Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eating Out Another Rogue for d6 Damage

What time is it, you say?  It's Rogue Festival time says I!

Yup, time again for the (once) largest non-juried arts festival west of the ole muddy Miss'i'sip!  And of course that means that I'll be running all over hell and breakfast working on Cap'n Scurvy's Ragnarok Hootenanny Jamboree.

But in those few quiet breaths, I'm going to be looking for new and interesting places to eat.  We all know how I love the Landmark and Livingstone's.  And despite what Ms. Heather says about them in the Beehive, I have had some very pleasant meals there.  More on that later.

So where to go?  Charlotte's bakery is a must, as will be Cafe Corazon.  And I've heard rumbling about the old Daily Planet having some new life breathed into it.  And of course, there are a couple spots that have been generating some serious negative press due to general rudeness and in one case trying to screw over Rogue performers and the festival in general.  So it should be interesting to see how well they handle themselves in the midst of a festival rush.

And speaking of negative press.  There has been some serious vitriol coming from a certain Beehive blogger being cast at poor ole Livingstone's.  Now, I'm all for negative reviews.  Besides the lie that you hope the feedback will help them to rectify the problems that ruined your evening, you really just feel good about venting your spleen about spending money on a bad night.  I get that.  But there has been a double barrel blast to 'Stone's stately dignity.  Harsh blasts.  So, it fell to me, your loyal arbiter of service and taste, to see if Livingstone's really was going the way of the Revue.

So, I and the intrepid Mrs. EOF wandered into 'Stone's around 8pm for Sunday dinnera.  They were what I like to call "lightly slammed".  Which for 'Stone's means that the dining room had 2 open tables, the bar was full and the patio was lightly populated.  We were seated immediately without reservations and had our drink order promptly taken and water appeared immediately.

Our drinks arrived within 5 minutes at which point we put in our order.  Being overly picky (since this is a counter review), the waitress seemed a little suprised that we were already ready to go.  But she was prepared and able to answer my annoying nitpicky questions about my entree and was pleasant enough for business.  Not exactly the killing herself to please me type of waitress, but she was efficient, which is WAY more important to me.

We started off with their calamari sticks.  Which are ok.  They're made from strips of calamari steak, rather than the usual squid rings, so it's a very different bite.  Ultimately it's squid, so there isn't much of a flavor explosion.  They tend to be fairly darkly fried, to ensure doneness, but it does tend to dry them out a bit.  Still, they're popular.  I'd suggest adding some kind of aioli as an additional dipping sauce, just to switch it up a bit.

One of the evening's entree specials was a halibut steak with a tropical salsa (re: mango) and choice of sides.  So that was my choice and the Mrs. went for her usual black and bleu pasta.  The beginner salads were the usual salad mix, couple crutons and dressing.  Standard but properly prepared.  The entrees came out promptly but properly spaced after the salad.  The black and bleu pasta was (I'm told) fairly tasty, but I was all about my halibut steak. 

It came out at a good temperature and it was BIG!  I'd guess that it was around a half a pound or more of fish.  Nice sear on the top and it had a really great taste.  It was a little bit dry, but given the size of the filet, I can be forgiving.  The tropical salsa was nice.  Not too sweet, not swimming in onions.  However with my recent pepper obsession, nothing is hot enough anymore. 

Well, wouldn't you know it?  A kind, local pepperhead had just given me a whole baggy of dried fatali peppers.  So I conspicuously dragged a huge baggie out of my pants and crumbled about half a pepper into my salsa and gave it a mighty stir.  Now THAT was some tropical salsa!  So, pickin' on the entree, I'd say slice that big sexy hunk of fish in half and gimme two giant hunks of fish.  And kick up the salsa with some fatalis for the Fresnans who can handle some spice, baby!  The baked potato was a mighty fine tater to boot.  But who goes to a place for their baked potatoes?

Now that wasn't so painful, was it?  And we were there to be critical, rather than just an incidental meal.  Service was overall on time, pleasant and out of our hair.  We enjoyed both our meals and the entree and considered them to be worth what we paid.  And the service was easily worth a 15% tip.

So, I dunno whats wrong with Heather over at the Beehive.  Maybe it's her perfume or theres some kinda pheromonal clash going on, unseen betwixt her and her kitchen liason.  While some criticism is certainly warranted in any establishment, I think 'Stone's has taken enough lumps.  There are plenty of spots in Fresno that deserve a good lambasting before revisiting an old dislike for a fresh coating of acerbic wit. 

Needless to say, the Eating Out Fresno opinion is: homegirl be trippin'!  Livingstone's is as good today as it has always been in my lengthy Fresnishian experience.  Good servers, good food and one of the only places in Tower you can take a party of 10 without getting dirty looks and suspiciously slow service.  So party on during the Rogue Festival and don't be afraid to drag a buttload of people over to 'Stone's and put them through your own review!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eating Out Your Lovin’ Buns

Ahhh, love sweet love. What could be more romantic than a day dedicated to one sided gift giving and the exchange of poorly worded missives of lust? Well, we do it a little different in EOF town! Rather than jumping through the hoops of convention, we’ve broken St. Valentine’s down to its more hedonistic roots.

