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LONG ISLAND RESTAURANT WEEK — Paradise found at Tequila Jacks, Port Jefferson Village

I’m a huge believer in everything happening for a reason.

So when my friend Alyssa headed to Port Jeff (or as many Long Islanders say, ‘Down Port’), last week to experience Long Island restaurant week, it completely worked out that the first place, a very popular restaurant, was completely booked the night we came down.

Intuitively we explored the village’s other restaurants, walking up Main St. I started naming off several places we could try that night and then we stopped in front of a place I had been to a few times and loved, Tequila Jacks.

I had been to Tequila Jacks a few times with another friend, having an appetizer and dessert with her during those times. But never have I ever had a full dinner there. So Alyssa and I took the chance to head inside to what truly is Port Jeff’s paradise.

Why paradise, you ask?

This restaurant is an upscale Caribbean restaurant, packed with tropical drinks, island-themed dishes and what was the true icing on the cake: live music from an AMAZING husband-wife group: The Next Level Band.

We waited a half hour for our table, and while we waited, we got to sit at the beautiful wooden bar and listen to the beautiful stylings of La Dawn and Tyrone Parris. I even started singing along! There were classic Bob Marley songs, Reggae/Calypso songs, R&B, and even some of the amazing top 40 hits on the radio right now, made into a Reggae/Calypso version, such as “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5,Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan, and more. We had a blast the entire night listening to these two, not only for their amazing voices and excellent guitar and steel drum playing, but because these two were so much fun. La Dawn was dancing with listeners who were dancing in the bar.

The cocktail menu.

That night there was a special at the bar: $4 mojitos and margaritas. While Alyssa and I didn’t get those, we did opt for the special hand-muddled fruit drinks that we kept seeing being made in front of our eyes with a big, dark wooden muddling device.

Alyssa started out with a Reggae Punch: a blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel and fresh muddled fruits. This was delicious, an island sangria with a sweet, fruity taste.

Reggae Punch

My first drink of the night was the orange-honeydew melon mojito: Bacardi Melon Rum, muddled with sugar, fresh mint, limes, oranges and honeydew melon, served shaken. Ever since I tried honeydew flavored bubble tea up at Syracuse last year, I’ve especially become a huge fan of honeydew, in drinks. I had a good feeling about this one, and I was right: the light and sweet honeydew chunks mixed with the tangy orange chunks mixed with the melon rum and refreshing mint…It’s definitely a must try cocktail if you’re there! And check out the cool sugar cane garnish that came with it:

Orange-Honeydew Melon Mojito (with sugar cane and orange garnishes!)

After finishing those, we both decided we’d get one more before we were seated at our table. I decided to get another mojito, this time getting my coconut on with the pineapple-coconut mojito: Bacardi Coco Rum, muddled with sugar, fresh mint, limes and pineapple, served shaken. This one was amazing too: think a lightened pina colada with fresh mint mixed in. Refreshing.

Pineapple-Coconut Mojito

Alyssa decided to go coconut too and try the B.V.I. Painkiller: Dark rum, white rum, 151 rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice topped with shaved nutmeg. The painkiller was very good too: it was also like a pina colada, no mint. Definitely a must try too.

B.V.I. Painkiller

After awhile of cocktailing, chatting and singing/grooving to the live tunes, we were finally seated.

For Long Island Restaurant Week, there was a three course menu at Tequila Jack’s for $24.95.

The menu

Before I speak about the meals, however, every time you go to Tequila Jacks, the server brings over a basket of fresh plaintain and yuca chips, along with warm coconut-banana bread. These are outstanding, and come with two accompaniments: a creamy butter with spice in it (we thought it was pepper) for the bread, and a spicy tomato salsa for the chips. We loved the combination of the sweet, warm, melt-in-your-mouth bread with the savory butter. We also loved the sweet and salty chips with the spicy, tangy salsa. Great start to a wonderful meal:

Basket of Plantain/Yuca chips and Banana-Coconut Bread
The butter / salsa to go with the bread / chips

As an appetizer, I started out with Jack’s Crab Cakes & Sauce Two Ways (which I added $2 to my meal price for). These were amazing: crispy, crunchy crab cakes with a creamy filling. The sauces were excellent: one was a roasted red pepper remoulade which was a sweet, spicy, creamy pepper/tomato tasting sauce. The other was an island tartar which reminded me of a creamy mayo-based sauce filled with herbs.

