Friday, March 27, 2015

Funky Waffles

I recently visited a Syracuse University culinary speciality: Funk n' Waffles, a hip underground waffle house that appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. My boyfriend, his sister, her boyfriend, and myself stopped by the morning after the Billy Joel concert. The place really is cool. Customers have to walk down graffiti-covered stairs to get to the dark and colorful restaurant.
Funk n' Waffles really lives up to its name – the menu is funky. Not only can you order normal waffle toppings like strawberries and chocolate sauce, but also strange toppings like pulled pork and fried egg. The specialties seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives were the chicken and waffles, and also a Thanksgiving waffle with stuffing, turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Weird combination!

Jake and I went to Funk n' Waffles once before, at night time. Live music made a comfy and laid-back atmosphere. This time we went around noon on Saturday, so the place was stuffed with college students looking for brunch. We had to wait 20 minutes for our waffles, which isn't a big deal given how crowded the place was.
All four of us ordered different waffle creations. I got the Florentine, a buttermilk stuffed with feta cheese and spinach and topped with smoked salmon. Sour cream was served on the side. Given my love for smoked salmon, cheese, and sour cream, I couldn't turn this waffle down. The smoked salmon was a bit on the sparse side and tasted dry, but the waffle as a whole was better than expected. The feta was gooey from being melted inside the waffle, serving as a nice contrast to the buttermilk. Topping a waffle with sour cream sounds disgusting, but it paired well with the cheese and salmon – I can't imagine what else to top this waffle with. (Picture at the top of the article!)

Jake got a pulled pork waffle. Plain and simple, this was just a buttermilk waffle topped with pulled pork and sauce from a restaurant called Dinosaur BBQ. Jake said he enjoyed the waffle because "the buttery taste of the waffle mixes well with the sweet BBQ sauce." The pile of pork was so big that even Jake could barely finish his waffle! I tried a bite and thought it tasted alright, but it wasn't something I'd order myself. Granted, I've never been the biggest fan of barbecue sauce.
Jake's sister bravely ordered the Jive Turkey (or Thanksgiving) waffle. The buttermilk was filled with stuffing and topped with turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Cranberry sauce was served on the side. She said the waffle really did remind her of Thanksgiving, but the mashed potatoes tasted like the "instant" kind.
Her boyfriend tried another specialty from Funk n' Waffles, the Chicken & Waffles. Just as the name states, the buttermilk was topped with 6 chicken wings. He seemed to like his waffle and ate the whole thing easily. 
Overall, Funk n' Waffles is a very cool, unique restaurant to visit. I recommend it just for the oddness of the menu. All of the food was good, but nothing completely blew us away. The waffles tasted like they could've been from any breakfast place.  I want to note that all of us chose "savory" waffles, and none chose any of the "sweet" options. I've heard that the fruit and dessert waffles are fantastic.
If you're interested, the menu is here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Billy Joel: The Piano Man

Way back in October, my boyfriend Jake found out that Billy Joel was coming to Syracuse University for his seventh show in the Carrier Dome. We are both huge Billy Joel fans – I grew up listening to "Piano Man" and Jake's first CD was The Stranger. Since I like country and pop music and Jake prefers 80s rock, Billy Joel is one of the few artists we both like. His  songs are always playing on car rides. Being the sweet man he is, Jake jumped at the opportunity and bought Billy Joel concert tickets for my Christmas present last year!
After months of waiting, the concert finally happened last Friday night. I haven't been to many concerts, but I'd say with 110% certainty that Billy Joel was the best artist I've ever heard live. He was funny, poised, and talented. He sucked the audience in, and the 37,000 person crowd was singing and dancing along to his hits. My favorite songs were "Piano Man," "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," "Only the Good Die Young," and "Movin' Out." But really, he nailed every song.

