Sunday, November 22, 2015

Famous Dave's new menu item - Columbia, MD

Famous Dave's restaurant is known for its barbecue, but can a new menu item gain just as much popularity? Famous Dave’s just added fried chicken to the menu courtesy of a homemade recipe from none other than the restaurant's owner Dave Anderson.

The entrĂ©e will be sold at select Famous Dave’s locations in Maryland every Sunday from November 15th through January 31st. I was invited to the Columbia, Maryland Famous Dave's for a taste.

Chicken wing and breast meat with corn bread muffin and 
garlic red-skin mashed potatoes

The new entree deal includes two choices: a fried half chicken dinner (four pieces of chicken served with one side and a corn bread muffin) for $9.99 or a fried chicken-n-meat combo (fried chicken paired with your choice of one meat, corn-on-the-cob, choice of two sides and a corn bread muffin) for $16.29.
I took my mom with me to the tasting. We both received a piece of fried chicken, a corn bread muffin, and two sides. The fried chicken was crispy, but not as crispy or oily like the fried chicken made at KFC or Popeyes.

It reminded me more of a homemade recipe. The seasoning was interesting- slightly peppery that packed a mild kick after a couple of bites. At first, it caught me off guard but with my big glass of cold water it worked out perfectly.

While Famous Dave's has an eclectic variety of sauces to douse on any entree ranging in spiciness from rich & sassy to devil's spit and everything in between, if the fried chicken's peppery undertone isn't enough to spice up your meal, the restaurant has you covered with three new sauces: white BBQ, buffalo with honey (mild), and Wilbur’s revenge with honey (hot).

Chicken thigh with a corn bread muffin and sweet corn

The corn bread muffin was just amazing - warm, sweet, buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness. My mother and I are so enamored with this sweet muffin that we will be purchasing some via carry out for our Thanksgiving dinner.

Wilbur beans and potato salad

For our sides, we decided to try four different items - the Wilbur beans, potato salad, sweet corn, and garlic red-skin mashed potatoes. If I had to pick just one (like in the "fried half chicken dinner"), I would go with the sweet corn or the mashed potatoes. While I enjoyed the beans, mash and corn, we weren't crazy about the potato salad as the dressing was a little bland.

Thomas and the Columbia, Maryland Famous Dave's manager. He's a really cool guy who made us feel like family
Although we were invited to taste the new fried chicken, the manager offered us a taste of the famous ribs. I couldn't resist. 

Yes, the ribs tasted just as good as they look above. Finger licking, packed full of tender meat, good. Fried chicken and ribs -what a classic combo. I was a happy man. 

I'd definitely give the new fried chicken a try. Let us know how you liked it. 

Thanks for the invite Famous Dave's!!!!

-Thomas Regnante

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Syracuse, Italy - Farmer's Market

Welcome back to our mini series on Sicily! For those of you who are unaware, my family and I visited our ancestral home of Sicily this summer. We decided to chronicle our trip and turn it into a series of blog posts. Check out our first Sicilian blog post here. This time, we are focusing on the town of Syracuse ( aka Siracusa in southwestern Sicily). 

Look at the beautiful view of the ocean!
Syracuse is an ancient city rich with culture and beauty. Even after time has eroded the antiquated town, the townspeople still hold rituals and traditions practiced long ago. An example of an ancient traditions still expressed today can be illustrated by Syracuse's fresh daily market. Every day, locals come in the morning to purchase items to indulge upon later that day. Let's take a look at some of the produce:

Our tour guide showing all the different spices to my grandfather.

Considering that Syracuse is geographically situated on the water, it should be no surprise that there's a huge seafood industry. Vendors sell all types of fish ranging from tuna and swordfish (ample amounts of swordfish can be seen above) .

Charles observing workers sorting out sea urchins.

Sicilians know that herbs and spices are just as important as the entree itself, so Sicilians use a wide variety of herbs and spices in their cooking.

There can't be an Italian market without tomatoes. Essentially, Italians use tomatoes for everything ranging from pasta to pizza.

Zucca is a unique Italian fruit, also known as Italian squash. For cooking, it is usually combined with zest, cardamom seeds and other curative herbs. These savory, sweet, and fresh fruits are a must try on any Sicilian vacation. Who knows, you might like these better than regular squash.

Sicily has a very mild Mediterranean climate that allows an eclectic group of fruits and vegetation to thrive (as pictured above). Plus, the farmers here don't use pesticides or preservatives on their crops, just as nature intended it to be. 

Do you love watermelon? Well look no further because Sicily has just about the juiciest and most succulent watermelon there can be. By saying that Sicily has great watermelon, I would be selling myself short.

 I could go on and on about how I was amazed by all the wonders that the city has to offer, but words cannot completely describe my time in Syracuse. My recommendation, go to Syracuse and experience the same sense of elation that I once felt. In case any of you are considering my recommendation, my family and I stayed at the Grand Hotel Ortiga (which gorgeously overlooks the ocean). I would love to hear your stories and anecdotes from the ancient city in the comments section. In the meantime, arrivederci Syracuse, it was a pleasure.

-Thomas Regnante