Jack's Crab Cakes and Sauce Two Ways (and one of Alyssa's skewers on the plate too) 🙂

Alyssa started out with the marinated beef skewers with pineapple (which added $2 to her meal as well). These were amazing as well: think of filet mignon pieces on a skewer stick with fresh, juicy papaya on the ends, with a sesame dipping sauce to add to the amazing flavors already. These were outstanding.

Marinated Beef Skewers with Pineapple (and dipping sauce)

For our main course, we each got the coconut crusted chicken breast. This was a huge piece of boneless chicken breast covered in a sweet, crunchy coconut breading. There was a coconut chili sauce surrounding the chicken, which to me was like an upscale sweet and sour sauce. The spinach and candied sweet potatoes underneath the chicken were delicious too, the spinach balancing the sweet dish. I also loved the fresh mango salsa on top, giving it the extra kick:

Coconut Crusted Chicken Breast

The desserts at Tequila Jacks are incredible too, and house-made! Me being the chocolate-lover I got the flourless chocolate cake. This was amazing: a warm, rich, fudgy chocolate cake that was just the right size after the big meal we had.

Flourless chocolate cake

Alyssa had the coconut cheesecake, which was light and creamy and delicious too. It has just the right amount of coconut, not overwhelming, and was just the right size. The one thing we both agreed on, however, was the fruit that came with the desserts was not good that night. But please do not let that deter you from eating the desserts and all the food at Tequila Jacks.

Coconut cheesecake.

We had a great time that night at Tequila Jacks. It was truly a paradise found in Port Jeff: delicious tropical fresh-fruit drinks, live music by a passionate husband-and-wife band, and amazing food and desserts. The portion sizes were amazing for the amount of money we paid, nice large portions.

Our receipt...We paid about $30 each...Not bad!

And guess what? While the “official” restaurant week is over with, I just read on Tequila Jack’s Facebook page that the restaurant is extending its restaurant week menu until Nov. 24, so you can still get over there and try out the menu!

The restaurant also claims on its Facebook page it’s the only restaurant in Port Jeff with an “extended” happy hour until 8 p.m. Another reason to go check out paradise.

I know I’ll be back there soon.

Tequila Jacks

201D Main St.
Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK:  12 P. M. -11 P.M.
LUNCH STARTS AT 12 P.M. – 4 P.M. AND
DINNER STARTS AT 4 P.M. -11 P.M.

National Pizza Month — Your Stories (Part 1)

Courtesy of grubgrade.com

Happy National Pizza Month!

To celebrate… I will be sharing your stories on my blog about your memories of great pizza.

And here’s the first! From one of my friends, Maegan:

Best pizza story has to be the first time my bf and I cooked a meal together… it was pizza. Fresh dough, fresh ingredients. We made a BBQ chicken pizza with great sauce and goat cheese. It was perfection!!

 

Doesn’t that pizza sound incredible? It’s truly amazing how pizza making is more than just two people together making a pizza, it’s an amazing memory.

I look forward to hearing (and sharing!) more of your pizza stories on here! And if you have any pictures/videos of you eating/making pizza, I would love to share them too!

Happy Pizza Month!

 

(PS, I definitely ate pizza today…It was “John’s Favorite” from Papa John’s with extra sauce….Incredible! I loved the mix of the crispy pepperoni, the meaty, tender sausage and the herbs and spices on top of the cheese!)

Kat

SYRACUSE — Restaurant/Food Suggestions?

Hi everyone!!

