Friday, March 27, 2015

iCream Cafe

Several friends have been telling my family that we need to take our girls to get ice cream at the iCream Cafe.  The ice cream store combines chemistry and ice cream to produce a fun experience for kids.  iCream takes milk, a flavor of your choice, and other ingredients you can add to the mixture to make instant ice cream with the help from a blast of liquid nitrogen and a mixer.  My kids enjoyed getting to see their ice cream being made and we were all suprised to watch our ice cream be made in less than a minute.
Making Ice Cream
One kid enoyed vanilla bean ice cream with sprinkles, while another enjoyed chocolate ice cream with sprinkles.  Since it is the season for Girl Scout Cookies, iCream had three varieties of their famous cookies that one could mix in their ice cream.  I chose to have chocolate mint ice cream with Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies.  It isn't every day that you can find an ice cream store that combines girl scout cookies with you favorite flavors.
Chocolate Mint with Thin Mints
If you prefer shakes or frozen yogurt, those are available at iCream as well.  I felt the flavor was comparable to most other ice cream parlors, but it seemed much smoother than your basic ice cream.  The staff was very friendly and seemed more than happy to walk first timers through the process of ordering and making their ice cream.  My kids had an absolute blast and I would highly recommend this place for families with young children.
Vanilla Bean with Sprinkles
iCream Cafe
Livin the Good Life Rating=2
Icream Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Every year that I go to Las Vegas, I make a list of restaurants that I want to try during my trip.  One restaurant at the top of my list was a new restaurant called Yardbird Southern Table and Bar.  I have a friend who is also a foodie and she has raved about the Miami location for some time, so I was pleased to see that the restaurant had opened up a second location on restaurant row in the corridor between The Palazzo and The Venetian.
Dining Area
Shortly after checking in to The Palazzo, my wife and I took the short walk to grab some lunch at Yardbird.  We decided to try out several items, including the Fried Green Tomato BLT, Lewellyn's Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and the Macaroni and Cheese.  The restaurant makes a point of delivering items as soon as they are finished cooking, so we sampled the biscuits first and they were still piping hot.  The biscuits were wonderful in every possible way and were made even better when you added the honey butter and strawberry jam to them.
Buttermilk Biscuits, Honey Butter, and Strawberry Jam
Next up was the fried green tomato BLT.  Normally one associates a BLT with a sandwich, but this particular item was a fried green tomato topped with pork belly, greens, house-made pimento cheese, and tomato jam.  My wife is more a fan of fried green tomatoes than I am, but I really enjoyed the pork belly and pimento cheese which added flavor to the dish.
Yardbird's version of a BLT-Fried Green Tomato, Pork Belly, Greens, Tomato Jam, and House-Made Pimento Cheese
The fried chicken and mac and cheese arrived shortly after we finished off the BLT.  The fried chicken was very good and it was easy to see why it made Southern Living's list of The South's Best Fried Chicken.  I would certainly put it among my fried chicken top five.  The mac and cheese was made with a combination of Torchio pasta, five cheeses, and was topped with a crispy herb crust.  It was good as well, but it was not as good as the other items we tried on this visit.
Lewellyn's Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese
I also dined at Yardbird a second time on my third day in Vegas.  My wife was at the pool, so I sat at the bar, watched some college basketball, and ordered the Smoke Brisket Sandwich and the House-Cut Fries.  The sandwich was made with brisket, tomato, and Swiss cheese on grilled bread.  This plate also included house-made ketchup and some pickled veggies.  I was a little surprised that the brisket didn't have a lot of smokey flavor and didn't include any bark.  Although it was very different from the brisket sandwiches I am used to, I really liked the flavor of this sandwich.  It tasted more like a spicy pot roast, but the flavor went great with the grilled bread.  The fries, which were topped with bacon salt (aka salted bacon bits), were amazing.  A buttermilk dipping sauce accompanied the fries and really added to the flavor of the fries and bacon.
Brisket Sandwich and Fries with "Bacon Salt"
Since I dined here twice, you can already guess by now that I really liked this restaurant.  The service at both the tables and the bar was excellent.  This casual restaurant has some excellent Southern cuisine and I can certainly see why the original location was nominated for best new restaurant of 2012 by the James Beard Foundation Awards.  If I had stayed another day in Vegas, I might have eaten at Yardbird a third time.  This restaurant is a great addition to the Venetian/Palazzo family.

