Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jimmy's Cookies - Gourmet Cookies and Cookie Dough.

Jimmy's Cookies

18-01 River Road
Fair Lawn, New Jersey, 07410

Phone: 1-844-446-6332                   

Website: http://gjcookies.com/

When a company contacts me, or a restaurant owner, and asks, "Please try us out and write a review.", it's with the understanding that I'll write the review whether the outcome is good or bad.  That is simply the way it is; think of it as a test drive and I'll either buy or not, depending on the performance.

Such was the case with Jimmy's Cookies; an email contact, a simple form filled out and next thing I know, a two pound tin of cookies arrives in the mail.  One pound of oatmeal raisin cookies; one pound of chocolate Rugelach ( a Jewish pastry dough cookie), and the test tasting began.  I gave samples to my husband and a friend, of course myself, and waited for opinions.



Oatmeal Raisin

All three of us agreed that the common oatmeal raisin cookie is usually hard, crunchy, overly sweet, raisins dry and we're not fans of this type of cookie.  Jimmy's, however, is moist, chewy, slightly sweet allowing the raisins' own sweetness to fully come out; the raisins were also plump and moist.  We're all three big fans!

Chocolate Rugelach

While I had enjoyed Rugelach when I lived back in New York, I was used to the fruit or fig filled type; I'd never tried a chocolate variety before.  My other two samplers had never eaten Rugelach in any form, so this was a new adventure for all of us.  The cookie part was, not moist, but soft and not overly sweet; the dark chocolate itself was slightly sweet, and went so well with the dough.  My husband is not a fan of dark chocolate and he wanted to keep eating more of these!



Conclusion:  We would definitely buy these cookies, and recommend them to others!!!  They are so much better than those prepackaged varieties you buy in the cookie aisle of the local grocery.

Another facet I like about this product; the cookies contain no chemical preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors,  no hydrogenated oils or trans fats.  Jimmy's uses all natural ingredients; you can pronounce everything on the ingredient listing, and know what it is.  I like this!!!

Dang it, I just looked in the tin, and they're all gone...guess I better order some, and so should you.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, May 25, 2015

Disappointing Dining at Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro.

Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro

680 South Highway 191
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 485-5555
Website: http://www.combridgecoffee.com/










After reading the rave reviews on TripAdvisor, hubby, I and two friends decided to give it a try.  We arrived at 5:30pm; since they open at 5pm we wanted to give them time to get into action, and were seated immediately.  We were told by the hostess that, it being Memorial Day weekend, the chef had decided to have a hot buffet, all you can eat; no dinner menu.  There would be a special dessert brought out at the end of our meals also.  Well, this sounded great to us, so happily left our seats to go outside to the buffet table.



 
 



No plates; when plates arrived, the first two were greased covered, so pushed aside for cleaner plates.  The selection looked good; pasta salad, cole slaw, mixed greens, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, corn on the cob and roasted pork; smores were wrapped inside aluminum foil.  We all took a little of each item, hoping to come back for a second helping.  The cook, well we assumed he was the cook, was running back and forth to the kitchen to bring out fresh plates of food.













After we got back to our table, the hostess arrived with a bottle of wine; one of our party had asked for a glass of red wine.  However, he was now told that they did not sell by the glass, only the bottle; he thought nothing of it as the wine menu had a price of $12 on it, so he thought he was getting a bargain.  Little did he know!



So, we began to try out the various food items and the looks upon our faces....priceless!  The frowning and looks of, "What did I just put in my mouth!?!" were evident on all of us.  All the hot items were cold; the mixed greens salad was dry, bland and bitter.  I had chosen the orange sauce with onions to spoon over my pork, but used it to give the greens some flavor and hide the bitterness.  The roasted potatoes were cold, hard and crunchy; the roasted corn was burnt, and the congealed butter could not melt on it, as the corn was also cold as, was the vegetables and sweet potato.  The "smores" was a just out of the bag marshmallow (not toasted), covered in chocolate sauce and, you guessed it, cold.

A server came over with water to fill our glasses; no smile, no emotion shown at all; not even a response when we thanked her for the water.  No one else came over to our table to ask, "How is your meal?", "Is everything to your liking?", "Can I get you anything else?"  We tried to hold a conversation, but the acoustics inside were such that the conversations from other diners echoed around us, and we could not hear each other.  Suddenly, our plates, including silverware, were taken and a bill plopped on the table; guess we were naughty and didn't deserve dessert.  Our friend questioned the $55 cost of the wine, so the manager deducted $9 for our coffee drinks. 