Welcome to my new blog, KAT EATS SYRACUSE. Join me as I take you on my food adventures throughout Syracuse, N.Y. through pictures, video and text! Please leave me a comment if you have any restaurant/food suggestions I should try/review!!

Have a wonderful night!

Kat

RECIPES — Eggplant Parmigiana…With a Twist!

A few weekends ago I decided to make a homemade eggplant parmigiana. I had bought an eggplant from the store and wanted to use it. I got to slicing it into the length-wise pieces and I got to thinking…”How can I spice things up a bit?”

Which led me to my new twist on the original recipe:

Kat’s Spicy Eggplant Parmigiana

1 jar Wegman’s Diavolo Sauce

1 portion of pasta of your choice ( I chose Wegman’s Whole Wheat Linguini!)

1 bag shredded Mozzarella cheese

2 small cups applesauce

1 Italian sweet pepper

2 cups breadcrumbs

Method:

Cut eggplant into 1 inch lengthwise pieces.

In a medium bowl, place breadcrumbs in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, place applesauce inside.

Dip eggplant pieces into applesauce and then roll them around in the breadcrumbs.

In a medium frying pan- place olive oil in pan. Cook eggplant pieces in pan until pieces are golden brown.

In a small baking dish, layer diavolo sauce, eggplant pieces.  Place bag of mozzarella cheese on top. Cook until cheese has melted/ turned golden brown.

In a sauce pot, boil pasta to your liking.

Chop Italian sweet pepper into small pieces and boil with pasta.

When plating, place pasta/pepper mixture down first, then plate the eggplant.

Enjoy!

SYRACUSE — GANNON’S ISLE

Photo courtesy of strathmorebythepark.org

GANNON’S ISLE:

1525 Valley Drive, Syracuse (Valley), NY // (315) 469-8647

4800 McDonald Road (Shadybrook Plaza), Syracuse (Onondaga Hill), NY // (315) 475-1250

—–

A few nights ago I was craving an ice cream sundae.

It was very warm out this week, and as I sat in my apartment, I started to dream about ice cream. I wanted it. It was the mission of the evening. But where to get it? I had a choice to make.

I had tried a place with three of my friends before in the Hawley-Green district that was amazing, but this time I wanted something different, something new that I haven’t tried yet.

Which then suddenly, an article from Syracuse’s newspaper, The Post-Standard, came to me. I had read this a few months ago:

Ice Cream Dream: Gannon’s Isle of Syracuse prepares new flavor for Strathmore homes tour (with video)

I remember watching the video of how they made their ice cream and thinking, “Wow, this place looks really great, I HAVE to try it!” Another friend of mine had told me about it too and how great it was.

This past Thursday was the perfect opportunity to try it.

I picked up Avantika and headed to one of their two locations: Onondaga Hill’s location. I had driven there before exploring the area a few weeks back and I discovered the Gannon’s Isle location happened to be there. I turned on my “Sacred TomTom” (as my mom and I call it) and Simon (the British male voice) led us there.

The drive to Onondaga Hill is very peaceful: once you leave the city vicinity of Syracuse, you enter a world of luscious trees and lots of hills. Because it was so dark outside as well (we went around 9 p.m. that night), we were wondering if we would actually find the place.

Lo and behold, we pulled up to Shadybrook Plaza on McDonald Road. The parking lot was PACKED.

This location of Gannon’s Isle is a very cute sized location: not too small, not too big. A white picket fence surrounds the building, as the line to get into Gannon’s took up the entire picked fence when we got there. It was an exciting experience.

There were lots of families and groups of friends there, getting their ice cream and eating outside. There are a few benches and picnic tables outside and there are also a few tables outside the deli in the plaza, where we ate. We also found people eating their ice cream in their cars, which is another great place to eat ice cream.

Avantika and I waited on line for a little while. The line was moving fast, but it was just a long enough wait for us to figure out what we wanted. We both knew we wanted a sundae.

