Menotomy Grill and Tavern: Restaurant Review

I don’t go out to lunch. If I do, it’s because I’m working at a cafe with wifi and need to grab something to eat. But recently the Menotomy Grill and Tavern in East Arlington hosted a small group of bloggers for lunch (including me, hooray!). Menotomy Grill is a cozy restaurant with a Colonial tavern feel.

Menotomy Grill fills a niche for Arlington: a restaurant where you can get a good lunch or relaxing dinner or go for drinks and watch the game (what game? I don’t know these sports-games-things–but you know, the game) on the big screen at the bar. I’ve previously been there to meet friends for drinks. It’s a place in Arlington to meet friends for drinks! I’ve been there for dinner with my husband and, another time, with my mother–and another time, with a friend–for dinner. It’s fine for dinner.

This was my first time having lunch there.

OK, so maybe the ductwork undoes the cozy feel of this particular chandelier, but trust me, this place is cozy. #blamethephotographer

The place is called Menotomy Grill because it harkens back to when Arlington was called Menotomy [I can also tell you why the Jason Russell House is famous and what East Arlington used to be famous for (answer: lettuce); I know my Arlington history]. The American Revolution hit this town hard, and like the Warren Tavern in Charlestown (but with a more spacious feel), Menotomy Grill has some features that bring you back to colonial days: the stone fireplace, the wood tables and floors, and the iron/candle replica light fixtures. I’ll admit it: I am very partial to the light fixtures.

The place has a lot of nice historical touches. You could spend a lot of time near the bathroom, studying the old maps of the town.

It also has a decidedly modern feel and upscale vibe.

Menotomy Grill has a decent wine list and a very good beer list, plus ciders and cocktails. I failed to take note of their current list at this lunch, as I had seltzer, but I’ve had wine and beer there at dinner and have enjoyed my selections.

Let’s talk about food, right? That’s what we’re here for. I think among the six of us we ordered most of the appetizers. I would not have selected the Fried Dill Pickles ($7), since I don’t like fried food, and I’m a pickles purist, but they turned out to be mightily addictive, even if you didn’t bother dipping them into the spicy remoulade they were served with (also kind of addictive). They didn’t need it. They were like the seared tuna of fried pickles: hot and tender on the outside, cooler and with more substance in the middle. The perfect meld of temperature and texture. I want to go back there right now, just thinking of those pickles.

We also tried the Chipotle Citrus Wings (served with peppercorn ranch, $11), which sounded good and looked pretty.

The wings had a nice kick to them but failed to deliver in other ways: they were almost soggy, and the meat wasn’t falling off the bone the way I like it to be.

We also tried the flatbread as an appetizer. Menotomy Grill usually has two flatbreads on the menu (Margherita ($10) as well as Grilled Steak and Caramelized Onion ($12). The day’s special flatbread was smoked salmon on cream cheese on an everything dough. The special sounded like a creative combo, but we decided to try the Margherita, which was fairly crispy and very tasty. The sauce was perfect.

The House Smoked St. Louis Ribs (with guava BBQ sauce and Napa cabbage/pickled jalapeno slaw, $11) was tasty. If you’re hoping for saucy ribs, these are not them, but they were perfectly cooked and nicely porky. The Napa cabbage slaw underneath the ribs was fantastic, and I could easily envision this dish as a salad tipped with some meat cut off the ribs.

It’s hard to see the lovely salad under all the ribs.

Another blogger ordered the Wedge Salad ($9). It was everything you wanted in an wedge salad: crisp fresh iceberg lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, a generous sprinkling of bacon cubes (I’d call them lardons), a confident splash of buttermilk bleu cheese dressing. Oh, and avocado. I don’t think it needs the avocado. It’s heaven on a plate, crunchy/creamy/crisp/fatty/fresh/salty/startling. I would go there just for that.

We tried a bunch of sides (each $6). The House Baked Beans are good, the Edna’s Potato Sausage Stuffing thick and meaty and delicious. The Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard are tender and tasty, though a touch more watery than I prefer (I like them simple, just roasted with garlic). We also tried the various fries: Sweet Potato, Herbed Parmesan, and regular. They’re all crispy and good.

