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SYRACUSE — The Mother’s Day Meal that only cost me $11!

Yes, tonight my Mother’s Day dinner cost just $11.

All thanks to my dear foodie-food-blog friend, Nandini. (Check out her blog by clicking here. Amazing recipes especially for you vegetarians out there!)

So how did Nandini and I pay about $11 each for a huge feast, including an alcoholic beverage for each of us?

LivingSocial.com.

Nandini had bought a deal a few months ago through LivingSocial Syracuse for The Mission Restaurant right in downtown Syracuse.

The deal was this: pay $15 for $30 worth of food at The Mission Restaurant.

We both had meant to go for dinner together awhile back, however, our schedules have been extremely busy this semester and haven’t gotten together as much as last semester.

But this weekend was the weekend! And with coupon in hand, we headed over for a feast of fresh, delicious and most certainly delectable Pan American food. This was my second time to The Mission, with the first time only having an appetizer.

A view of the side of the restaurant from outside during late afternoon.

Here’s some history about the beautiful building the restaurant is in: according to The Mission’s menu, the building used to be the Syracuse Wesleyan Methodist Church and was built in the 1840s. This building also was “an important 19th century way-station on the Underground Railroad.” There is actually a “cramped tunnel” in the basement of the building.

The inside of The Mission.

And you can see such history when you walk into The Mission. Beautiful peach colored walls with a deep blue ceiling which has intrinsic designs. Gorgeous stained glass windows line the perimeter of the restaurant, giving the restaurant lots of natural lighting. What I learned at the end of tonight’s meal, which I didn’t know until tonight, was that there is a balcony above the kitchen if you look up, where the restaurant’s office is. The waiter told us you can only access the office/balcony by ladder, and then told us how everything in the office was transported up there through using the ladder. I actually asked the waiter too if he peers out over the restaurant while he’s up there and of course, he replied with a “yes.”

When Nandini and I walked in we were told we would have a 35 minute wait. We decided to head to the bar and get margaritas. Nandini got a regular margarita on the rocks with a salt rim for $5.50. For $6, I got a strawberry margarita:

Mmm, mmm, good. I must say it did get a little watery towards the end, but that does happen with a lot of frozen drinks. And hey, it was a warm day out today, in the 60s/70s! Hooray! The margarita had a light strawberry taste with a hint of tequila peering in, which was good. I got a sugar rim as well, which was delicious!

We were then seated probably about 15 – 20 minutes later, in a really cute circle booth in a corner of the restaurant. We were greeted by our friendly male waiter who gave us fresh-made Tostaditos and Salsa (chips and fresh-made tomato salsa). What Nandini and I both loved about the chips was that there were no signs of oil at all on the chips, meaning they were either baked or really, really well – drained. The salsa melted in your mouth with the fresh chunks of ripe red tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices and what I thought was a lemony-type taste in it as well. It was the perfect start to the meal.

We then perused through the menu and found a side dish we decided to share as an appetizer. I have had plantains before: fried plantains my friend made for me one time and then a fried plantain steak sandwich at TGI Fridays that was so obsessively-good. But never have I had the following side dish: fried green plantains with mojo.

I’ve also never seen plantains presented in such a way: these looked like potato latkes to me. This appetizer was savory versus the expected-sweet: the plantains had a rich texture and with the seasonings and salt on top, was perfectly balanced with the mojo sauce on the side: a tart vinegar-like dipping sauce with several seasonings and spices on it. These also weren’t greasy at all, even though they were fried. These were only $3, and if you want to try a great non-meat appetizer, this is definitely for you.

Thinking about what to eat I thought about my friend Jessica who was with me the last time I was at The Mission. I credit her for introducing me to pulled pork at Mexican restaurants, and I have been eating pulled pork at these types of places ever since. I remembered she had a burrito the last time we came with the ‘Puerco Pibil’ filling: “Yucatan style shredded pork with achiote and orange,” according to its menu. I decided to get this $11 burrito, and get vegetarian black beans inside it. There was a choice of salsas to choose from to put on top of the burrito as well: I chose Tomatillo Serrano: “Tangy green salsa with bits of blackened tomatillo. Bold heat.” I love tomatillo salsa: I love the refreshing taste of the green tomatoes and I love the spice the fruit gives off when you eat that kind of salsa.