The atmosphere inside Gannon’s is great; you are directed to walk in one side of the building and leave through the other, for good traffic flow.

The decorations made me smile very wide. The animated characters on the wall of different ice creams (in the picture above as well) on an island are so adorable. This is a very family-friendly atmosphere.

Avantika got a single scooped sundae with chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge, nuts and whipped cream. She absolutely loved hers, and it looked fantastic.
I decided to try one of their named ice cream sundaes versus the make-your-own. I tried the “Oreo Explosion”: crushed oreos with hot fudge, nuts, whipped cream and the ice cream of your choice. Going along with the Oreo theme, I got their Oreo Cheesecake ice cream.

WHAT A SUNDAE.

My sundae cost around $6, which was well worth the money spent. It came in a huge bowl, with my ice cream filled to the top and their thick hot fudge spread all over the sundae. Every bite I took tasted of oreos and fudge. Mmm. I cleared my bowl on this ice cream very quickly, and I didn’t feel overly full either: many times if you get a large ice cream like that you may end up feeling really full afterwards. I felt very comfortably content.

Gannon’s Isle, has two locations for you to check out, one in Onondaga Hill, where I went, and another in the Valley.  According to their website, they have over 200 rotating homemade ice cream flavors for you to try. Their website also tells the story of how the Gannon’s Isle locations came to be: siblings Eileen and John Gannon have been making ice cream at their business since 1982.

If you’re in the mood for some ice cream today, definitely check out Gannon’s Isle at one of their locations. It’s well worth the trip.

SYRACUSE — Attilio’s

Photo courtesy of syracuse.com

ATTILIO’S : 700 NORTH SALINA ST. SYRACUSE, NY 13202

(315) 218-5085

Lunch Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Dinner Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Sunday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bar is open between lunch and dinner.

http://www.attiliosyracuse.com

A great dining experience is not only about the food, but the complete experience that goes along with it. From walking in the door to sitting at the table, to that first meet and greet from the waiter to when you leave the restaurant. If you have a warm, inviting experience, it will make you want to go back there again and again.
I found this especially at Attilio’s last week.

Right in the heart of Little Italy in Syracuse, Attilio’s was a surprise find for myself and 6 of my friends celebrating our friend Avantika’s birthday. While we were first going to check out another restaurant, the wait time at the first place was a little long, so we looked into other options.
Walking around North Salina Street, we came across Attilio’s as it was right near where we parked. We walked in and checked out a menu and found everything on the menu to be delicious sounding and at reasonable prices. Attilio’s had no wait and set up a big table for us to sit at.

Once everyone in our group was situated at the table, we were greeted by our waiter. He truly made our experience what it was. He took the time to greet us, bring us water and bread and tell us the specials of the night.

The wine list at Attilio’s is very nice. When you walk into the dining room, there are two cases that were behind our table that had several different wines in them. There was a huge champagne bottle on top of the case to look at.

Avantika and I tried a glass of the house Cabernet wine. This wine was very nice, dry with a hint of oak in it, which I love.

The bread there is AMAZING. One of the things I love about eating at Italian restaurants is the bread– it’s a staple of the experience. Their bread in particular was light with a very fluffy dough- and a nice light taste as well. The bread wasn’t too heavy to keep you from eating your meal. The bread also comes with an plate with four different mix-ins with olive oil: garlic, herbs, sweet pepper flakes and cheese. You mix them yourself at the table and then the dipping plate can be passed around. The oil mixture there is DELICIOUS!

Going around the table, I heard several pasta dishes being ordered from the menu, including:

  • Red Pepper Penne: “A vegetarian delight! Pan seared penne pasta with grilled bell peppers, goat cheese, fresh basil, sauteed in a walnut-oil garlic sauce.” $16
  • The Original Chicken Riggies: “This dish was created in 1955 by Francesco Nesci. Imported Rigatoni pasta sauteed with sliced chicken breast, Bermuda onion, hot cherry peppers, tossed in a plum tomato and fresh basil sauce.” $18

I studied the menu carefully. While I kept thinking about getting a pasta dish, it came upon me to try their Veal Parmigiana. I haven’t had veal in awhile and I really wanted to try theirs to see how it was.