I’ve had the Grilled Vegetable Panini before, at dinner (lots of grilled vegetables and cheese). This day, we all tried the Menotomy Cheeseburger ($13), topped with cheddar, lettuce, red onion, and a smoked tomato jam (add a fried egg or bacon for an additional charge). It was a good burger: slightly but not overly fatty, off-set by the crisped grilled bun and the startling sweet touch of the tomato jam. I’d go back there for that (and the Wedge Salad!).

The Greek Salad ($9) has a nice dressing and is big. Others ordered the Herb Roasted Chicken, the Grilled Hanger Steak, the Grilled Chicken BLT, and the day’s special sandwich (a grilled ham and cheese club with house-made chips) and reported back very positively.

We didn’t try the desserts. We had no room.

But I’ll be back, to the cozy Colonial-tavern space.

[Disclosure: We were hosted for lunch. All opinions are my own.] 

Need Dinner? Start with Canned Tomatoes and a Slow Cooker

Recently, my husband has started making dinner once a week. It’s great for many reasons, including the fact that our older son is interested in helping (not sure why it’s less fun to help when  cook, but maybe it has to do with the fact that the menfolk cook on a leisurely weekend, whereas I’m throwing meals together at the end of a busy workday/weekday, when the children are tired and having to do homework and practice the piano and we’ve just walked in the door and dinner needs to be on the table in 15 minutes and Leave your brother alone!

Yeah. I should take some tips from my husband, actually, because you know what his secret is? He uses the slow cooker. The first time, I tipped him off that you can put frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Yes, you can. He added chopped onion, a can of black beans, a big can of crushed tomatoes, and some other seasonings. He may have added frozen corn at some point.

The house smelled great by early afternoon. At dinnertime, I clued him in that he could just shred the chicken in the pot using two forks. Meanwhile, I sliced some green onions and shredded cheese.

The resulting black bean and chicken chili was delicious.

Since then, his dinners always use the slow cooker and a big can of tomatoes. The rest varies. It’s always good.

We’re not otherwise big on using the slow cooker, but for tomato-based soups and stews, I love it. And it is handy on weekdays, if I can take the time in the morning to load it up, so we can come home to a hot meal ready to serve.

Redgold Tomatoes (makers of RedGold, RedPack, and Tuttoroso canned tomato products) is running a slow cooker giveaway right now (actually, it ends TODAY! Don’t delay!). Go to their Facebook page to enter.

If you prefer a more formal recipe, here’s one provided by Redgold:

Rustic Italian Chicken

Servings: 6    |    Preparation Time: 20 minutes    |    Cook Time: 360 minutes

12 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2 pounds
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 (14.5 ounce) can Redpack® Diced Tomatoes In Juice
1 (28 ounce) can Redpack® Crushed Tomatoes In Thick Puree
3 cups pasta of choice, cooked and drained

•    Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.  Place chicken in slow cooker and top with remaining ingredients, except pasta.

•    Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.  Serve chicken over pasta and garnish.

Garnish Options:  Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil

[Disclosure: Redgold provided me with tomatoes for review.]

* I promise that this blog is not becoming “All food, all the time” but I did write this while eating pumpkin ice cream and while baking banana chocolate chip muffins, and I just came from a restaurant I’m going to say. What can I tell you? I like food. And I’m not running right now, so it’s not like I can dish out the race reports.

Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream with Hood Sour Cream

Ice cream that’s fast, eggless, and homemade? Yes, please! Plus, it’s blueberry season!

And it’s sour cream season. Just kidding: sour cream is always in season. I was recently asked by Hood to come up a recipe incorporating sour cream as the main ingredient. Well, I think they asked me to share a recipe, but I’ll confess I don’t usually cook with sour cream. My cooking/our eating is all veggies and lean meat and whole grains and minimal dairy….except, well, for ice cream.

I love ice cream. I love to eat it. I love to make it. However, it’s hard to make creamy ice cream at home unless you make a custard base first. Who has time for that? Whenever I get the urge to make ice cream, I need to make it now. I don’t want to patiently separate eggs and make the custard and thoroughly cool it, etc., before making the ice cream. No. Need it now.

Sour cream is a great base for homemade ice cream, because it’s rich and thick and tangy and wonderful. And it’s fast. Just add your ingredients, turn on the ice cream maker, sit down to dinner (or clean up from dinner, or whatever) and half an hour later you have wonderful homemade ice cream.

