3.29.2016

How to Use Up All That Easter Ham

Recently, some of my friends have encouraged me to share more recipes on the blog. I've shied away from this for a long time, because it's not like I'm sitting on this huge pile of amazing recipes I've concocted from scratch. My cooking is improvisational, based on a well-stocked pantry, and very much inspired by other's awesome creations. I rarely make up a technique 100 percent on my own, preferring to find something that looks doable and delicious, and then use the method as a template for my own ingredients. 

I'm also hugely intimidated by the whole step-by-step photography thing that's basically required these days for recipe blogs. I do work at my photography, but I have no direct sunlight in my kitchen and all that setting up seems...counter to my a pinch of this and a glug of that style in the kitchen. 

But enough excuses! This week, I was trying to come up with some fancy pasta to make with all our leftover ham from Easter (I don't actually groove on eating ham as a main course, so we always have loads left over), and Shawn said, "Why don't you just put it in mac and cheese?" Uh yeah, because macaroni and cheese is one of the most delicious things in the Universe! Let's do this!

Macaroni and Cheese with Ham

2 Tb Butter
2 Tb Cornstarch
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/8 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
2 1/2 C Skim Milk
2 1/2 C Shredded Sharp Cheddar*
2 C Elbow Macaroni
1 C Ham, chopped to 1/2 in dice
1/4 C Dry Breadcrumbs
1 Tb Olive Oil


First off, please shred the cheese yourself. Also, if you're wondering why I put the * next to the cheese in the ingredient list, you should know that I almost never make mac and cheese with just one type. Your dairy is your star here, so go all out. But the best quality cheese you can swing. With the ham, I wanted to use mainly cheddar, so it was two kinds of extra sharp white cheddar, plus a little pecorino Romano I had in the fridge that needed to be used up, and I also like to smooth out the sharpness of the cheddar with two slices of good old white American. There is just something about the bland creaminess of American that perfects a cheese sauce. Other good options would be Gouda, emmentaler, Asiago, Monterey Jack, and even a mild Brie. Do your thing! Just make sure you end up with two and a half cups. 


I chopped the leftover ham up into a half inch dice, because I wanted the pieces to be about the same size as the macaroni.


Unlike mac and cheese recipes that force you to make a complicated white sauce, this one starts with the butter, cornstarch, and all the spices with the milk, all at once, in a sauce pot. After a nine hour day at work, do I really want to wrestle a temperamental mornay? No, I do not. That's one of the main reasons this recipe is my favorite. Flick the heat on med-high, and just whisk continuously. 


Meantime, start another pot for the pasta with lots of water over high heat. Salt the water, generously:


And then drop the pasta and cook it for five minutes only. Preheat your oven to 375.


When your milk comes to a boil, continue to whisk it for one minute, the turn off the heat and add two cups of your shredded cheese, whisk that until combined, then throw in the ham and set that aside until your pasta's done.


Add the par-cooked pasta in after you drain it:


Then transfer it to a casserole sprayed with Pam.


Top with the remaining half cup of cheese. 


Here's the gangster move that will make your dish spectacular: mix the breadcrumbs and olive oil in a little dish first, and then top the casserole with them for maximum crunchification.


Coat the top evenly with your secret weapon.


Make sure to put the dish on a cookie sheet before popping into your preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Here's why:


Oh my!


So this is dinner. The sweetness and saltiness of the ham went so well with the sharp, earthy cheese, while the nutmeg and cayenne in the sauce add the complexity you need to elevate this dish from the everyday, pedestrian, kiddie mac and cheese to your signature mac and cheese.

You can make mac and cheese with bacon, caralemized onions, chicken and broccoli, or lobster, but this cheddar and ham version is pretty dang delicous, if I do say so myself. Shawn agreed.