  • Veal Parmigiana: “A lightly breaded veal cutlet topped with Attilio’s marinara sauce and Grande mozzarella cheese.” $20

$20 is a good deal on Veal Parmigiana; you not only get free bread and oil mix with your meal, but you get a choice of salad or soup as well. I decided to try their Caesar Salad for an additional fee, which was well worth the money.
Their Caesar Salad was wonderful. With a Caesar Salad, you have to be careful about not having too much dressing but not having too little dressing either. This particular salad was a perfect mix of romaine leaves and dressing. Their dressing was a beautiful blend of creaminess and there were two lemon wedges on the side to squeeze on to your liking. I LOVE LEMON, so I squeezed both on. It gave the salad that extra kick. I would definitely recommend getting the Caesar there for the small upcharge!

Attilio’s timing of food was perfect as well: a few minutes after the salads and soups were taken away from our table, the main courses came right to our table.

What I look for with veal dishes is a nice, beautiful tender veal. A lot of times if you overcook veal it can get very tough and hard to eat.

The veal most certainly was beautiful at Attilio’s. The batter they used to bread and cook the veal was outstanding: a nice fresh fluffy batter with nice seasonings. The veal was very tender, melt in your mouth veal. The portion was a very wonderful size as well: two huge pieces of veal with a nice sized bowl of rigatoni on the side (you can choose your pasta with your meal). Their sauce was delicious: a nice sweet, tomato sauce blended with the mozzarella cheese on top. I could sure eat some more right now! My plate cleared very fast; I ate my whole meal and actually did not feel full either. This was exciting, because that meant I could try their desserts!

Dessert time comes around and there are a TON of delicious choices….Key Lime Mousse Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Tartufo (one of my favorites to get out at an Italian restaurant!) and another favorite, Tiramisu.

My friend Jessica and I shared the Tiramisu and it was incredible. It was a nice sized piece of cake with a great blend of the coffee flavors and ladyfingers. My friend Sarah tried the Key Lime Mousse Pie, which was a HUGE hit at the table, the lime flavor was outstanding and that is a pie I would love to try again. The Banana Cream pie was amazing as well, the fresh taste of bananas with the pie crust and cream…YUM!

But as I said before, it wasn’t only the food that made the experience. Our waiter was outstanding. He checked in on us throughout the night to see how our food was. He took the time to sing “Happy Birthday” to Avantika with us. He took the time to personally split our checks, including doing the math of how much we would each pay to cover Avantika’s meal and wrote it on each check. He gave us little chocolate candies as well at the end of our meal.

This was an unforgettable night, and if you’re driving through North Salina Street in Little Italy, I would definitely recommend Attilio’s.

SYRACUSE — Funk ‘N Waffles

FUNK ‘N WAFFLES.

727 S. Crouse Ave. Suite 8. Syracuse, NY 13210

(315) 477-9700

Hi everyone!

Today myself, my friend Alicia, her boyfriend David and our friend Mia went to Funk ‘N Waffles to have some YUMMY waffles for lunch!

Please watch the video above as I tell you the story of our adventure of sweet & savory waffles!

Waffles to definitely try while there:

Bacon, Brie, Basil : Crispy bacon, melted brie, fresh basil served with a side of jam, $7.99

Brownie Waffle Sundae: Home made brownie batter, 2 scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sause. Serves 1-4 people, $7.49

Falafel Waffle: Baked falafel toppel with Israeli salad and homemade tahini, $7.49 // half size: $4.99

Earth, Wind, Fire: Whole-wheat walnut w/Bananas & Honey, $5.99

Tuesday Heartbreak: Whole-wheat w/Strawberries & Bananas, $6.99

YUM!

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