Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Goin' Old School for my Dad

I am an admitted Daddy's Girl.  I admit it proudly, unabashedly, and sincerely.  Not so much growing up, but certainly now, I really feel sorry for my mom's prominent place behind the 8-ball when it came to me and my sister and our regard for our Daddy.  She just couldn't win!  Now that I have a daughter, I suspect that dreaded payback is on the horizon for me. 

My dad (and I) isn't really a big sweet eater.  He'll have a taste here and there, but doesn't seek out sweets. But, a couple of years ago in casual conversation he mentioned that pineapple upside-down cake was his favorite when he was growing up.  I've had this on my mind ever since.  You see, we NEVER had this cake in our house when I was growing up.  I think the only place I'd ever had it was in the school cafeteria.  So, why did none of us know he liked this cake?  Surely, my sister and I would have mastered this dessert years and years ago to impress our Daddy.  But, he never said anything about it.  Or if he did, the rest of us were talking too much to hear it.  (My dad swears that we three girls talk A LOT). 

Ever since my dad dropped this little pearl, I've been reading recipes.  I've discovered different techniques (to use cast iron, or not...that is the question), different ingredients (cake flour versus cornmeal) and the age-old conundrum...maraschino or cherryless?

Finally, I decided it was time to quit researching this old time cake and just do it.  Father's Day seemed like the right time.  I settled on a recipe that seemed the most pure, unadulterated and basic (like the good ol' days).  With my trusty 8 year old assistant, I set out to create a pineapple upside-down cake to make June Cleaver proud.  

Vivi was in charge of the caramel

Getting nice and bubbly now!

Five golden rings!  Ok, maybe a few more than 5.
We opted for true old school and used maraschinos

 As we arrived at Mom & Dad's for Father's Day, I handed our cake to my Dad and he said, "Wow, I haven't seen one of these in years!"  Just the reaction we were hoping for.  So, after our dinner we cut into the pineapple upside-down cake.  Viv and I were satisfied with our efforts but more importantly, my Dad really enjoyed it.  I really appreciated that fact that this cake is mildly sweet. The icky, super sickly sweet stuff is what turns me off, so this is one I can handle.  And, I think the maraschinos are just plain festive!  

Pretty as a picture, right?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Kraken is Serving Brunch

You know how it feels when you have a good local place that you want to succeed?  That's how I feel about The Kraken on Rosewood Drive.  We live in Rosewood and from virtually Day 1, we have been avid supporters and word-of-mouthers for them.  We love the owner, Aaron.  He lives in the neighborhood and like a smart restaurant owner, he and his wife are on-site all the time.  To own a restaurant or bar and think that you never have to be there is like placing a pallet of food and booze in your parking lot with a sign that says "take me."

The Kraken is probably best known for their extensive and ever-changing beer selection.  I don't know how many they feature, but it's a lot.  You can like them on Facebook and get updates about new brews that they have brought in.  They are also known for featuring a really interesting menu that is far more than a typical bar menu.  Interesting like lobster grilled cheese, poutine, smoked wings, truffle frites and fried green tomatoes. And, beginning yesterday, The Kraken now offers a Saturday and Sunday brunch.

The brunch menu is pretty impressive: soft shell crab Benedict; shrimp, catfish or crispy pork belly over grits, grilled cheese BLT, sriracha peanut butter glazed doughnuts and fruit/granola parfait, to name a few.  Neil ordered the pimento cheese on toasted brioche with a side of the house-milled grits, the little gourmand only wanted an order of bacon and I chose the grilled cheese BLT.

I didn't try Neil's sandwich simply because mine was pretty big.  I did try the grits however.  I really wasn't a fan.  They are from the Congaree Milling Company and ground in the restaurant.  Neil really liked them because he felt like it tasted like corn on the cob. But I felt like they tasted like old corn.  You know when you were a kid and you took a bite of that dried, multi-colored Indian corn you always see at Thanksgiving?  That's what it reminded me of.  But, we all have our own taste buds, don't we? 

My sandwich was quite good with one minor needs more bacon.  A BLT of any description really must showcase the bacon. That's an easy thing for them to fix though.  The cheeses (brie and cheddar) were a great combo and were nice and melty and gooey. 

The tomatoes were flavorful and dripping that juicy goodness onto the toasted sourdough.  As I stated before, the only thing I'd add is more bacon.  I chose the Potatoes O'Brien (chunky hash browns with onions & red bell pepper.)  This dish was well seasoned, the onions and peppers were well cooked and the potatoes were crisp yet tender inside.  But, they weren't hot.  Warm, but not hot.

There was a little disappointment though. The Kraken has very slow kitchen time. It has always been that way.  When they first opened, it was attributed to the small size of the kitchen and a new staff cooking in a new place.  I get that.  I assumed, like everyone I'm sure, that they'd get broken in and that would improve.  But, unfortunately, every time I've been there, the wait time for food has been way too slow.  I've heard it chalked up to the small kitchen, but the folks at Motor Supply Co. have been cooking in the world's smallest kitchen for what? going on 20 years now? It occurs to me that regardless of size, you simply get tons of prep work done and then get your system in place. Today, we were excited to try out the new brunch, but from start to finish, we were there close to 2 hours.  I will concede that we chose to go on the maiden voyage weekend but I guess after being open as long as they have, I was hopeful that just cooking a different menu wouldn't affect their turn time. Investing a couple of hours in brunch is a bit much, especially if you're hungry when you get there.

As I said before, we love the owner, the menu, the awesome beer selection, the cool quaint basement setting and the fact that we have this hip neighborhood joint within walking distance of our house.  That leads me to be honest in my critique of The Kraken.  I am not writing today to bad mouth or bash them. Instead, I hope my words will serve as honest feedback that may help them improve.  Aaron is always there and asks his customers for their opinions and how they are enjoying their food. And for you who is reading this post, let me be clear...if you have not been to The Kraken, you need to go.  It's really a unique atmosphere and is always a good time.  I just hope our next brunch isn't quite so much time!  

Support locals!  

The Kraken Gastropub on Urbanspoon


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