So tell me how I did! Would you like to see more recipe tutorials like this on BHS? Do I desperately need a light box I can assemble on my kitchen island to improve the photos? Sound off in the comments. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

3.23.2016

Dispatch from Philadelphia: City of Truffles

Last week, I recapped day one of my recent trip to Philadelphia, PA, and today, the second half of the visit is here for you.

We started our Saturday at Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market, which to me, is a much more appealing tourist destination than the Liberty Bell. This street is lined with meat stores, cafes, produce vendors, and Italian specialty purveyors like DiBruno. When you go there (and you must), accept that you will have zero personal space because the place is smaller than my walk-in closet, and hook up with the cheesemonger behind the counter who suits your fancy ASAP.

Your cheesemonger will be your passport to the most amazing experience possible at Di Bruno. He or she will stow your intended purchases behind the counter so that your hands are free to jam all of the samples of divine cheese, meats, and antipasti you are about to receive into your gaping maw. Trust this person. She will not only feed you stunning mortadella (Italian Bologna, but about 349 times better than Oscar Meyer) studded with black truffles, but also saffron-infused sheep's milk cheese flavored with whole peppercorns, sugary cashews finished with lava salt, and prosciutto that will make you forget your own name. She will tell you her favorite restaurants in town, give you insider secrets on cooking, and suggest products you might like based on your reactions to the samples she has provided. 

Yes, this is all very seductive. You will not leave this store cheaply. Plan for it, then go for it, because it's an experience you won't regret. Our cheesemonger had our number within our first 60 seconds in that shop, and we were under her spell for the duration. I don't usually like the feeling of being upsold, but at Di Bruno, any concerns were borne away on a luscious raft of lardo.

With truffles on our breath and heavy bags to carry, we had a leisurely morning and skipped lunch. But by mid-afternoon, the munchies came calling. Our trusty friend Michael Solomonov had an answer to this dilemma, of course. Right across from Abe Fisher, on Sansom St., is Dizengoff, a tiny hummusiya, or hummus factory. It is the home of the snack you usually eat from a plastic tub, and if that is your norm, hummus is about to make you cry tears of joy.


This is not a tub o'hummus. It's not even the stuff you might make at home from canned chick peas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic. This is fluffy, ethereal, earthy, nutty, and almost but-not-quite sweet. It's sweet in the sense that there is a total absence of bitterness, because they actually remove the thin, acrid skin of every chicken pea before they grind this dip. 

We got our hummus topped with carrots roasted with cumin, fresh mint, and a splash of fruity, peppery olive oil. The pita were fresh from the oven, and a tiny dish of pickles and cucumber and pickled onion salad came alongside.


A hummus break at Dizengoff will set you back around $15. There are about six tables to cop a squat at, or you can take your booty and go. They have other toppings that change daily, like grilled lamb, fried chick peas, and mushrooms. You would never put these things on top of your supermarket bean dip, but this creamy, silky super hummus is a dream base for the flavors of the Mediterranean. Put this place on your list, and acknowledge again that Solomonov is the food king in this town.

For dinner, we crossed culinary battle lines and supped at Stephen Starr's Alma de Cuba. This sleek, dark, chic spot near Rittenhouse was very good - just not quite as good as Zahav or Abe Fisher - which is now looking like a reality that will curse many of my dining endeavors.


We started with the bone marrow with oxtail croquettes. The croquettes are hiding on the plate up there, under the pickles onions and herbs. This dish was much milder than most bone marrow offerings I've tried, which tend to be really robust, meaty...caveman cuisine. The oxtail may not be the right protein for croquettes - the delicate flavor of the meat got lost with the breading, onions and herbs, for me. Fortunately, the sauce served with all of this was most likely the braising liquid from the oxtails. It was well-seasoned, round in its full, beefy flavor. We both loved it.

Our other starter was a special empanada with a type of fungus that grows on corn in Mexico called huitlacoche. I realize that fungus that grows on corn dos not sound like the most appetizing of foodstuffs, but think of truffles! To us, they tasted like truffles, and to be sure, they are delicacies in Mexico. I'm not sure how they ended up in a Cuban restaurant, but we preferred this veggie-forward dish, with its layers of roasted and fresh produce very much compared to the bone marrow.

