Sunday, June 28, 2015

Twins Rocks Cafe is Still Buff in Bluff.

Twin Rocks Cafe and Gift Shop

913 East, Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341

Website: http://www.twinrockscafe.com/

Navajo Twins and the Sunbonnet
Down in Bluff, one of the most popular places for any visitor to stop in at is the Twin Rocks Café and Gift Shop. The lure of the Navajo Twins in the background, and the Sunbonnet taking up residence on the front porch, is difficult to resist. More difficult to resist is the scent wafting out of the kitchen, and the sound of laughter from happy diners. Residents of San Juan County, however, already know this is the place to get a delicious, home cooked meal, and local favorites such as Navajo Taco, Navajo Pizza, Beef Stew, Sheepherder Sandwiches, Fry Bread and Ash Bread.



















So, after doing some hoodoo hunting, it was no wonder we ended up at the Café for a much deserved lunch, and a friend joined us.  The menu is still not huge, but the variety listed has something pleasing for any palette.  Absolutely begin with the Buffalo Chicken Wings appetizer; baked, then deep fried to keep the chicken tender, but give that crispy coating that’s craved. The wings don’t sit in a puddle of sauce, but are perfectly coated (medium heat), served with celery and carrot sticks plus ranch dressing for dipping. These Buffalo Wings were so good, we got another order to munch on later.



The main entrees chosen were the BLT, Navajo Taco, and the special of the day, Prime Rib Sandwich.  The BLT was packed with veggies, plus slices of thick cut bacon; no mayonnaise though, so make sure to order some if you want it.  A side of fries is a must, as the ones at Twin Rocks are so good, you almost forget to eat your sandwich; of course they come with that Utah condiment, fry sauce.



How about a puffy round of fry bread topped with homemade chili, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, onions and shredded cheese…oh yes, it’s a Navajo Taco.  The fry bread is house made, and you cannot truly have a Southwestern experience without trying it; plain, as a taco, or even a pizza.








The special the day we were there was the Prime Rib Sandwich; meat so tender it melts in the mouth with sautéed onions and mushrooms.






Dessert was a three way split for us, Peaches de Chelly, a special treat of spiced peaches atop Fry Bread with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce.  Afterwards it was a consensus, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done!!!"









A leisurely walk through the Gift Shop which offers up clothing (hats, t-shirts), books (cooking, local history, natural wonders), local foods (beans, sauces, Real Salt products), and all manner of souvenirs is a shopper's delight. 





The Trading Post next door features paintings, sculptures and more crafts from local artisans.  Twin Rocks Café and Gift shop is not just a place to eat and run, but an experience in itself. Take the time to enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Screamin' Sicilian Pizza; it's What Wisconsinites Like.

Screamin' Sicilian Pizza

Website: http://www.screaminsicilian.com/

Distributed by: Palermo Villa, Inc
Website: http://www.palermospizza.com/
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53208

In 2013, Palermo Villa, Inc., put out in the test market a new crafted pizza line, Screamin' Sicilian, claiming this was "pizza with attitude". With querky names, like Bessie's Revenge, Boss Hog, Spicy Clucker, and boxes that were meant to "blow your mind", the product is still on the market two years later.  Now remember folks, I'm a New Yorker with loads of experience with Italian cuisine, and especially New York style pizza.  In other words, this pizza might be what folks in Wisconsin like, but New Yorkers...yeah, no.


So it came to past that I noticed the pizza box at my local Walmart (good job on that aspect of marketing); a new frozen pizza better than any other out there.  Well I decided to take that challenge, so picked up a Bessie's Revenge which touted, "Thick Robust Sauce" and Wisconsin made cheeses of mozzarella, parmesan, romano and white cheddar.  Since it was frozen, I could not spread the whole mozzarella out, so baked it at the required 425F, checking on it at 13 minutes as instructed.  The artisan crust was browning, the whole mozzarella was still whole; so another 3 minutes went by.  The crust was very brown by then, whole mozzarella still whole, and the other cheeses did not look very melted.  Two more minutes, and out of the oven it came as I didn't want a burnt crust.

After dividing it up into slices, the first taste was, "Meh".  Cheesy, but not an overwhelming "Wow" from the supposedly robust sauce.  The whole mozzarella was difficult to bite through, extremely chewy, and the center was cool.  The artisan crust was flavorful with herbs and garlic, crunchy; basically the best part of the pizza.

Two of us did this taste test, and we both agreed on the evaluation of the product. Maybe the cows in Wisconsin have attitude, but they weren't putting it forward with this pizza.  Of course the manufacturer will probably claim that we "didn't prepare it correctly", or "don't have a good sense of great pizza"; yeah, I've gotten those excuses before.  However, it is what it is; the taste buds of two individuals were not impressed.

Anyway, you might find it in your local supermarket, so try it out for yourselves; you might agree with this review, you might not.  To each his/her own.

Mary Cokenour





Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Versions of Blue Cornmeal Pancakes.

Even though we (four of us in total) all had an extremely disappointing dinner at the Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, we were all willing to go back and try the breakfast, especially their "renowned" Blue Corn Pancakes.  However, the owner, Andrea Martin (aka Andrea C. on Yelp), attacked each one of us that wrote up a review on Yelp, Urbanspoon (now Zomato) and Trip Advisor; saying we came "at a bad time", or that it was some sort of conspiracy against them. We are not gluttons for punishment, and being abused by a business owner is definitely not on our to-do list!!!

