Saturday, December 26, 2009

180 Restaurant & Bar-N. Hampton, NH

Specializing in Wood Fired Pizzas, 180 Restaurant & Bar has potential to be a really good pizza restaurant. It has taken over the location on Lafayette Rd (Rt. 1) that was formally Rosario's. They completely renovated the space and with limited seating (42) and a small bar area (seats 11) makes this establishment quite cozy. They installed a few big screen TVs also which makes watching a game while dining entertaining. Owned by 2 friends, Graham Pellerin and Brendon MacMahan of Kingston, N.H. and opened in May 2009 they are serving up some really good wood fired pizzas at a good prices (smalls average $11 and the large pizzas $15). It's nice that one of the owners if not both are working and I have always had decent service when I have gone for dinner or lunch although I don't think I have had the same waitress twice. I enjoy the Rockingham pizza which has bacon, goat cheese, caramelized onions and mushrooms. The Italian Sausage pizza is good too. I wasn't that impressed with the Chicken Parmesan dinner ($13.95) or with their other claim to fame which is the wood fired chicken wings ($10.95) that are topped with caramelized onions and served with points of flat bread. The presentation of the wood fired wings plate is appetizing, but they weren't evenly cooked and many of them were dry. The marinade I believe is prepared by Brendon's mom and although it does have some nice flavor to it, there just is something missing. The points of flat bread they are served with are dry crisps and the plate can do without them. Maybe thicker cuts of garlic toast would work better. There are a few sandwich options on the menu averaging around $7.95 each. I'm not a big sandwich fan when dining out and I have tried the chicken Parmesan and meatball sub, but again, they were both a little dry. Not enough flavorful sauce or cheese to really enjoy.
They offer a specials menu that they print out on a small piece of paper with even smaller print and nothing that has yet to knock my socks off. I do love a good wood fired pizza, but I wonder if 180's got that extra something to make it as a restaurant here on the Seacoast. They don't seem to be bringing their "A game". I hope that they are able to get it together and go that extra mile now in the beginning in order to survive. I think they need to have that fire in their bellies to make it happen like the one that is cooking up their pizzas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pierogies Plus, Inc. McKees Rocks, PA-online orders

My parents grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. My fathers family is Slovic. My Grandma and my Uncle still live there and I have fond memories of helping to prepare and eating a variety of Eastern European foods that were made by my grandmother or my aunt or from my grandparents neighbors and brought over while we visited. I remember one of my favorite ethnic foods when visiting in Pittsburgh with my family were homemade Pierogies, made by the senior woman at a local church. They are a Polish traditional food, crescent-shaped, tender dumplings filled with a variety of fillings and very hard to find made the traditional way here in New England. Sure you can buy frozen ones at almost any grocery store sold by Mrs. T's, but although they are good, they still are not what homemade, traditional ones taste like. Believe me, I have looked for them, for years. I even recently found a family in Bedford, NH that sells them, but they were not what I remembered so my search has continued and recently brought me to the website of Pierogies Plus. I noticed too that Bobby Flay has had them on his Food Nation show so thought that was nice that they have been recognized nationally (although I have disagreed with Bobby Flay on a few restaurant recommendations and my father and I have had that discussion with him in person-that's another story though).
Pierogies Plus, Inc. opened in June, 1991 and is owned by Helene Mannarino who emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1974. Their foods are prepared in the eastern European tradition by eastern Europeans. The staff comes from Poland, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Many of them have been preparing these recipes for over 40 years! It's no wonder they are known for having the most authentic pierogies around. Seems like a wonderful little family-like business environment. Each pierogie is made by hand with (according to them) TLC. They just started shipping their pierogies again since they don't do that in the warmer months so I thought I would give them a shot and ordered 2 of the traditional pierogie flavors that I know well and love, the potato and cheese stuffed pierogies and the sauerkraut stuffed pierogies. You can order them by the dozen via their website and the traditional flavors are $10.95 a dozen and the specialty ones are $11.95 a dozen. They also have sampler packages too. I stick to what I know I like, but my grandfather and my dad always enjoyed the Lekvor pierogies (prune butter) and my mom favors the cottage cheese stuffed pierogies. We also call these little pillows of goody goodness, BELLY BUSTERS, ha ha ha. Have some and you will understand why.
I placed my order of 2 dozen potato and cheese and 1 dozen sauerkraut. I received a nice little email notice a few days later from the owner, Helen Mannarino letting me know my order had been filled and was on its way and to God Bless. I waited patiently for them to arrive via FedEx ground. They arrive ready to cook and are very easy to prepare. I always either boil them and then toss them with melted butter and onion or skip the boiling and saute them in melted butter and onion. When they arrived, I boiled them first for 3 to 5 mins and topped them with the sauteed onions and melted butter that I had cooked up. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous about having them. I have been let down a few times over the years by trying different pierogie makers and companies. I served them up to my parents and we sat down at dinner and took our first bites. Immediately, we were delighted! They were exactly how I remember they were having them as a child when visiting my Grandma and Grandpa in Pittsburgh, PA. DELICIOUS!!!!! I don't even think my parents and I spoke much while we had dinner that night, that is how much we were enjoying these pierogies! I was glad I ordered extra in case they were exactly what I was searching for because now I have more to share with friends! I recently introduced pierogies to my friend Heather and her family and her kids love them. They buy Mrs. T's because they are inexpensive and readily available, but I definitely will be passing Heather along the Pierogies Plus, Inc. website so that she can order some online and share with her family the taste what real, homemade pierogies are meant to taste like.
I have never blogged about ordering food online until now, but I wanted to share this with all of you in case you have ever had pierogies before and were also searching for them or if you would be so inclined to give them a try. Pierogies Plus, Inc. makes several varieties some of which sound great and perhaps eventually I will get around to trying, but if you have never had them before and you are curious, I highly recommend that you start with an order of the potato and cheese stuffed pierogies and see if you too fall in love with these wonderful little pillows of deliciousness from Pierogies Plus, Inc.