While unfortunately the picture I took of my meal didn’t come out, this burrito was honestly one of the best I have ever had in Syracuse. The pulled pork was outstanding: it melted in your mouth and I actually felt like I was eating at a barbeque joint versus a Pan American restaurant. The chef at The Mission knows how to cook meat, that’s for sure! The beans gave the burrito a nice, rich flavor as well, with the salsa on top being the slight kicker. I say slight because it wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be. The salsa was a little bland, I’ll admit, but I overall enjoyed the burrito. And of course I got my new obsession guacamole on the side. The Mission’s guacamole was rich, filling, creamy and very flavorful. I saw a sign on the way into the restaurant that you can get its guacamole to go anytime when you come in, so if you’re looking for the fresh stuff, definitely stop by.

Nandini let me try her $11.25 Tres Queso enchilada, which had Monterey Jack, Mexican cotija and queso blanco in a tomatillo sauce. The picture of her enchilada came out:

The cheese in the enchilada was outstanding: while it appeared rich and creamy it was actually very light, tangy and flavorful.

The Spanish rice that came on the side of our dishes was very good too. It had just the right amount of spice in it. My dish, unlike Nandini’s, came with something that looked like cole slaw on the side. It was actually ‘cabbage salad,’ and had an amazing spice to it, which Nandini told me was cumin seeds. Tasting the cabbage salad reminded me of eating Nandini’s amazing Indian cooking. (Again, please check out her blog!)

Once we finished our entree-feast, we perused the dessert menu. We ended up splitting the $5 Banana Bread Pudding.

I’m a huge fan of banana bread, so pudding of the bread? Yes, please!

Banana Bread Pudding at The Mission, $5

It was made with macadamia nuts and Mexican chocolate, served warm and topped with rum-caramel and chocolate sauces and fresh whipped cream on the side.

This was one of the best desserts I have ever had in Syracuse as well. I must point out though that the warm bread was not really a pudding-type texture in my eyes. However, I’ll admit , I haven’t had a lot of bread pudding to know what the texture should be, so I could be wrong. The two strongest flavors of the dish were the rum-caramel sauce that heightened my taste buds, and the macadamia nuts, which brought out the savory in the dessert.

After eating all of this food, the bill came out to around $34 for the both of us, including tax. Using the LivingSocial deal Nandini had, we each spent about $5 on the meal including tip, and then $6 previously at the bar.

Thank you, Nandini, for showing me the true-story wonders of not only LivingSocial.com, but The Mission.

And a HUGE Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mother’s in the world today, especially my mom. I love you very much and am so grateful and thankful for you.

—–

The Mission Restaurant

304 East Onondaga Street
Syracuse, NY 13202-2085
(315) 475-7344

Hours:

Monday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm | Tuesday thru Thursday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm

Friday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm | Saturday: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm | Sunday: 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm


SYRACUSE — $20 or Less: Two Ships Passing in the Night — Darwin

DARWIN. 211 N. Clinton St. Syracuse

HOURS: 9 a.m.  to 3 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

http://www.darwinonclinton.com

(315) 373-0484

Attention vegetarians (and non-vegetarians, too!)!!!

There is an amazing $8 sandwich at Darwin for you to try out the next time you’re looking for a great sandwich for lunch.

It’s name? Two Ships Passing in the Night.

Here’s what its’ website says about the sandwich:

TWO SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT ($8)
Get it…  “No MEAT!”  You can thank Dave for that one.  Vegetarians have had a hit or miss experience at DARWIN.  We’ve been working on that.  We haven’t had a strictly vegetarian options until now.  We’ve decided to do our version of the “French Smuggler.”  A popular veggie sandwich that consists of fresh, soft mozz, marinated portabello mushrooms, frizzled red onion, a thick slice of parmesan crusted tomato, fresh spinach and basil stacked on Pasta’s stretch and finished with our homemade creamy balsamic.  Vegetarians…  We hope it was worth the wait.  Non-vegetarians…  You’ll love it too..

This sandwich packs a punch of delicious flavors: the thick slice of mozzarella is the true “meat” of the sandwich alongside the juicy portabello mushrooms. The frizzled red onions bring a sweet crunch, with the fresh spinach and basil bringing the strong green flavors. The balsamic brings the entire sandwich together with its sweet yet tangy flavors.

