enjoyed it.  The sliced brisket wasn't dry and definitely fork tender but not stringy. Again, I suspect the meats were roasted in an oven rather than BBQ'd but I still enjoyed the flavors. One thing we didn't like were the ribs. They just weren't very good. Chewy, not much flavor and certainly the low spot of the meal. Those rolls made up for it so all wasn't lost.

We also enjoyed the people watching at Pigout Palace. There were all sorts to be seen from bikers to truck drivers to old couples and even kids. It's fun to see the people out for a drive on a Sunday.  The bikers were from Oklahoma City according to their jackets and I noticed a few towns from southern Oklahoma printed on the sides of a few work trucks so it would seem that people are willing to travel at least a couple hours to get their feed bag on.

In the end we both agreed we enjoyed the experience and were happy with the food and the prices. One thing to keep in mind is everything is closed on Sundays so we couldn't stop at the Mexican imports and ornamental glass store on our way back. It's where you buy those big chunks of blue glass they throw away at the glass plant across the street.  If you've even been to Henryetta you'll know what I'm talking about and if you don't then just remember to find it or ask about it.  You'll want a chunk too!

Pigout Palace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Split Rail Barbeque in Coweta will make you a cow eat'a

Again we are heading east to Coweta for some tasty barbeque adventures.  We all piled in the car and headed out Highway 51, it only took about twenty minutes and we were seated and looking over the menu. It was Wednesday so all you can eat ribs were the special of the day.  Steph's parents came with us and ordered the special so we decided to try everything else and ordered a three meat plate for each of us.  Steph had ribs, sliced brisket and smoked sausage while I had the chopped brisket, hot links and bologna.  It's easier to just say some of the ribs were a bit tough but otherwise everything was excellent, especially for the price.

My chopped brisket was generally tender with some nice burnt pieces mixed in but not sauced, I'll get to their various sauces later. I loved the hot links.  They were nice and hot and left me with a little sweat on my brow.  Just the perfect amount of heat and not too fatty. They reminded me of the hot links I loved from my childhood but that place is long since closed. Sadly.  The bologna had a nice flavor and they served plenty of it on the plate. I had coleslaw and fried okra for my sides.  The coleslaw was fresh and had a bit of sweetness to it.  It went very well with the meats. The okra seemed to be just the standard frozen in a bag kind but they fried them up nicely none the less.

Steph's sliced brisket was trimmed lean and had a little bark on it. She thought it was best with a blend of hot and regular sauce to give it a little extra spice. Her ribs, as well as the others, were good but some had a little tough meat on them but perhaps this was just a side effect of preparing for all you can eat rib night. Whatever the reason they were still good.  Now for the star of the show, the smoked sausage.  It was slightly sweet and had the distinct flavor of ham in each bite. It seemed a bit unique for sausage flavors so I'll be ordering it next time for a second try. Steph had fries and beans, one of three types of beans, but only liked the fries. The order of fries was huge and everyone commented that they liked them. The beans looked good but had jalapeno in them so Steph didn't like the flavor. They sound good to me so I might try them next time.

Overall the meats didn't have an overly smoky flavor but they certainly barbequed all of them nicely and piled it on the plate. They offer peanuts to munch on while they're getting your food ready so that's always a plus. The service was fine but we went in the afternoon and they only had one person working so she was a bit overwhelmed keeping the tables and answering the phone and getting ready for the evening. Still she served us with a laugh and a smile so we appreciated the extra effort.

While we were talking to the waitress she mentioned they are expanding the restaurant and adding a patio out back so they'll be ready for big crowds and good times in the future. Maybe they'll add some music on the weekends? That would be fun!

Split Rail Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fiesta Cozumel has some great Mexican food

This was my second visit to Fiesta Cozumel. My friend Mike suggested it for lunch and it was so good I had to try it again.  The lunch specials are very reasonably priced and they offer the standard TexMex variety of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, burritos and chile rellenos.  So far I've had the taco, beef enchilada and beef burrito off the lunch specials menu and they were all excellent. Fresh vegetables and nicely spiced ground beef. The enchilada was sauced with a spicy red sauce as was the burrito. Those three items were only five bucks with quick table service. It's certainly a step up from fast food.

Now for the frustration of living in Tulsa, Fiesta Cozumel certainly knows how to cook great Mexican food but they've taken several wonderful items off the menu because they aren't getting enough orders to serve them up properly.  I definitely give them proper respect for making the decision to refuse to serve food that's not up to their standards but if only the people of Tulsa knew what they were missing maybe we could convince them to bring these tasty dishes back.

Here's one item they don't have anymore, and you tell me this isn't worth trying. The gentleman we talked with said it was only good for a few hours once it's ready to serve. We suggested they offer it on Saturday as a special so we could still get it in town. Maybe we'll be able to find it at a different restaurant.

Cochinita Pibil
 Traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatan Penisula. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed and roasting the meat while it's wrapped in banana leaf.
 OK, enough of my griping because they still came through with some delicious entrees.  I had the Burrito Don Pepe and Steph tried Las Carnitas. I loved the burrito but Steph wanted a different flavor though she admitted the pork was cooked perfectly.

The burrito was huge and instead of just the tomatillo sauce they made a Mexican flag of tomatillo, queso fresco and their "special red sauce." The red sauce was spicy and warm but not over the top, the other two sauces were mildly spicy and full of flavor.  They stuff it with fajita beef which was very tender and had a great meaty flavor, borracho beans added a nice flavor especially the juice from the bean pot, and some creamy rice to finish off the dish.  They added a little extra Mexican oregano and they really made the dish outstanding along with the fresh slices of bell pepper and onions. I really loved this dish and I'll certainly get it again.

Steph wanted a torta with conchinita pibil but as I mentioned before they don't have it anymore so she went with the carnitas.  They served it up as nice big chunks of pork without a sauce and the standard rice and refried beans. Oh, you get a plate of guacamole, lettuce and tomato plus a stack of tortillas. She said the meat was cooked perfectly but as I mentioned before, would have liked a little sauce or more flavor in the marinate.  I thought perhaps the cook was just letting the flavor of the meat speak for itself.

The service was great and we never went without drinks or extra salsa. Did I mention I loved the salsa? It has just enough heat and plenty of fresh flavor. Needless to say we'll be back for more.

Fiesta Cozumel on Urbanspoon