...and that is basically the only positive aspect I can tell about, the Café Latte and Espresso were wonderful!  Unfortunately, we used our credit cards to pay and were forced to leave a minimum 15% tip.  For what!  Cold food, and poor or nonexistent service!  Not for anything, but this pseudo-sophisticated restaurant didn't impress any of us; and none of us will be recommending it, except for the coffee.

Coffee Bar and our surly server.
Oh, and we're also wondering about food poisoning.  The pasta salad and cole slaw contained mayonnaise, but the bowls were not sitting in ice.  The pork and other so-called hot foods were not maintained in hot serving pans.  The sweet potatoes and corn did not have serving utensils; human hands touched the foods and who knows what bacteria may have been transferred.  The food was also kept uncovered, even when no one was serving themselves; gnats and flies were buzzing about.  Insect eggs...yum!

How could the owner/manager have made the experience better?  Instead of simply saying, "Well there's not much I can do, except give you the coffees for free", he should have comped our meals, at minimum, 50%.  He could have also explained why the food was cold, uncovered and, to put it bluntly, nasty in the lack of flavor and presentation.

Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro; go for the latte and espresso; avoid the food.

Mary Cokenour

UPDATE - May 26, 2015

This is conversation that took place on Facebook between the owner and myself.  Basically, he is stating that we should have known the buffet was an "experiment" and that the entire staff was having an "off day".  Being locals, we all could go back and try again, but what about people from other states and countries; how do they go back for a "new first impression"?  They cannot.  Also, the health issues; if I were to send my write up and photos to the health department, would they be so understanding?

All four of us were willing to go back and give this place another try with the regular dinner menu.  However, after reading the immature and unprofessional comments directed personally at me; my husband and two friends said, "No way!".  By the way, we figured out, after splitting the bill, the surly server managed to charge us for the coffees anyway; but we were too frustrated to notice until after we were discussing the experience, and comparing payments.  Lesson learned!!!


The conversation....

Comb Ridge

 A new event for us.... Open memorial day... A different approach. Unfortunate that you really dont know us and have not experienced us on a typical day. I think it horrid that you told people to avoid our food when you only sampled a memorial day buffet that is not our usual fare. I think it good that you criticized our service--- we can use your review as a teaching tool for our young severs. If you are going to post such a thorough and thoughtful review--- perhaps you should have done more research before burning us online in such a shameful manner. If we had any indication you were unhappy with your meal ... Kelly would have comped your meals. But you never said a word. -andi, owner

Ps. No coffee for you, come back-- one year!

Mary Cokenour

 Considering I knew the Soup Nazi, enjoyed his soups and breads; you don't live up to his standards either. You definitely should take your own advice; do thorough and thoughtful research before trying out something new. We also did complain, but Kelly said he could only deduct $9 for the coffee, and couldn't wait for us to pay and leave. My review stands!

Comb Ridge

He said you complained about the wine only. Since it is illegal in utah to comp wine-- he comped your coffee. Also, i went to my favorite bakery in slc a few weeks ago. The pastries were horrid! Instead of blogging on my website that the food sucked and that no one should ever eat there, i emailed the owner my comments. She responded that perhaps her baker was having an off day. Mabey you should consider that we too were having an off day-- that we were trying something new that simply didnt go over well with a "foodie" like you. To say no one should eat at comb ridge is ridiculous. You obviously walked into comb ridge looking for fault. Comb ridge works very hard to provide the best to our guests... Our trip advisor reviews reflect that.

Ps. I am a scientist--- empirical data works just fine--- sometimes you just have to try things to see what happens, record the data, and go at it again. You are pretty harsh ya know. Why be so mean? Next time--- email me, let me know. No need to blog about it

Mary Cokenour

Basically you are saying; we were supposed to know it was a "different style of cooking day" and an "off day" for you, so it's our fault your staff didn't know what they were doing? Yes, we're locals and could come back; however, what about visitors from other states and countries; you only get one chance to make a first impression, so their impressions don't count? How long have you been in the restaurant business that you do not understand that salads with mayonnaise should be kept on ice; that hot foods should be kept over warmers; that food offered at an outside buffet should be covered! If I sent my post and photos to the UT Health Dept; do you think they would understand that your staff was "trying out something new and having an off day"? Don't continue to put fault on the victims; that is the sign of an abuser.  I'm done with this go around with you; accept that your food and service were poor that day, stop making excuses for it and fix it!