Here’s me showing what the sandwich looks like:

SYRACUSE — AmeriCU presents: Downtown Syracuse Dining Weeks!

When you hear the phrase “dining week,” what do you think of?

The food, the experience, the prices?

Next Tuesday, Feb. 15, starts 11 days of dining around downtown Syracuse for $25 for less. And get this, each of the 22 restaurants will have 3 course meals at these prices. This is a steal!

AmeriCU presents its annual “Dining Weeks in Downtown Syracuse” from Feb. 15 through Feb. 26.

Here are the restaurants participating, from the list provided in the Syracuse New Times and on Downtown Syracuse’s website:

1. Ale ‘N Angus Bar, 238 Harrison St., (315) 426-9672

2. Anthony’s Pasta Bar, 126 E. Genesee St., (315) 422-4669

3. bc Restaurant, 247 W. Fayette St., (315) 701-0636

4. Bistro Elephant, 238 W. Jefferson St., (315)475-1111

5. Bittersweet Wine & Dessert Bar, 127 W. Fayette St., (315) 474-9463

6. Black Olive Mediterranean, 316 S. Clinton St., (315) 399-5599

7. Bull & Bear Pub, 125 E. Water St., (315) 701-3064

8. Byblos Mediterranean Cafe, 223 N. Clinton St., (315) 478-3333

9. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 246 W. Willow St., (315) 476-4937

10. Empire Brewing Company, 120 Walton St., (315) 475-2337

11. Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub, 301 W. Fayette St., (315) 424-1974

12. L’Adour Restaurant Francais, 110 Montgomery St., (315) 475-7653

13. La Taqueria Fresh Mexican, 409 S. Clinton St., (315) 422-8811

14. Lemon Grass, 238 W. Jefferson St.,(315) 475-1111

15. The Mission, 304 E. Onondaga St., (315) 475-7344

16. NAMU, 215 Walton St., (315) 475-0220

17. Opus Restaurant and Lounge, 218 Walton St., (315) 701-1351

18. Pastabilities, 311 S. Franklin St., (315) 474-1153

19. PJ’s Pub & Grill, 116 Walton St. , (315) 478-3023

20. Prime Steakhouse, 101 E. Water St., (315) 299-8047

21. Sakana-Ya Sushi Bar, 215 Walton St., (315) 475-0117

22. Syracuse Suds Factory, 320 S. Clinton St., (315) 471-2253

If you are looking to get out in the next few weeks and try some restaurants downtown that you haven’t tried yet, are looking to take a date somewhere, are heading out with friends for a nice meal, or heck, just want to head out solo (solo eating is fun!), then I most definitely recommend this. $25 is a great price for 3 courses and there are many varieties of food to choose from, including sushi, Mexican, French, and hey, some desserts may be in your future!

One catch to this dining week, however. Beverages, tax & gratuity are not included in the three-course meal, so look to spend a little extra if you want some beverages.

Also, please check out the Downtown Syracuse website for links to some of the restaurants official dining weeks’ menu’s!

Looking for another way to learn about the restaurants for next week? Check out the AmeriCU Dining Week blog, which features behind the scenes looks at some of the restaurants listed!

Downtown Syracuse is also having a Photo Contest for best culinary photography. Here is the listing from the website:

AmeriCU Dining Week Dish Photo Contest – Show off your culinary photography skills!  Take photos of the dishes you eat during AmeriCU Dining Week and post them to our Downtown Syracuse Facebook page wall to be entered in our photo contest.  Winning entries will receive the delectable prize of gift certificates to AmeriCU Dining Week participating restaurants.”

All of you photographers out there, get ready for a fun filled dining week!

There is also a Diner’s poll. Here’s what the website says:

Diner’s Choice Poll – Let your taste buds be heard! Visit our website during AmeriCU Dining Week and let us know what your favorite Dining Week dish was and where you had it by voting in our poll. The People’s Choice for best dish will be announced at the conclusion of AmeriCU Dining Week.”

I hope you all will check out one of the restaurants! I definitely will be checking out some restaurants on this list. Which ones will you check out, Syracuse? Leave a comment below and let me know! 🙂

I’m very excited about this and I hope you are too.