We had to get tostones, which are the double-fried plantains with garlic that you find in both Cuba and Puerto Rico. The ones at Alma were wincingly fortified with garlic and lime juice. It sort of overpowered the earthy, potato flavor you usually get from the plantains, but they were crispy, and I liked them better leftover the next day.



Our entree was the lechon asado, which is spit-roasted pork, skin-on, bone-in. I have read about lechon and watched it on travel shows for years, and I was not missing out on it at Alma. And no joke: it was freaking amazing. So, think about pulled pork, and all of the things about it that are good: salty, fatty, meaty, savory, umami goodness. Now, think about the crisp, roasted, seasoned turkey skin on Thanksgiving, and how everyone fights over it because: DELICIOUS. Now, imagine pulled pork flavored with sour orange and aromatics AND crunchy, salty skin together. Now imagine enough of that to feed both Jill and me, plus leftovers. There was some kinda of bland rice and beans underneath, but I could not have cared less. That pork won the day.


You see the brown, blistered skin there, yes? That's what yum looks like.

The lechon was really the highlight at Alma de Cuba. Our service was friendly, but the restaurant was very, very dark, the cocktails were somewhat less inspired than I've come to expect at this level of restaurant lately, and you know what? It just wasn't quite at the level of our meal at Abe Fisher. At both Zahav and Abe, you sink into every bite. The food is incredibly balanced, somehow both decadent and lighter than a lot of the fine dining cuisine out there right now. We loved the pork at Alma de Cuba, but coming on the heels of such excellence, this dinner didn't quite do it for us. I give it a seven on the BHS scale.

Alma de Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As we closed out our Saturday night in Philly, breathing truffles still from our Di Bruno odyssey, we reveled in the wonder of a very good food day. Whether you visit the City of Brotherly Love for history or a foodie weekend, it will fill you up. Unless you have sticky fingers, which can be a real problem in the Italian Market:



Listen up, Hungries! I have a whole bunch of travel ahead, including Hamburg, Germany, Saratoga Springs, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Austin, Texas. You know what that means: dispatches from all over! Stay tuned! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

3.14.2016

Dispatch from Philadelphia: Secret Food Temple

My good friend Big Hungry Jill and I have suffered from too long an absence from one another. The remedy finally came last weekend, when we met up in Philadelphia for two days of eating, shopping, drinking, laughing, and a lot of walking. Note to self: just stay in Rittenhouse Square next time.


I jest! Our hotel, The Franklin Hotel at Independence Park, was just a few steps from the Liberty Bell, and our room had a view of Constitution Hall. We also had a big bathroom and comfortable beds, so I would definitely stay here again.


There's much ado online about the food cities of NYC, LA, New Orleans, Charleston, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, but I don't think there are nearly enough Cooking Channel shows and Chowhound articles about the City of Brotherly Love. Philly is secretly the food city of your dreams, full of slammin' ethnic and new American fare, and for most Upstate New Yorkers, it's just a couple hours away. For me, it's foodie paradise: 


We began our indulgent weekend with lunch and day drinks at Amada, which is just a block from the hotel in which we stayed. You might remember my review of Amada at the dearly departed Revel in Atlantic City a couple years ago, but this PA location is its original. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple small plates and excellent cocktails to kick start our weekend.


Ham croquettas with romesco sauce were earthy and savory, not too salty, with the mild, porky ham balanced by the slightly sweet, nutty, creamy bell pepper sauce.


Sweet, white shrimp with softly scrambled eggs, wild mushrooms and black truffle-smeared toasts was our first of many truffle dishes of the weekend, and incredibly decadent. 


Patatas bravas were pretty standard, hand-cut, double fried potatoes, topped with a mayonnaise spiced with lots of paprika and some chile powder. 