UPDATE - May 27, 2015

....and the saga continues.  The owner, Andrea C., continues her rant on Facebook; not only bringing my food blog more and more free publicity, but giving my friends and I the best belly laughs ever.  I will address each paragraph separately.

Comb Ridge

Paragraph 1

This is Andi: How do i start this post.... We had a group of four come in sunday during our memorial day pig feast. One of the women was a self proclaimed food critic--- on her website she reviews Denny's and Village Inn -- even McDonalds. She asserts that she is a genuine foodie from New York. She shamefully reviewed us on her website... A very unkind review. For example, She took a photo of server Gianelle--- who had just come off her first shift at Comb Ridge and was sweet enough to come back and help us with the buffet. In the photo G is looking down at her cutlery and linens.. The woman captioned the photo " unsmiling surley server". Really???

Paragraph 2
I am taking this opportunity to stick up for my hardworking staff, and our chef who goes out of his way to prepare fresh quality foods. We buy local! We buy fresh! And we care about our service. Now it is true that we all have our bad moments--- thats life. But... Most days, Comb Ridge rocks! I am proud of what we are all trying to accomplish here in bluff-- a challenging business model for a small bistro like ours.. We dont have big money to build fancy new bistro buildings and our chairs and tables wont ever match... But we still have more class and more heart than most bottom line businesses.

Paragraph 3
Thanks for everyones support. And Mary C.-- the "food critic"... Sorry you had a bad experience at McDonalds the other day. Perhaps, the staff was having an off day.

So, for Paragraph 1; nowhere on my food blog have I given myself the title, "food critic"; as to the title of "Four Corners Foodie", that was given to me by a restaurant owner who loved my review so much, he shared it wherever he could, and called me by that name.  Did I review a McDonalds, YES!, the one located in Kayenta, Arizona...on July 12, 2011, not the other day as Ms.C. inferred.  Since that time, they have brought up the cleaning and food standards, and hired security guards to keep the panhandlers away from the hundreds of visiting tourists who come into the Monument Valley area every day.  Consider this a public service with very positive results.  As to the surly server, she worked two shifts....so?  That's an excuse to not smile, not respond when spoken to by a customer....seems Ms. C. is full of excuses.

Paragraph 2, well good for you!  However, how can anyone take Ms. C. or Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro seriously when she has stated, "I am a scientist--- empirical data works just fine--- sometimes you just have to try things to see what happens, record the data, and go at it again."  In other words, she is not a restaurant owner, she is a scientist with a laboratory....her customers are not paying diners, they are lab rats.

Paragraph 3, see my responses to Paragraph 1.  As to being untrustworthy, this is coming from a woman who had a relative, or maybe it's even herself using an alias, Mckinsey L. open up an account on Yelp.com and post two phony reviews.  The first is singing the praises of Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, and bashing me as a reviewer....not obvious at all, right? The second review is bashing another restaurant in Bluff, Utah; the Cottonwood Steakhouse which just celebrated their 20th anniversary, and besides my glowing review about them on Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor; the article appeared in the local paper....yes princess, I'm the one that writes the food articles for our local paper.   I'll speak to the editor about doing a story on Comb Ridge Espresso Bar, shall I?

All you had to do, as a competent and legitimate business owner, is say, "I am so, so sorry that you, your husband and friends had such a terrible experience at my restaurant.  How can I make this all better, prove to you that my establishment should lose the bad review, and gain a better one?"  But all you did was fault the paying customers, make excuses, and personally attack; makes me wonder how old you truly are; and how spoiled that you believe you can mistreat customers and it's no big deal? ...and seriously, to bash another restaurant (Cottonwood Steakhouse) in your town, Bluff, small town that it is because I like it and gave it a 5 star rating???  Wow, not that's truly low.

By the way, the owner, Andrea Martin, aka Andrea C., is married to the manager, Kelly Martin who is listed on their website as Manager/Owner.  Therefore, he could have diffused this situation himself and quickly, since he is a co-owner. He also saw me taking photographs and said nothing about it, therefore, giving me permission with his silence.




Comb Ridge Coffee on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Using Crescent Rolls.