Kat

SYRACUSE — Bittersweet Wine Bar & Desserts

Bittersweet Wine Bar & Desserts:

121 W. Fayette Street 
Syracuse, N.Y. 13202

Hours:
Monday – Wednesday: 11am – 12am
Thursday – Friday: 11am – 2am
Saturday: 4pm – 2am
Sunday: closed

Phone:
(315)474-WINE(9463)

Email address:
bittersweetofsyracuse@gmail.com

Website:
http://bittersweetofsyracuse.webs.com/

—-

If you take a stroll through Armory Square, you will notice a new sweet spot there: Bittersweet Wine Bar & Desserts.

At the Bittersweet Wine Bar and Desserts Grand Opening Event.

Its name speaks for itself. If you head to Bittersweet, wine and desserts will be in your future.

But that’s not all Bittersweet offers. According to owner Patrizia Barbieri, Bittersweet is like a one-stop shop.

“If sweets aren’t your thing, choose from an assortment of scrumptious grilled Panini or salad creations,” said the website’s home page.

Originally wanting the new restaurant to be a café, Barbieri came up with the concept after speaking with her friend.

“He said, ‘Well you should really open a place where you yourself would want to go,” Barbieri said.

The desserts on the menu are the creation of Patrizia’s sister, Lucia, who is a pastry chef. Lucia went to pastry school in New York City at the Institute for Culinary Education.

Patrizia said she added a few items to the menu as well. As far as the creation of the menu, Patrizia said both sisters wanted to tailor the menu to what customers would like.

Patrizia is the business woman of the operation. Patrizia attended SUNY Buffalo for business, and said she originally wanted to work in a big corporation. Opening Bittersweet, she said, brings her into the business world minus wearing a suit. She said she loves numbers, organizing things and being busy.

Bittersweet’s Grand Opening Event was on Saturday November 6, 2010 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. I attended with a friend of mine and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we talked, tasted dessert samples and tried some wine.

The cozy, warm colored room was constantly packed when I was there, from 7 p.m. until around midnight when I left. The bar seats were constantly filled, tables were full and there was even one table at the entrance where two ladies shared the one seat available at the table! They were quite content, however, as they shared desserts and conversation.

The atmosphere was very warm and relaxing: dim pink and white lights hanging throughout the restaurant. There were dark tables and bar counters and white stools and chairs.  Pink candles were lit at each table.

One of the "Death by Chocolate" samples I had at Bittersweet Wine Bar & Desserts.

The friendly staff brought several mini dessert samples for partygoers to try. These were on hot pink plastic trays with white doilies.  Some of the ones I had were tiramisu, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, regular and brownie cheesecake.

While every dessert absolutely wowed me that night by appearance and flavors, the number one dessert in my book was the “Death By Chocolate” mini-cake (pictured). These fudgey, gooey little morsels melted in my mouth. It came in a white doilie, with chocolate drizzled on top.

If you love sweets, this place is for you. If you’re not into desserts, try the other selections. Wash it all down with one of the many wines or bottled beers. Regardless of what you have, Bittersweet is open into the late night hours for people to come by and relax.

SYRACUSE — DARWIN

"Mojo" Turkey Sandwich, DARWIN

DARWIN. 211 N. Clinton St. Syracuse

“Mojo Turkey Sandwich”: fresh roasted turkey with fresh sauteed spinach and melted swiss, finished with a homemade cranberry aioli on a wheat roll.
DELICIOUS! The fresh flavors complement one another–the fluffy turkey combined with the beautifully cooked spinach…The homemade cranberry aioli is absolutely incredible and truly makes the sandwich! The Swiss and wheat roll give it that nice complement from the sweet tasting cranberries on the sandwich. Every flavor on this sandwich melts in your mouth as you eat it.

DARWIN’s menu evolves every week! If you go this week the menu may be completely different next week. Each week there is a new story up on their website, http://www.darwinonclinton.com from co-owner Daryl McGrew. The staff is amazing!!

The sandwiches are a reasonable price, too. And they’re BIG!

If you’re looking for a great place to have a quick & tasty sandwich for lunch I definitely recommend DARWIN to you. It’s open from 9:30am till 2:30pm, Monday thru Friday.

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