These three small plates fortified us nicely until just a few hours later, when it seemed prudent to tuck in again, in funky, rich duck prosciutto and gorgeously creamy fresh ricotta cheese from Di Bruno Bros., with some rice crackers for one of the most deliriously wonderful pre-dinner snacks of all time. I'm a little bit obsessed with Di Bruno, the nearly 100 year old specialty food importer and cheese shop that dreams are made of. I'll tell you more about our experience at its location in the Italian Market later, but first: Dinner.

Abe Fisher is the newest restaurant in Michael Solomonov's Cook N Solo empire. His other joints include Zahav, perhaps my favorite restaurant in the country, and the excellent Percy Street BBQ, also in Philly. While Zahav's cuisine is modern Israeli, Abe Fisher concentrates on foodstuffs passed down through traditional Jewish communities elsewhere in the world, like Eastern Europe and even NYC. We began our meal with an amuse bouche of smoked kampachi and a thin, crunchy slice of cucumber on a housemade salt and vinegar chip, the taste of which granted instant recognition that this meal was going to be something out of another stratosphere. The kampachi (a fish often found in Japanese preparations) was smoked with a light hand, and smooth as silk mixed with what I expect was a mix of mayo and sour cream, though it could have been sour cream and schmaltz, for how utterly luscious its mouthfeel was. I often find commercial salt and vinegar chips too salty/acidic for my taste, but this one was thicker, crunchier, with a wonderfully smooth vinegar tang and perfectly tempered salinity. A bit of fresh, minced chive on top made it into one perfect bite that hit every taste bud with equal, but satisfactory success.


Immediately after this groaningly good mini-appetizer, the same fellow brought over what looked like a wooden box for tea bags, but which was instead filled with tiny, savory rugelach. I know my Southern Tier friends are familiar with this puff pastry cookie, often filled with apricot or chocolate. My favorite here was the one made with chicken fat, AKA schmaltz, apparently a staple of the Abe Fisher kitchen. So a chicken fat cookie sounds gross, I realize. But you know what it tasted like? If you dipped one of the Danish butter cookies we used to get in the blue tin at Christmastime in the 80s into a bowlful of homemade chicken noodle soup - that is exactly the flavor of this diminutive amuse. It was buttery, very slightly sweet, delightfully crispy with whisper-thin layers of pastry, and savory without being salty at all. I adored it, and would have asked for five more if I thought I could get away with it.


Chopped liver was necessary and delicious, but not the most remarkable of the dishes we tried. Jill enjoyed it with sliced cucumber and red onion, while I had rye toasts, and the onion jam under the butter-free, schmaltz-full, super silky pate was rumored to be flavored like pastrami, but I didn't really get that smoked, peppery flavor. It was definitely the whipped, gorgeous texture of the chicken livers that starred in this rich dish.


What was remarkable? Our other starter: Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. We ordered this without much enthusiasm, as the menu absolutely undersold this dish. In fact, salads like this are why I generally don't trust salads - so few are this good, and the ones that are have ruined me for the boring lettuce and sad tomato with bottled dressing jokes you get at most restaurants. I would name my firstborn after this salad, if it had a more interesting name. They should have called it Magnificent Sprouts Roasted by Unicorns Salads. Then more people would order it.

The Brussels sprouts were roasted on one side, for a toasted, charred, caramelized flavor, while the romaine remained raw, crisp and cooling. Halved red grapes provided a sweetness that completely balanced the richness of the egg and anchovy dressing, as well as the salt of the pecorino cheese, while pine nuts and pumpernickel croutons finished the dish with earthiness and depth. There were literal worlds of flavor in this dish, and while I don't typically associate Caesar salad with Jewish food, I'm happy to going forward if this is how good it is. Each bite altered ever so slightly in flavor, this one more cheesy, the next sweeter, then creamy from the nuts or buttery from the croutons. I will be striving to replicate this fabulous salad in my own kitchen for some time, I imagine.