Chicken Pot Pie is one of America's ultimate comfort foods. Whether it's done with a pie crust, biscuits, or the Amish way with pot pie squares; it makes us feel good, all warm and snuggly.  Every day someone is posting recipes on Facebook, and I certainly wanted to try "Chicken Roll Ups"; the photograph of the finished recipe looked so good!  Of course I made some changes to the original recipe; unsweetened almond milk instead of cow's milk simply because it's what I had in the refrigerator.  The recipe asked that the chicken breasts be boiled in water, no seasoning; then use the broth in the sauce mixture.  This sounded so bland to me, so I seasoned the cooking water with salt, ground black pepper and celery seed which gave, not just the water, but the chicken added flavor.

The recipe came out fabulous; rich, yet comforting; so yummy, it was difficult not to eat more than two.  It tasted exactly like a homemade chicken pot pie, but only one minor problem, no veggies.  I intend on making this recipe again, but this time I'll buy a package of frozen pea and carrot mix, defrost them and add them to the chicken pieces before rolling up the crescent dough.  Heck, I might even put a few spoonfuls into the sauce for some texture.



Chicken Roll Ups

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups water
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp. celery seed
½ cup reserved broth (from water used to cook chicken)
1 (10.5 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbsp. flour
1 (8 oz.) canister crescent roll dough
1 (8 oz.) package shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese mix, divided in half

Preparation:

 
Place chicken in 5 quart pot; cover with water and add in salt, black pepper and celery seed.  Cook on medium-high heat for 20 minutes; remove chicken and chop or shred, reserve a half cup of cooking water.


 

 
 
 
 
 
In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine reserved water, soup, almond milk and flour; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F; spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Open canister of crescent roll dough, separate 8 triangles onto board; press half of the cheese onto the dough.  Divide chicken into 8 portions, place chicken at larger end of each triangle of dough.  Carefully begin rolling the dough over the chicken, tucking in the ends if necessary; place completed rolls into baking dish, leaving one inch space between each.
 




 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pour two thirds of the sauce between and around the rolls; spoon remaining one third over the rolls.  Bake for 25 minutes; remove from oven and spread remaining half of cheese over rolls; bake additional 5 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
 



 
Option:  add teaspoon of defrosted frozen peas, pea/carrot mix, or sautéed chopped mushrooms to chicken before rolling up.

Makes four servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shake Shack Built on Frozen Royalty.

Shake Shack

364 North Main Street (Route 191)
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2966

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/frosteezshakeshack

Hours of Operation: Tuesday - Saturday; 12pm to 9pm


I first reviewed Shake Shack in August 2011, and I've got good news and good news.  First, the good news is that Shake Shack is still open every year during the warmer months.  Second, the good news is that the service, food, ice cream products and 1950s atmosphere is still going strong.

After the sale of the “Bailey and Wood Market”, Ralph Arthur Bailey needed a new venture. In 1954, the Dairy Queen Company was offering franchises throughout the United States. With his experience with freezers and food sales, Ralph decided bringing ice cream to Monticello would be a great idea, and he was correct. Monticello’s Dairy Queen (original address 612 North Main Street) opened that year; a simple walk up to the window store that offered up soft serve cones or in cups, and other frozen treats.

In 1972, Ralph passed on; the store was purchased by Jan and Grayson Redd; 1975 the interior dining room was added to the building. Their relationship with Dairy Queen ended in 1987; Shake Shack was born, but here’s a nifty piece of history for you…they are still using the original ice cream maker from 1954! The ice cream and dining menus built up over the years, and it was in 2007 that the Redds decided it was time to go on a diet. The parents of Teresa Brooks purchased the Shack, but quickly sold it off to their daughter and she is still running it today…thank you Teresa!


The Shake Shack is reminiscent of those 50s style diners where you can still get a burger, fries, with a drink or shake, and not leave your wallet empty. It's the type of place where you can sit down with friends and/or family, enjoy a good meal or just dessert; not feel rushed out or unwelcome. The menu is not huge in variety which is fine as it gives Teresa, and her friendly staff, the benefit of getting orders done up quickly and correctly. Another important point, the beef for burgers, potatoes for fries, and ice cream ingredients are locally sourced through Blue Mountain Meats.



Enough history, let’s get to the good stuff; the food and desserts! All food is cooked to order, not premade and sitting under a heat lamp; burgers are juicy half pounders with a variety of toppings offered, even an old fashioned patty melt. Chicken sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, hot dogs, French or curly fries, and the yummiest onion rings. 