We recently went blueberry picking and went overboard, coming home with ten pounds. Ten pounds of blueberries! We ate a lot of them fresh, but I also washed, dried, and froze most of them. Those fresh blueberries add a wonderful flavor to this ice cream, but you could substitute any fruit. Or leave out the blueberries, cut the lemon juice down, and increase the vanilla. Or hey! A few tablespoons of brown sugar mixed into the ice cream at the last minute would be amazing. Or brown sugar and banana slices!! Considering how many people told me they liked a bowl of sour cream with sliced bananas and brown sugar, I have to try making that in ice cream form.

But for now, it’s blueberries.

Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

This tangy, rich ice cream is fast—no need to make and cool a custard base!—eggless, and delicious. I don’t use much sugar, because I don’t like very sweet ice cream, but if you prefer a sweeter dessert, increase the sugar by a half-cup.

 Ice Cream:

16 oz sour cream
1½  cups whole milk
½ cup sugar (you can use up to one cup if you want it sweeter)
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T lemon juice

Blueberry Sauce:

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
½ cup sugar

Equipment: Ice cream maker

Blueberry Sauce: Make blueberry sauce first. Combine blueberries and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to medium and cook uncovered until slightly thickened. Cool. [NOTE: To cool quickly, divide into shallow bowls or other dishes and place dishes into fridge or freezer.]

Ice Cream: Combine all ice cream ingredients in a bowl and mix with a whisk (or put them all into the blender). Pour into ice cream maker. About 15 minutes later, add half of the blueberry sauce. Let the ice cream maker run until the ice cream is done (usually about half an hour total; ice cream will have increased in volume and frozen to a soft-serve consistency). Pack ice cream into a freezer-safe container, drizzling in remaining blueberry sauce. Eat immediately if you like a soft-serve consistency or freeze to let the ice cream harden. [NOTE: If it gets very hard, remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving.]

Variations: You don’t have to make blueberry ice cream. With the sour cream ice cream base, you can make any flavor.

  • Strawberry: Substitute strawberries (fresh or frozen) for blueberries. Proceed as directed.
  • Vanilla: Skip blueberry sauce. Increase sugar to ¾ cup. Increase vanilla to 1.5 tsp. Decrease lemon juice to 1 tablespoon. Add scraped vanilla beans, if desired.
  • Chocolate Swirl: Skip blueberry sauce. Increase sugar to ¾ cup. Decrease lemon juice to 1 tablespoon. Drizzle in ¾ to 1 cup of chocolate sauce at the very end.

Enjoy!

[Disclosure: I was invited by Hood to participate in their Sour Cream Meal Makeover (there’s an actual cookoff tomorrow night–check out the final recipes on the Hood site!). I was compensated for my participation. All opinions are my own.]

Home After a Week Away

We’re home again! We were gone for almost a week, out near St. Louis, at a state park for a family wedding celebration for my niece: the niece I’d never met before! (She’s delightful!) We got to spend time with the “other side of the Mississippi” part of my husband’s family, whom we very rarely get to see. My kids were thrilled to spend some time with their grown-up guy cousins and uncle and aunt. It was wonderful to have some time with my in-laws.

Plus, we went out on a boat, swam in a lake, rode in a golf cart (fun for kids!), played with dogs, had a late-night campfire with s’mores, and I saw fresh bear prints in the woods (alas, I didn’t have my camera with me). We saw the Arch (but did not go up in it), swam in a hotel pool, and in general had an excellent trip.

Then we had a three-hour weather delay, got home at nearly 2 a.m., and the kids didn’t get to school until 11:30 a.m. Yes, that means the little one will be at school for a whole hour and a half today. We’re all tired and out of sorts and the laundry pile is up to here and the fridge is empty.

I might cheat and make pasta and meatballs tonight, but I’m also turning to my meal-planning sources hard. Why? They provide grocery lists! And tell me what to make for dinner! And offer variety! I’m sick of making the same old lunches every day, and we’re all tired of the same old dinners.

What I’m craving is a Chopped Kale and Roasted Corn Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigretteposted on my pal Melanie’s blog (go check it out right now—-aren’t you craving it now, too??).  I think that salad needs to happen here tonight.

Then I grabbed the free sample lunch menu (with shopping list, yay!) from MOMables, because damn if I am going to throw out one more turkey sandwich or scrape any more uneaten hummus into the trash. Maybe there’s only a few weeks of school left (yikes—only ONE week left for my older son!!), but we need some fresh ideas around here.