Potato latkes were another dish I wasn't especially amped up about when ordering, and then completely charmed by with my first bite. In college, I spent a summer in charge of making nova cream cheese for the bagel shop at which I worked, and the fishy scent of smoked salmon still haunts my dreams. The cream cheese, avocado, smoked salmon and pickled onions topping these delicate, fried potato bundles had zero in common with the slap dash condiment I slaved away on all those years ago. 


The salmon was, much like the hamachi, smoked in a light, refined manner, rendering this fish more akin to salmon you might find in sushi than in a typical lox situation. The cream cheese was less tangy than most, which I attribute to the fatty, lush avocado mitigating the sour flavor of the cheese. The salty, crunchy potatoes underneath supported all that creamy goodness and the delicate fish perfectly, while the pickled onion on top and a razor thin slice of radish played up sour notes to counter the other flavors. This dish was not just a potato latke - it was a masterpiece. I still can't believe these ingredients tasted that good.

Pork belly Reuben sliders were the perfect two bites of pork, sweet/creamy thousand islands dressing, sharp cheese, and picked green tomato for a bright, sour component. The pork belly leant this riff on the classic Reuben a luxurious personality a much larger sandwich wouldn't usually have, and I liked that the pumpernickel base remained crunchy despite all the gooey ingredients piled on top. 


Kreplach are the Jewish version of potstickers. The chicken potstickers at Abe Fisher are tiny dumplings full of tender, pulled white meat chicken floating on top of a velvety celery veloute sauce and garnished with crunchy, fermented celery slices and then blessed with ethereal black truffles, apparently crafted by angels. I ate one, which tasted like the best chicken noodle soup you've ever eaten while floating in zero gravity right after a six hour massage while also riding a Pegasus. I swear to God, I became five years younger eating the very first bite. Hello 33. I missed ya!


I don't know who the genius was that figured out that two preparations of celery would take chicken dumplings and make them awesome, but I'm super glad that person went for broke and grated truffles all over the top. The celery flavor and yet more schmaltz created a comfy recliner for my taste buds to sink right down into, and then those unholy, musky, sexy truffles were just like a fluffy blanket to keep me warm. I cannot overstate how delicious this dish was, or the galaxies of flavor it unleashed upon my senses; I can only recommend that you get them in your life, and quick.

Hangar steak with bone marrow, carrots and manischewicz steak sauce was perhaps less exciting than the kreplach, but the steak was beautifully cooked, red in the center and super juicy, the flavors heightened by the meat-butter essence of the marrow and the sweetness of the expertly-prepared, tender but not mushy carrots. Solomonov always gets me with his carrots, you guys. 


Ordering the bacon egg cream for dessert was a forgone conclusion before either of us stepped foot in this place. I didn't even care what else was in it, but then our waitress told us there were Oreo crunchies! I may eschew a lot of processed foods, but Oreos are always, always an exception. They are just yummy.


That whole chocolate part on top, that was a light as air foam, like mousse whipped with seltzer, separated from the creamy base by a hearty layer of pulverized Oreo cookies and super crunchy minced bacon. It was much lighter than I was expecting, which was good, because our waitress also brought us each a gratis mystery shot that was boozy, delicious, and massive:


...as well as two raspberry fruit squares coated in sugar that were gooey and rich, bursting with fresh berry flavor, and robustly sugary.


This meal was a 10, except that if I could give it a 15 or a 4,926, I would. Our waitress was spunky and attentive, the amuse bouches and thoughtful extras were wonderful, and while all the food was expertly crafted, many of the dishes we ordered blew our minds completely. After the rugelach, salad, latkes, and kreplach, we both sat back in our seats and just marveled - they were that good. I can't even tell you if I liked this meal better than those I've enjoyed at Zahav, or if I liked it the same - I just wish I could eat at these two places forever, constantly. The fact that Philly is three hours from where I live seems cruel and unfair.