Mushroom Melt, Patty Melt, Onion Rings, French Fries

Inside the Patty Melt
 


So, you already know that the soft serve is still made with the original Dairy Queen machine from 1954. But did you know that the shakes are thick, hand mixed and…wait for it…above the rim!?! Dairy Queen’s Blizzards may have started the trend, but Shake Shack has perfected it with real pieces of fruit, and cake, yes, cake! Take, for example, the raspberry cheesecake shake; real chopped up raspberries and cheesecake pieces…cheesecake!!! Not in the mood for a shake, how about a whopping banana split, sundae, float or freezer? Soft serve or hard served, the ice cream is awesomely great in a cone or dish. You so want to try out the newest item on the menu, homemade waffle cones; crunchy goodness! Teresa loves to play inventor and come up with winning combinations for our taste buds.


Real Cheesecake pieces folded into the shake.

Built on ice cream royalty, Dairy Queen; Shake Shack is proving to locals and visitors alike that a brand name can be outdone when you love and enjoy what you do.




Mary Cokenour

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Great Everything at Cottonwood Steakhouse!

Cottonwood Steakhouse

Main Street (Highway 191)
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2282

Website: http://www.cottonwoodsteakhouse.com

Hours of operation: Monday thru Sunday, 5:30pm to 9:30 pm.

Reservations Recommended; Beer and Wine menus available.


If we could eat at the Cottonwood Steakhouse every week, we'd do it; my hubby and I were completely blown away by the entire Cottonwood Steakhouse experience: food, service, atmosphere, staff and owners are top notch!!!


As soon as we parked and opened the vehicle doors, the savory scent of grilled onions filled our nostrils, our salivary glands began pumping hard. Walking over to the entrance, we could see the cook working his culinary magic over cast iron pots full of potatoes and onions.  We were greeted by the friendliest staff and the owners (Rick and Diana) themselves; they made us feel so welcome and right at home.  The big decision comes – seating inside with its full rustic charm, or seating outside with Old West regalia, and the huge, old cottonwood tree. Hint; leave the inside for inclement weather, the outside is glorious!







Indoor Seating





Outdoor Seating



The menu is chock full of mouthwatering T-Bone, Ribeye, Flat Iron steaks (thick and juicy), Baby Back Ribs (half and full racks) are slathered in a smoky/spicy barbeque sauce, Pork Chops, Chicken and Brisket with a sweet/spicy barbeque sauce); the key word is TENDER; steak knife is optional! Included with the main meal item are those savory potatoes; ranch beans so flavorful, you can’t stop eating them; vegetable; salad (bleu cheese dressing is house made) or coleslaw; and warm, freshly made bread. If you’re lucky, the vegetable will be carrots; slow roasted with olive oil and herbs, so the carrots own sugar creates an amazing glaze. If it’s in season, and it is now, savor a cup of the Roasted Tomato Basil Soup; semi-chunky, slow roasted tomatoes and freshly chopped basil; you can definitely tell this soup is made from scratch.  Newest item on the menu is Seafood Skewers, chunks of halibut and salmon between layers of red bell pepper and red onion, served with rice pilaf; so good!


Homemade Bread, Coleslaw, Salad, Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
 

Brisket


Half Rack Baby Back Ribs

Ribeye Steak

T-Bone Steak

Seafood Skewers


A friend joined us for dinner and we happily round robin-ed our meals and desserts. The servers were so attentive with, “How is your meal?”, “Is everything to your liking?, “Do you need anything else?”; all we could do was answer with “Mmmmm, mmmm”, “Yum”, smacking lips and many an “Oh my God, this is awesome!!!” All around us, diners were laughing, smiling, and stuffing their mouths with all the delicious awesomeness of their own meals. Several times we would hear Rick say to departing diners, “Thanks for coming back again!” Business is definitely booming for them in Bluff; and the place was jumping for a quiet Sunday evening.




We left enough room to try the homemade desserts; pecan, cherry and key lime pies at all times; other fruit pies are available when in season. Diana uses her mom’s recipe for the pie crust which includes corn oil and milk; here comes that word tender again. Bread pudding full of cinnamon, piping hot and covered in Jack Daniels Whisky sauce; brownies thick and rich with chocolate are the star in the Brownie Sundae.





On the way home, hubby and I were basically silent for the hour drive home.  We were basking in the afterglow of the most fantastic meal we’d had in ages.

….and wondering when the top button on our jeans was going to pop off; hoping it would not hit the windshield and chip it.

Mary Cokenour


Cottonwood Steakhouse on Urbanspoon