Since I am interested in the cultural cuisines of the Southwest, it's no wonder that I own cookbooks on Southwestern, Mexican and Native American recipes.  In fact, I just purchased four new cookbooks; one on Arizona, two on Native American, one on Utah Pioneers; my friend Amy also gave me a cookbook on Utah, so five total new books!

Not going for those pancakes at that overly pretentious restaurant, so the only other course was to get out the Native cookbooks and make my own from scratch.  Blue corn, now this is something I’ve not seen before.  Oh yes, in the fall putting up dried cornstalks and ears of multicolored Indian corn was a tradition, but blue corn?  Thumbing through my cookbooks, not only did I find several recipes, but knowledge on the grinding process itself.  No, this isn’t something I’m going to try; that’s what Blue Mountain Meats here in Monticello is for, to provide me with my needs, like blue corn flour.  Doesn’t mean I won’t be sharing the information with you though. 


The first book I used for my experimenting was “Hopi Cookery” by Juanita Tiger Kavena; “Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes”, page 19.  She explains there are two methods of drying corn in the Hopi culture; one is simply stacking the ears on shelves, in a dry area, occasionally turning them until all the moisture is drawn out from the kernels.  The kernels are removed and processed using traditional grinding stones.  The second method is to bake the corn on the cobs in a mud enclosed ground oven which keeps the steam inside, producing sweeter corn.  The steamed cobs are hung to dry; the kernels eventually ground whether as flour, or coarser texture for various recipes.

Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes
 
Ingredients:

1 cup blue cornmeal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (or ¼ cup powdered plus 1+1/4 cups water)


Preparation:
 





In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including powdered milk if using it); stir.


 













Add shortening, eggs (water if using); mix well.










Drop by spoonful on lightly greased griddle; turning once as cakes brown.

Makes 12 three inch pancakes.



A look inside.

The batter is thin and runny, much like a crepe batter; I was worried I’d not followed the directions or ingredient amounts correctly.  However, my husband and I devoured these pancakes; thin, light, crispy edges with a slight chewiness; minimal grainy texture, and they melted in the mouth.  The corn flavor was not strong, definitely delicious with the added flavors of butter, maple syrup or wild huckleberry syrup.  Oh, these pancakes didn't make us feel blue at all; the opposite, very happy!


My next trial recipe came from “Healthy Traditions: Recipes of Our Ancestors” by Janice Goodwin and Judy Hall; it included the use of all-purpose white flour and comes from the Navajo Nation.  Now my friend down in Monument Valley related to me that “ashes” may be mixed in with the blue corn flour and is related to the time of the “Long Walks”.

 


Pancake/Griddle Cake

 Ingredients:

2 ½ cups blue cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
½ cup white enriched flour
1 cup water
1+½ cup canned milk
1 tsp. baking powder

 Preparation:

 

Mix the blue cornmeal, salt, baking powder together in a large bowl.

  











Mix water and milk together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix together but don’t over mix.

 






Grease a large skillet and heat. Pour batter on skillet to make a very thin pancake; cook until brown on both sides.

 

Makes 10 pancakes

 





This batter is thicker than the Hopi recipe, much like any traditional pancake recipe; the pancakes were thicker, dense, took longer to brown on both sides.  The taste of the white flour was strong and we simply missed the light flavor of the blue corn.  Comparing the two styles, we could definitely say that the Hopi won this round of the recipe challenge., so will be using that recipe whenever I make blue corn pancakes. 

 
 
Variety, experimenting with recipes and food items from other cultures; this is what makes cooking an adventure! 

Mary Cokenour   


 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Olde Bridge Grille at the San Juan Inn.

The Olde Bridge Grille at the San Juan Inn

Highway 163 and The San Juan River
Mexican Hat, Utah,  84531

Phone: (435) 683-2322

Website: http://www.sanjuaninn.net/the-inn/index.aspx?pageID=3







If you happen to watch the Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, Olde Bridge Grille (formerly Old Bridge Grill Café and renamed in 2007) would proudly be rated “Dive”.  Bar, pool hall and restaurant with delicious “you are definitely in Southeastern Utah” food…sandwiches and tacos made from authentic Navajo Fry Bread; Mexican specialties; deep fried foods that satisfy carb cravings without being greasy; half pound burgers, and sandwiches stuffed with meat to bring a tear to the eye of any meat lover.













This is the perfect place to sit with friends, family or even on your lonesome; look out at the easy going San Juan River and enjoy a great, casual meal.  


 


The portions you receive are generous, reasonably priced, served with a smile, and you are not rushed out! 

Cheeseburger and Handcut Fried

Navajo Cowboy Beef Sandwich (on Fry Bread)


Onion Rings Appetizer

The Mad Hatter
 
Afterwards take a stroll along the property paralleling the river; check out the Hydraulic Measurement Station established in 1914; Trading Post with assortment of local handicrafts; the modern day “petroglyphs” painted on the red rock by a local artisan.



Cactus Outside the Trading Post

The Olde Bridge Grille is simply the perfect place for a laid back meal; enjoy the restful atmosphere and the food!

Mary Cokenour
Click to add a blog post for Olde Bridge Grill Cafe on Zomato

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jimmy's Cookies - Gourmet Cookies and Cookie Dough.

Jimmy's Cookies (GJ Cookies)

20 Atlantic Avenue
Oceanside, New York, 11572

Phone:(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.




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