Twice Billy made the audience choose what he should play; he gave two choices, and the songs with the loudest claps won. I liked the interaction! Billy Joel performs once a month at Madison Square Garden in New York City and travels around the country performing, so I wonder if he gets bored performing the same songs over and over for 30 years. Our seats were at the very back of the Carrier Dome, but we had a great view of the stage.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Got Shrimp? Ft. Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

When Jake and I were in Ft. Myers Beach, Florida for spring break, the city was hosting its 57th annual shrimp festival. The shrimp festival is huge in Ft. Myers Beach– during the weekend of the event, major roads are closed and traffic is backed up for miles. We didn't attend the shrimp parade, pageant, or any of the other festival events, but my dad took us to the food expo. I love food (especially seafood) so meandering past tents serving fresh shrimp, fish, and crab was tempting to my taste buds. Thankfully my dad loves seafood just as much as I do, and he bought a few dishes for me, him, and Jake to share.

First we got a huge, fresh, tender crab cake. I'm not the biggest fan of crab cakes, but this was the best crab cake I've ever had, besides the one my mom makes. Huge pieces of soft crab were packed into the cake, which put the emphasis on the crab rather than the mayonnaise and bread crumbs. Lettuce and tomato were served on the side, and the crab cake was topped with a mayo-dill sauce.

Jake and I had never eaten crawfish before, so we got an overflowing plate of the little guys to share. Twisting apart the tiny bodies to get the small piece of meat was kind of sad, but the crawfish tasted pretty good with their pepper-y seasoning. The flavor was reminiscent of crab legs without the butter.

Since this was the shrimp festival, we obviously had to eat some shrimp! My dad chose a variety platter so we could try a few different kinds of shrimp: battered, coconut, breaded, and butterflied. I savored them all, but was especially partial to the butterflied and coconut varieties. I don't like when coconut shrimp has an overpowering coconut flavor, but the coconut in the shrimp we bought was toned down to the perfect degree.

Festivals are a great way to try delicious foods for a relatively cheap price. I hope to visit more food festivals in the future – especially if seafood is involved!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Break in Southwest Florida

Right now I have a little sunburn on my arms and bug bites all over my legs, but I'm not complaining! Jake and I spent the last six days soaking up the salty air of Southwest Florida for our spring break. My family has a house on the beach, so Jake and I have been lucky enough to take ocean get-aways three years in a row now.

We lounged on a boat, hit 65 mph on jet skis, made friends with some dolphins, gorged on delicious seafood, marveled at beautiful sunsets... I didn't want those six days to end! I even got to see both of my parents and my sister, who goes to school in Florida, over break. This was the first spring break that Jake and I were 21, so my parents gave some local bar recommendations. We tried everything from tiki bars to biker bars to rowdy college hangouts, testing out the mojitos, mudslides, and strawberry daiquiris.

Spring break literally came at the perfect time. Just as I was about to go crazy with my school work and overpacked schedule, I was graciously able to drop everything and spend a week resting and recovering. I feel so much better now– although looking out my apartment window this morning at the freezing rain and slushy, muddy ground almost made me cry. 

In case you're interested, here are some of my favorite pictures of my beach vacation:

Beach sunsets are always gorgeous

Playful dolphins jumped in our boat's wake

Jake lounging on the jet ski

A popular college hangout; we parked the boat and swam to shore

The beach life: 40 beer limit

A mudslide and my first ever mojito at a tiki bar

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You're Never Too Old To...

The other night while whipping up a box of Spongebob mac n' cheese, I asked myself a serious question: Am I too old for this? After all, my 21st birthday was in a few days. As I devoured my mac n' cheese, relishing in the fact that Kraft's character-shaped noodles are way cheesier than the original mac n' cheese noodles, I thought about the other things from my childhood that I shamelessly held on to over the years, from my obsession with dolphins to my tendency to get hangry.

Finally I decided that I wasn't too old for Spongebob mac n' cheese. We may feel the pressure of growing up, but that doesn't mean we have to let go of our childhood completely.

You're Never Too Old To...