Yardbird Southern Table and Bar
Livin the Good Life Rating=4
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Shady's Burger Joint

My family and I happened to be in Richardson, Texas for a sporting event and wanted to find a place to grab dinner.  After browsing my phone for a few minutes, I found that Shady's Burger Joint was close by and had a favorable diner rating.  I have heard good things about this place from others as well, so we decided to dine there.
Bacon BBQ Burger
Although it was crowded, we quickly placed our order and found a table that had just been cleaned off.  I ordered the Bacon BBQ Burger with cheese fries.  The burger was a little on the small side, but was topped with bacon, a large onion ring, barbecue sauce, and lettuce.  The burger looked better than it tasted.  The patty itself was flavorless and I didn't care for the taste of the barbecue sauce.  The highlight of the burger was the large and crispy onion ring.  The serving of bacon cheese fries was quite large and was much better than the burger I had.
Bacon Cheese Fries
My wife got the Shady's Burger (basic burger) with onion rings.  She felt her burger was also lacking in flavor, but said she did like the bun.  The order of onion rings were probably the best thing we had on this visit.  The onion rings were the same large rings that were on my burger and they had an outstanding batter that was very crispy.  Both my kids ordered from the kid's menu and enjoyed their grilled cheeses, fries, and chocolate chip cookies.  
Onion Rings
Although my kids seemed to enjoy their entire meal, my wife and I both felt the onion rings and bacon cheese fries were far superior to our burgers.  The staff was friendly and attentive, but it took the restaurant close to twenty minutes to get our order to us.  The tables were also very close together and it was cramped, which led to a lot of chairs bumping into one another.  Shady's wasn't bad, but I would not go out of my way to eat here again.  If I did eat here again, I probably wouldn't order a burger either.
Kids Grilled Cheese Meal
Shady's Burger Joint
Livin the Good Life Rating=2
Shady's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ace's Ice House and Chop Shop

One of DFWs newest restaurants, Ace's Ice House and Chop Shop, opened it's doors in January.  The Frisco eatery claims to have a chef driven menu that serves up some Texas favorites.  Chad Brown and Cutter Brewer serve as executive chefs and they do have a menu that puts some interesting twists on some classic Southern dishes.
Bar Area at Ace's-My youngest saw me taking a picture and assumed she needed to be in the pic
One of the appetizers that intrigued me was the Bird and Waffle.  The dish included 4 petite waffles, habanero maple syrup, and the choice of hand breaded chicken or quail breast.  I actually ordered it with the quail, but they ended up bringing out the chicken.  Since I was hungry and love chicken and waffles anyway, I decided to eat what was brought out.  The chicken had a terrific batter and the habanero maple syrup was great, but the waffles were pretty basic.
Bird and Waffle
The first entree I tried was the Chicken Fried Wagyu Steak.  The hand breaded 7 oz. Wagyu sirloin was topped with whiskey mushroom gravy and served with garlic mashed potatoes.  This chicken fried steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and had outstanding flavor (both the breading and the steak itself).  As good as the steak was, the whiskey mushroom gravy was even better.  My only complaint with the gravy is that I wished they would have included more gravy on the dish.  The mashed potatoes were disappointing in comparison to the chicken fried steak and were a little bland.
Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
The second entree we sampled was the Big Block Grass-Fed Angus Burger.  I elected to get the burger with bacon and cheddar cheese as add-ons.  The burger had a nice charbroiled flavor and was extremely juicy.  I also really enjoyed the large pieces of bacon and the sourdough bun.  Steak cut Cajun fries were served with the burger and they could have used a little more Cajun seasoning.
Big Block Grass-Fed Angus Burger
I only sampled three items on my first visit to Ace's, but I think the place shows a lot of promise.  The food was mostly good and outside the mix-up on my order of bird and waffle, the service was commendable as well.  Ace's has a fun ambiance, a good-sized bar area, and a patio.  The restaurant would be a good place to eat with the family or hang out with friends for a Happy Hour.  In a city that has more than it's fair share of chain restaurants, it is nice to see an original restaurant that puts a little twist on some classic dishes.

Ace's Ice House and Chop Shop
Livin the Good Life Rating=3
Ace's Ice House & Chop Shop on Urbanspoon