Maybe it was the dim interior and the cool 70s, 80s, and 90s soundtrack; maybe it was the service so good that every member of the staff who brought something to our table was informed that Jill was gluten free, and adapted plates automatically so she didn't have to ask; maybe it was the fabulous company; or maybe it was all that schmaltz - but Abe put a spell on us. It was a splendid meal, and one that is simply not available anywhere else I've been. It's singular.

I had planned to tell you about the rest of our trip, but this post has gotten a lot longer than I intended. Stop back next week for killer hummus, Cuban lechon, Di Bruno Bros., and Hong Kong beef wonton soup with chile oil that you'll crave - it's part two of my Philly foodventure! I can't wait to prove definitively that Philly is a food town just as much as all those other foodie darlings. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

Abe Fisher Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3.09.2016

Watertown Daily Times Review: Your Table is Ready at Ives Hill Country Club

On a clear winter’s night, I would expect a casual but upscale restaurant on the south side of Watertown to be bustling, with maybe a 15 or 20 minute wait for a table and a packed bar. When I blogged about Ives Hill Country Club a few years ago, that was certainly the case, but on a recent Saturday night, our table of six was the lone occupied space in the attractive, comfortable dining room.
I don’t know why word hasn’t gotten out about this place, but if you like eating out in a relaxing, quiet environment with attentive service and expertly seasoned food served in big portions, you should probably get in your car this second and make a beeline for Ives Hill. I have a feeling those tables are going to fill up fast. 
We started with a round of water and adult beverages, plus the monsoon shrimp ($16). Eight large, butterflied shrimp arrived on a bed of lettuce, the light fry on each absorbing just enough sweet chili sauce to really hold on to maximum flavor. My very first bite delivered a punch of sweet heat that didn’t compound to too much spice on subsequent bites, but just tingled the taste buds. Everyone at the table loved these tangy, honeyed shellfish.


The tomato, basil and goat cheese dip ($14) was served hot and with a bowlful of airy, crunchy triangles of ciabatta bread. The earthy, creamy goat cheese sang with plenty of tang to counter the sweet, plump grape tomato halves, nutty olive oil and dried basil in the mix. Even with a good amount of cheese and tomato smeared on one of the toasted bread points, the ciabatta stayed crisp, for good textural contrast. 

A cup of zucchini soup ($5) turned out to be more bowl-sized, and was served with Town House crackers. The soup was another stunner, packing a wallop of black pepper piquancy against a backdrop of deep, roasted zucchini flavor mellowed out with cream. It was thick and rich, absolutely delicious on a wintry evening. 

If you remember Dante’s Pizzeria from days past in Watertown, Ives Hill is serving the Dante’s classic pie you’ve been missing. Topped with pepperoni and sausage ($13), this was eight square slices of crisp, light, buttery crust with good spice from the pepperoni and saltiness from the fennel sausage. The sauce and the cheese on this were both flavorful, but for me, it was all about that crust, which sported well-developed, unique flavor. The texture of it was incredible, crunching as you bit through it, then collapsing into buttery richness in the mouth. 

The antipasto salad ($15) was a massive platter of mixed greens dressed in a wonderfully acidic and sweet balsamic vinaigrette, piled high with thin slices of salami and pepperoni, thick slices of red onion, lots of tangy pepperoncini, black olives, grape tomatoes and shredded Parmesan cheese. A lot of people order salads when their appetites are on the lighter side, and if that’s you, you’ll have leftovers of this one for days. 

A basket of rolls had to be requested from our darling waitress, Gabrielle, who was new in her job but took great care of our table. The rolls — crusty, white, with a soft interior — were so hot, we guessed she had heated them inside Mount Vesuvius. Maybe there's a teleportation portal in the kitchen at Ives and no one's telling us? I suspect these were straight from the food service truck into the volcano, but everyone at our table adored them anyway. 
The pesto-fredo with chicken ($18) wasn’t too rich or too heavy, although it could easily have been either or both, given the sauce was made of about equal parts pesto and alfredo sauce. The flavors of each ingredient of the walnut/basil pesto shone through and weren’t overpowered by Parmesan at all, even though that nutty cheese can be very bossy on the palate. The grilled chicken slices were tender, and I liked that the pieces were cut the same size as the raddiatore pasta, a thoughtful touch that helped balance the flavors of the dish even further — because you got a little chunk of meat and some pasta on just about every forkful as you ate down through the enormous bowl. 