Next up, eMeals. I’ve posted about them before, and here too. Honestly, I haven’t been using the site as much lately. Even though they send me a weekly meal plan, and I still change it up sometimes (Mediterranean, Clean Eating, Low Calorie, Kid-Friendly), I kind of got out of the habit.

But today, I’m happy to go through my inbox, find the one from eMeals with the comforting subject line of “Your Mediterranean Plan for Two provided by eMeals” (we do the 2-person plan, usually, instead of the family plan, because I found that since half of our family consists of very small children who may or may not eat much dinner, we had too many leftovers). In a few minutes I’ll print out the menu and shopping list, and over the next week we’ll be eating Honey-Lemon Grilled Salmon, Zucchini and Tomato Pasta with Olives, and so on….with everything I need right in my kitchen, thanks to the shopping list.

(I realize I’ve said “shopping list” or “grocery list” about eight times in this post, but it’s such a lifesaver. Right now I have the energy to feed/dress/clean up the kids, keep the kitchen clean, get the laundry done, and meet my work deadlines. I don’t have time for meal planning and grocery lists. Thus, eMeals!)

So here I go. Print, work, pick up Ben from preschool, and hit the grocery store….with a little help from my online meal-planning friends (and food bloggers–because I cannot WAIT to have that kale salad!!).

You can try eMeals for 15% off. Click the picture below to save yourself time and hassle. You know you’ll probably be traveling this summer. Wouldn’t this be nice to come home to?

Let eMeals Do Your Meal Planning–and Holiday Menus!

Listen, just a short post to remind you that meal planning can be time-sucking and tedious. Wouldn’t you rather just, mid-afternoon or at the end of the day, know what’s for dinner and — even better — know that you have all the ingredients you need to make dinner happen fast?

Every night?

eMeals is having a sale right now: 30% off! Click the link below or the link on the ad in my sidebar. Also, if you sign up now, you get a FREE holiday meal plan! Paleo Thanksgiving? No problem! Classic Thanksgiving? Sure! Clean Eating Thanksgiving? Got it!

Click the pic!

And yes, I am in the eMeals Blogger Program, and yes, I am an eMeals affiliate, meaning if you sign up through my link I get a small commission, I think. But seriously, that is not why I am encouraging this.

I’m pushing it because making dinner night after night after night after bloody night is HARD. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not great at grocery shopping unless I have a list. And if I don’t have everything on that list that I need, then midweek I find myself saying, “Oh, crud, we can’t have that or that for dinner because I forgot to buy [key ingredient].” It’s no longer a problem! In fact, last weekend, when I had to work, I printed out the list and sent my husband to the store with both children to buy the week’s worth of groceries. It’s all organized by department, so shopping was pretty easy for him—no running all over the store looking for things!

Plus, I’ve seen all the holiday meal plans. They are good. I made the kale salad the other night and it was so much better than my own kale salad! Next up is their Brussels sprouts recipe, because I love Brussels sprouts.

Try this for a holiday treat:

Sign yourself up. Or sign up a friend. Happy no-more-thinking-about-meal-planning!

Meal Planning? eMeals Saved the Day!

It is 5:30 p.m. You’ve just walked in the door with four grocery bags and two hungry children…at dinnertime. You hand each child a tiny snack, look at tonight’s menu, realize it’s not possible…and yet less than half an hour later you have a tasty meal on the table that your children actually eat and like.

That was me, tonight, thanks to eMeals. I’ve attempted (and failed at) meal planning in the past, having an approach much like the spontaneous Melanie in the Middle. Unfortunately, the pour-a-glass-of-wine-and-wing-it approach doesn’t work when my small children need dinner around 5:30 p.m. and I get home with them at 5:15.

Despite some posts that indicate the contrary, I don’t just throw frozen stuff into the microwave for them. First of all, they generally hate that stuff, even if it is organic and such. Second, I like to cook and want to make them (and us!) tasty meals.

Here’s a problem: I live in a wonderful neighborhood full of small children just the same ages as my children, and sometimes late in the afternoon, I’d rather my kids be outside playing with friends than indoors while I’m making dinner. Or we get home and see all their friends outside, across the street, and go over to play instead of going inside so I can cook dinner. It’s a trade-off, for sure, but I’d really rather they be outside, even if we end up in nightly dinner hell.