1. Sing along to old-school Britney Spears and NSYNC tunes ("Baby bye, bye, bye!)

2. Call your mom with all of your problems

3. Refuse to eat the crusts of sliced bread

4. Secretly keep a stash of Disney music on your iPod

5. Eat Spongebob mac n' cheese, pizza rolls, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, popsicles, Sour Patch Kids, and other childhood treats

6. Sleep in on Saturday morning (and maybe Sunday, too)

7. Watch reruns of Full House

8. Binge on sugary cereals late at night (sometimes Cinnamon Toast Crunch just hits the spot)

9. Steal extra pieces of cookie dough or chocolate (see above picture)

10. Accept freebies from your parents

11. Hide during scary scenes in movies

12. Annoyingly pop the bubble wrap

Tell me: what are you never too old to do?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Twenty One

As of Saturday, I'm finally 21 years old! My birthday felt like huge milestone, since 21 is one of the ages that almost everyone anticipates. Unfortunately getting my first drink wasn't as exhilarating as expected – I was able to legally drink for four months while studying abroad in Europe, so drinking in America was a bit anti-climatic. Nevertheless I had an amazing birthday weekend that I'd love to share!

My incredible parents drove six hours from Ohio to Syracuse to be with me on my birthday. I haven't seen my parents much recently because of study abroad and a summer internship in New York City, so I was glad to have a little time with both of them.

My mom and dad arrived the day before my 21st, so Jake and I met them at for late-night appetizers at a pub. I was still a few hours away from being 21, so I was forced to watch as my parents and Jake (who turned 21 last month) sipped on some cocktails. Jake and I headed back to my apartment and right after midnight, when I officially turned 21, we walked to a local college bar called Chuck's for my first drink. Chuck's is loud and grungy, just like how I imagined an American college bar to look. I ordered a vodka and tonic, which was later followed up by a Long Island Iced Tea. One of the best parts of going to the bar on your birthday is that you don't even touch your wallet – your friends are more than willing to pick up the tab for you. I'd say European bars are more cozy and relaxed, but I loved finally being able to drink with my boyfriend.
Dark and grainy- a typical bar picture

The next day Jake and I went to lunch with my parents at Tully's sports bar. Afterwards we came back to my apartment for a tour and my birthday presents. My mom gave me the typical "21st birthday" gear, but actually bought me the black and brown Tignanello purse that I talked about in my "What I'm Loving" post last month! The gift was so unexpected and thoughtful. My mom also whipped up a delicious carrot cake, which she safely transported from Ohio. 

My parents, Jake, and I spent the rest of the day at Destiny USA, Syracuse's gigantic mall.  I ordered my first Bloody Mary, which I was surprised to learn tasted like tomato juice with a kick. Dinner that night was incredible. My parents treated Jake and I to Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian steakhouse in the mall. The meal was pretty pricey (thank goodness for parents!) but the food was delicious. The concept of Brazilian steakhouses is pretty neat. Basically, everyone pays one price for unlimited salad bar and meat. The salad bar not only has leafy greens, but also soup (the lobster bisque was to die for), cheese, bread, and seafood. The salad bar options were so tasty that I had to pace myself – one of my biggest problems with food is that I always tend to fill up on the appetizers!

Picture from urbanspoon

When we were done with the salad bar, we flipped a coaster on our table from a red side to a green side. Immediately, waiters carrying meat on sticks walked to our table and offered us their selection. If we wanted the particular type of meat, the waiter would place the stick on the edge of our table and use a knife to cut a small portion off the meat. That night, the steakhouse served filet, flank steak, lamb, lamb chop, sausage, parmesan pork, bacon-wrapped chicken, rib, and more. I filled up on as much meat as my stomach could handle (I apologize to any vegetarians reading this!). Brazilian steakhouses are so unique. I love being able to try many different types of meat without limited yourself to one or two. If you don't like a type of meat, you can simply give it to another person at the table and wait until the next waiter rolls around.

Exhausted and full, my parents and I parted ways after dinner. I'm so grateful that they were able to travel to Syracuse for my birthday and treat Jake and I to a delicious dinner. I'm also grateful that I turned 21 before spring break next week!