The steak salad ($17) was another mammoth platter, similarly dressed in that well-seasoned and balanced balsamic vinaigrette. The steak on this one was tender and juicy, marinated before grilling in Italian dressing and balanced with sweet roasted red bell peppers and funky, earthy crumbled blue cheese.

The fish hoagie ($15) came with a heap of hand-cut, perfectly seasoned French fries, which soothed my inner food critic crank right away. The sub started with a crusty, toasted bun and cooling lettuce and tomato, and culminated with a very robustly crunchy beer-battered haddock filet. The fish was moist, and that beer batter was a little salty and a little malty for sweetness. Again, I liked that while Ives has upscale entrees, the pub grub is terrific, too.

The beef tenderloin medallions ($26) were cooked right to order (in this case, medium) with lots of pink and a very succulent, tender interior. The sauce served with them, a mustard demi-glace, may have been too salty for some diners, but I liked the assertive, deep meaty flavor and the sharp zest of the Dijon in it. Sautéed mushrooms and red onions smothered the top, and a mound of creamy, peppery mashed potatoes on the side was an excellent foil for the highly seasoned sauce and steak. Steamed broccoli spears on the far end of the plate were bright green, crisp-tender and unadorned with anything but the clean, cruciferous flavor of the vegetable.

The desserts at Ives Hill are made in-house, as the pastry gods intended. The Boston cream pie ($7) was our favorite, with its moist yellow cake, chocolate frosting and vanilla cream filling taking equal flavor billing in each bite.
Snickers pie ($7) was a little less flavorful. This dense chocolate and peanut confection was sugary, but not very chocolatey.

The coconut cream pie ($7) was my least favorite, but another diner’s top pick. I found it to be very bland with no pronounced coconut flavor at all, but other diners liked the flaky crust and vanilla filling. 
The mystic mocha pie ($7) was almost a torte or a flourless cake. It was deeply chocolatey, rich, and smooth, with that dry cocoa flavor in the background and a decadent finish of pure butterfat. Wow. 
Our feast for six, with two appetizers, three adult beverages and four desserts, came to $204.66. That’s certainly not a bargain, but you could also eat sandwiches and pizzas here for a much more frugal check. At least three of us brought home leftovers, as well. The portions are beyond generous. To boot, as we were walking out, Gabrielle offered to wrap the tenderloin doggy bag in plastic wrap for us, so the sauce wouldn’t leak. What a thoughtful server!
I award Ives Hill Country Club an eight on the Big Hungry Scale. I think those with more conservative palates will find some of the seasoning here to be too assertive, but I very much liked everything we were served, save the coconut pie. If I lived anywhere near Ives Hill, it would be a regular hangout for me, and that’s one of the best things I can say about a place. The reason is that the menu is diverse, with Italian, meat and seafood entrees, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and creative appetizers, and the wide variety of dishes we tried were all scrumptious. 
Just about everything we tasted was made from scratch, and there were small twists to common dishes — like chicken Parmesan served over macaroni and cheese — that distinguish this place from your average north country restaurant. The relaxing atmosphere and utter lack of pretense served with the food make this an enjoyable destination for a date night or boys’ night out (or girls’ night out!). And since word hasn’t seemed to creep out yet, your table just might be available tonight!
If you like pretty pictures of amazing food, make sure you're following me on the Big Hungry Shekby Facebook page and on Instagram @BigHungryShelby, because I'm headed to Philly for loads of good eats this weekend, and I'll be giving glimpses of it all as I eat my way through one of my favorite food towns! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!