Anyway, I recently signed onto eMeals. eMeals is a meal-planning service that sends you a weekly menu, with recipes and shopping lists. The great thing about eMeals is they have several different meal plans: Classic, Clean Eating (what we do), Natural and Organic, Gluten Free, Paleo, Mediterranean, Simple Gourmet, Low Fat, and so on. You can also plug in the grocery store you normally shop at, and they can match a meal plan to the store. In addition, you can indicate whether you want meals for 1-2 people or 3-6 people. Our first week, I’d signed us up for 3-6 people. Way too much food for us (2 adults, 2 kids). This week, I’m shifting to the 1-2 person plan.

We get the Clean Eating meal plan. It’s sent to me on Wednesday, but I didn’t manage to print out the most recent one until the weekend. I spent a little time going over it. The plan includes seven meals plus side dishes. I knew we’d have leftovers one night and might want to use up a freezer meal another night. So I crossed off two meals that I thought my family would be less interested in.

Then I went through the included grocery list, crossing off any items that we already had or that we wouldn’t need (items for the meals I’d crossed off). The list and a pen went into some reusable grocery bags.

Could this get much easier?

However, being our spontaneous selves, we ended up going apple-picking instead of grocery shopping. You know how it goes!

Tuesday I picked up Max from school, zoomed over to the grocery store, got everything on the list, wove through traffic to go get Ben, and got home. Naturally, all the neighbor kids were outside, so outstayed we…until 5:30, when we finally got in the door.

5:30, remember, is dinnertime.

Did I panic? Actually, for a second I did. Then I went to my menu. Tonight was supposed to be Juicy Chicken Sliders, with a side of Parmesan Oven Fries. “Kid-Friendly,” it was noted. But the total time: 50 minutes. Too long! Pot roast? Nope — that’s a slow-cooker meal. Roasted Chicken: a 50-minute cook time. Penne? I’m sick of pasta — last week we went off our plan a little, in an attempt to clean out the cupboards, and ate a lot of pasta.

Taco Salad: “Super Fast,” it said. OK!

One problem: It called for ground round. Our ground beef was all frozen. But I had just brought home chicken breasts for the sliders that we wouldn’t be having tonight! I scanned the recipe and decided to go for it.

Taco Salad

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (I completely forgot to add the garlic!)
3/4 lb ground round (or sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast; fish or tofu would also be good!)
½ teaspoon chili powder
1/4  teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper
4 cups whole-grain tortilla chips
5 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic, ground round (or chicken), chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook 8 minutes or until beef (or chicken) is browned, stirring occasionally. Divide tortilla chips evenly among 2 plates; top with lettuce, ground beef mixture, Corn Salsa (see below) and yogurt.

Corn Salsa

3/4 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
2 plum tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes instead)
1 small jalapeño, minced (I omitted this on purpose)
1 clove garlic, minced (forgot again! sprinkled garlic powder [not garlic salt] on instead]
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine corn, tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl; chill until ready to serve. (I also threw some leftover edamame into the corn salsa, because why not?)

To serve it, I put things in separate piles on the kids’ plates, because they are ages three and five, and sometimes it is best if things don’t touch each other. They ate the chicken and asked for more. Then Max noticed how my plate was one big mixed-up salad, and he wanted his that way. So of course then Ben wanted his that way, too. So we all ended up with these big mixed-up taco salads on our plates, and Max loved it. Ben preferred to fly his alien spaceship tomato-and-cucumber combo. But he did eat all his chicken and some of the corn salsa.

Remember those grocery bags at 5:30? Yeah. I could have been done with dinner even sooner, but I decided to slice up some cucumbers and tomatoes, too. And clear the breakfast dishes off the table because….you know.

Who feels like a rock star? I do.

My plate. Blurry but tasty.

What’s awesome is that we had a great new meal (I never make taco salad!!) on the table fast, and we all enjoyed it. Plus, thanks to the grocery list and the quick shopping trip, I now have the ingredients in my fridge for the rest of this week’s meals, and now I know how long the others will take, so I can plan those nights.

Want to try it? Here’s a discount code for 15% off DINNER15. Considering that the plan is pretty inexpensive even without the code, and the grocery savings are nice, and the knowing what’s for dinner is priceless, the extra 15% off is icing on the cake! Click the link (image) below to sign up!

Disclosure: I am a member of the eMeals blogger network program and am also in the eMeals affiliate program. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are mine.