Sunday, July 15, 2012

FANCY & FLOP: Ohio Food Excursion, Pt. 2

I believe that there are 3 types of dining experiences: Good, Bad, and Okay.  Now, there are varying degrees of these 3 types, of course, but we all know the sort-of overall feeling we have about our experiences, even if we don't have time to logically sort out what we liked or didn't like about them.  Generally for me, there are a few Good, and a few Bad, and a whole lot of grey area I'm neither impressed or disappointed by.  Some greys (or Okays) are better than others.  Generally, I don't have any desire to go on and on about Okays, it's not until the Okay slips more into Good or Bad, that I will start thinking about how my experience was/is.  So, I WILL write about Okays, but only if it is on the edge of Good or Bad.

Which brings me to the second part of my Ohio Food Excursion segment: "Fancy & Flop."  I'm a firm believer in getting the crummy out of the way, to make room for the good stuff.  On that note, I'm going to talk about my experience at a restaurant in Tipp City, Ohio called Harrison's.

One of the biggest problems that I have with this restaurant isn't really the food, or service, it's the environment -- it's just plain confusing.  Is it an elegant business casual dinner place, or a sports bar?

The servers were dressed in very nice attire, the menu is what you would expect from a more upscale restaurant, and there is a sign posted at the front of the house that says "Proper Attire is Required."  However, when I went (dressed in business casual ware) it was Wing Night Tuesday and the place was packed with people wearing cut-off jeans, ball caps, and flip-flops, and that is not an exaggeration.  Another time I went, a few years ago on a Friday night, the clientele was less casual, but there was a live band playing, which made it very difficult to have any sort of conversation with table-mates.  Anyhow, we're talking about the most recent excursion on Wing Tuesday.  I thought it best to start off with a drink.

That's my strawberry daiquiri, doesn't it look good?  Yeah, that's what I thought, then I took a few sips of it and was very disappointed.  It's like they didn't even try.  Like they opened up the jug o' strawberry mix, put some Reddi-Whip on top, then remembered they forgot the rum and splashed a little in it as a gesture.  I wasn't looking to be knocked off my feet, but some rum flavor would have been nice.  Other people at my table (my awesome family) didn't seem to have any issues with their beer or wine, just me with my "fancy" mixed drink.  

Most everyone in my party started off with the salads that came with their dinner, but my mom got the soup du jour, Tortilla Soup and it was soooo good!  I however, tried their applesauce option which was also quite good.  It is chunked apples topped with cinnamon-- simple, not too filling, and tasty.  My step-dad ordered some impromptu wings because we kept watching them fly by our table (Ha!  I said "fly" and "wings" totally didn't mean to be punny, it just happened).  I didn't get a pic of them though because they were gone before I could open my camera...yes, they were amazingly good!  But, I didn't come here for wings and beer, I came for a good steak.  Here's what we all ordered:

                       My New York Strip w/Onion Strings                                                NY Strip with Cheese Grits

                     Corn Dusted Walleye w/ Herb Butter                                                            City Mac & Cheese

          "Blackout" Gourmet Burger (Blue cheese on pretzle bun)                                Cheese Burger and Fries

 The steak was not as good as I was hoping it would be.  It had little to no seasoning on it, and no real flavor to speak of.  It's like they rely solely on the french fried shoestring onions on top for any kind of seasoning.  However, I did taste the City Mac & Cheese and it was really good!  I never had Cheese Grits before, and I was skeptical, but they were actually kind of addicting, and grandma let me know I had stolen enough from her plate by stabbing me with her fork.  No, that didn't really happen...this time.  Anyway, the thing Harrison's had that was cooked and seasoned perfectly was the made-to-order house potato chips.  Perfect!

Like I said in the beginning, I don't normally comment about Okay dining experiences, so what am I saying here?  I'm saying that even though the food wasn't terrible or awesome, the theme confusion and lack of identity of the restaurant really got my attention, for Good and Bad.  If you are looking for an upscale dining venue, a sports bar, gastropub, place to hang with your buddies, or a romantic rendezvous (although I totally don't recommend this last one AT ALL!), you may want to seek those places out elsewhere, where you KNOW that's what you are looking for and are going to get.  However, if you can't make up your mind or want a little bit of all of the above, this is definitely your stop.  All-in-all, for me it was too all over the place - at sixes and sevens. 

Now for the good stuff!  Also in Tipp City (and diagonally located across the street from Harrison's) is a fantastic place called Coldwater Cafe.  This place held such a great experience for me that we waited 40 minutes, with a lunch reservation, and I'm still giving this a glowing review!  Owned and run by a mother/son team Betty Peachey and Nick Hoover, this is the place to go if you want a full-blown example of my perfect dining Trifecta: Food, Service, and Atmosphere.  Nick is also the executive chef and you can absolutely tell that he loves what he creates, just by how good is tastes and the presentation  of the food when it gets to your table.

Even the bathroom was fancy!  I mean, how many places can you find a tower of toilet paper next to the toilet.  Pretty, and convenient!  I'm totally doing this in my bathroom from now on.  Accept I don't have that kind of room, to I may just slap a roll on the back of the tank and call it good.  What do you think?

Okay, that's the first bathroom review I've ever done...well, that I've ever written and sent out into the interwebs - you're welcome.  Now, down to business.  The business of drinks!

I had the Coldwater Cosmopolitan, and my aunt had the Pineapple Upside Down Martini (in the background).  Both were perfect!  One is all you really need, I'm just sayin'.  Again, while my party got salads for the most part, I decided to try a cup of the Duchess Potato Soup.  My other aunt (the one who took us all here) got the soup du jour, which was a mushroom/beef stock soup, but I can't remember the name of it.  As much as I liked the potato soup, I couldn't get enough of the mushroom soup, it was amazing! (Wish I would have gotten a pic, sorry).  And now, for the entrées.  

Gourmet Grilled Cheese & freshly cooked Kettle Chips

                  Marinated Grilled Chicken Salad               Grilled Portabella on Swirled Rye

                                Grilled Salmon Salad                          Chicken Pecan Salad Sandwich

Crappy pictures?  Yeah, I know.  Guess who took them?  Yup, it was me.  I know that my pics don't do these dishes justice, but the lighting was dim and the flash was working when it felt like it.  I seriously need a profesional photographer to follow me around while I eat.  Don't worry, I'm writing that down on a Post-It.  I can't say enough about the food here.  There was not a single complaint, even in the slightest, about any of these plates, not one!  And believe me, that's a record for my family.

Nick is so awesome, he even makes grilled cheese sandwiches feel like proper fancy food.  But for me, he outdoes himself on the dessert menu.  The waitress even brought us an actual dessert menu.  We couldn't decide what to get as individuals, so we just decided to order almost every dessert on the menu and try them all out, (I know, best idea ever!).  Hmm, somehow my sister's strawberry sorbet didn't get snapped, I just realized that.

                                          Creme Brulee                                      Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

                                Hot Fudge Pecan Ball                        English Tea Cake w/ Warm Butter Sauce

I had a cup of coffee with my desserts, and even that was good quality coffee.  I was so satisfied when I left there --- Trifecta Maximus!  And that was just lunch, I can't imagine what they can do for dinner.  There are some truths that I've discovered through my cooking and dining experiences, here are just a couple:

1)  The smaller the menu, the more quality and attention will go into the food.

2) "Cooking is like music; when properly conducted, a symphony results."

This quote was painted on the wall at Coldwater Cafe.  It is a string of words that I take as truth, and after my experience at this restaurant, I can tell you that the staff, chef, and owners feel the same way.

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