This usually entails a trip over to Whole Foods or some other specialty food retailer for a kaleidoscopic selection of tidbits and drinkables and confections. This year, we weren’t so keen on the last two ducks in the steam table and the rest just didn’t seem to fit our appetites. So I came up with the idea to have our entrees over at BB’s Lounge. Figuring it, being a lounge, would be fairly open and accessible, as opposed to every other place groaning under the weight of their horny patrons bellowing for more free bread.

And it turned out that I was fairly correct. The bar was lightly populated, there were a couple tables open and it didn’t feel “slammed”. Oh how fucking wrong I was! Their first fuckup, we sat at the bar for 10 minutes while the lone waitress/bartender seemed to simply be running around with no plates, making no drinks and addressing no patrons. Ah well, give it a minute, right? Again, bad idea. Someday I’ll be smart enough to start acting on my gut instinct in restaurants, but then again, how would I ever give a properly bad review? Got bad vibe from restaurant, ate somewhere else, feel smug. Hardly riveting.

To continue on the suck parade, the bartender finally comes to us and asks if we were there for dinner. We give the affirmative. She asks if we’d like to sit at the bar, but noticing two unoccupied tables, it seems stupid to loom over dinner at the bar when we could sit back and relax into our hedonism. We’re assured that they will clear the table and have us seated immediately. Patience has paid off, yes?

Nope! First off, it takes another 15 minutes for the baffled bottled redhead to bus a table. I feel the spidey sense tingle start to go off like an industrial vibrator in my medulla oblongata. Suddenly, two well dressed types appear from the back area and proceed to hover around “our” table. Steady….obviously the people working here are too stupid to discuss this with, so blowing up at them is useless. I’d use words far too large for them to understand like “unacceptable”. Aaaaand here it comes.

After 30 minutes, during which at no point did anyone even offer to take a drink order (we were sitting at the BAR!), the special needs bartender shamefacedly comes to us to explain that Giulia’s next door is sending their overflow into THIS establishment and that my promised table was out promised by some cuntburger that I couldn’t even have the satisfaction of spraying with spittle as I sputtered my indignation. And as a consolation, we’re offered…to wait another half hour for a fucking table! This lackluster human being and substandard employee didn’t even have the firing brain cells to point out that we were already in chairs at a table-like device and could just put our orders in. Resisting the urge to pneumatically propel a gobbet of oral digestive fluids into her uncomprehending eye, we chose the better part of valor and beat feet.

Rather than let the fact that I’ll never set foot in BB’s Lounge or it’s parent restaurant Giulia’s, short of going to gloat over their closed façade ruin the evening, we set back out in search of our entrée. Considering that even DiCiccio’s (pronounced Dee Sick Eee Oh’s) was overflowing with corpulent humanity, a brick and mortar eating establishment is out of the question at this point. As we ponder, I mention that we might as well opt for an ironic twist to the evening and go for pizza. Strangely, the idea sticks and we beeline right back to Whole Foods, praying that they haven’t shut off the oven for the night.

As we burst back in, rushing to the hot food section, I see that there is still a reassuring flicker of good honest fire coming from the brick oven. Sadly, they’re a little bit broken down, but their lovely pizza chef was more than willing to throw together a one-off pie for a desperate and disgruntled couple. After confusing her with contradicting descriptions of what we wanted, she was finally able to winnow down to what would be our actual order. Red sauce, fresh mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, basil and artichoke hearts, all on a nice thin somewhat soft, crackery crust.

Goals finally achieved, we bomb back to the pad for our celebration. We pop a bottle of Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. It’s fairly tasty, but closer to domestic champagnes than our usual Moet. A bit sharper and a little too dry. But certainly a high brow accompaniment to our pizza dinner and our magical panoply of goodies. Embarrassingly, we enjoyed the pizza so much that we were far too full to get into the cheeses, olives and pickled okra that we had planned to snack on, or the ice cream treats that we had so coveted just an hour prior. But we did get to enjoy our his and hers desserts that we picked up in the bakery. She enjoyed a nice fruit tart that the baker had sweetly retopped with fresher fruit and I, a couple small chocolate cups with a smooth chocolate mousse and berries.

All in all, Valentines worked out nicely for the general domestic tranquility of the Eating Out Fresno household. Whole Foods did a good job of stepping up and I’ve got to compliment their staff on being extremely friendly and helpful. Conversely, our semi-brief experience at BB’s Lounge was one of the most unprofessional moments I’ve had in any business in Fresno, much less a restaurant. It’s especially shocking because we had previously had a very positive experience there. But 100% and 0% still average out to an F. It looks like we’ll be on the hunt for another decent Italian restaurant to patronize. Because seriously, fuck BB’s Lounge.