Buca di Beppo

We have had several really good meals at the Buca di Beppo in Cherry Hill.  One of our favorite memories there was sitting at the Pope’s table as we celebrated Brighid’s Confirmation two years ago. 

A couple of things have changed since that meal.  They’ve replaced the dearly departed Pope John Paul at the Pope’s table with our current religious leader, Pope Benedict.  But the big thing is they have added single portion meals to the menu.  If you have never eaten at a Buca, previously, the menu items were ordered as a small or a large.  The small size fed 2 – 4 people, and the large fed 4 or more people.  You ordered everything this way – salads, soups, pastas, entrees, desserts – and then ate family style.  You still have the option to order that way, but now, if you go in as a party of one or if you go with a picky eater (or Brighid), you have the option to order a platter for just one person.

I was nervous.  I haven’t eaten here since my weight loss surgery, and pasta is not my friend.  I thought it would be difficult for me to find anything to eat here.  Recently, I’ve added salads into my food repertoire, and I was delighted to find a mixed green salad, chopped pretty finely, and topped with creamy crumbles of gorgonzola cheese and crunchy bits of prosciutto.  It was fairly lightly dressed with vinegar and olive oil, and tasted really good.  Eilis wanted something with mussels, and since Jim deferred to me in the ordering process, I ordered a small linguine fruitti de mar and a new to Buca dish of shrimp and scallops over orzo pasta.  I knew I couldn’t eat the linguine, but I could at least try the orzo.  We also ordered a garlic bread with mozzarella cheese, and Brighid ordered a single serving of Caesar salad.

The platter of linguine came out with a light coating of tomato sauce, topped with rings of calamari, mussels, clams and shrimp.  I took a couple of the rings of calamari, and they were cooked perfectly – not chewy in the least!   The shrimp and scallops with orzo pasta was delicious, but spicy without warning.  The grilled shrimp and scallops were lightly seasoned and flavorful on their own.  The orzo pasta, tossed with bright green peas and butter, had quite a kick to it.  I saw very few red pepper flakes, so I’m not sure where all the heat came from, but the creamy butter sauce took a little of the bite out of it and made this an enjoyable and unexpected dish.

The dessert menu is full of delicious options, but we were too full to order anything.  As it was, we were coming home with half of the mixed green salad, half of the linguine, and a good bit of the orzo pasta dish – as well as half of the garlic bread.

This is a fun restaurant to go to, check out the pictures and statues and tschokes.  It’s a total bonus that they serve a good family meal besides.

A Day for Firsts!

Well, not only did Granuaile see her first movie today, she did her first poopie on the potty!!   She has peed on the potty a couple of times – although not with any consistency, and more of a thing where she happens to be sitting there and happens to pee – not that she went to the potty to actually DO anything.  But tonight, she went, she sat, and she pooped – followed later by a pee – but the poop was the first time.  She was so excited, she was pointing, sniffing, and telling us how good she smelled!   Okay, ewwww, but it was funny.  I guess you had to be there.

Our Last First Movie

When Brighid was 18 months old, we took her to see Aladdin at the movie theater.  It was her first movie, and I think the first movie for us in about 18 months.  We were excited to go, see how she would be, and we were so pleased that we got through a good chunk of the movie before she became more interested in finding her way around the place in the dark.

When Eilis was two, Finding Nemo came out, and seemed like the perfect movie to take her to as her first movie.  The thing was, there were no jazzy musical numbers to keep her occupied, and the timing was off.  With Brighid, we tried to plan it so we arrived just as the movie started and feed her popcorn.  With Eilis, we got there too early, and she ate her way through a hot dog while waiting.  The popcorn wasn’t very appealing to her by that point, and about halfway through the movie, she became the kind of kid you hope the parents remove from the theater.  Even though it was a kids’ movie, she was definitely not capable of behaving well enough to see the rest of the movie.

Based on those two experiences, I would have waited another year before taking Granuaile to a movie.  But her father, who does not spend as much time with her as I do, decided to make a leap of faith and take her with us to the Simpsons Movie.  I know she can watch a full 25 minutes of the Backyardigans, but she likes them, likes the music and dancing, and has a room full of toys surrounding her if she gets bored.  I honestly did not believe we would get the whole movie in, and because of that, I put her father in charge.  When she had the meltdown I felt was inevitably coming, he would be the one to take her out of the theater.  I still haven’t seen all of Finding Nemo.

We arrived at the theater about 25 minutes early for the 12:10 show.  I was mostly worried that this isn’t really only a kids’ movie, and we are going to have to keep her quiet while possibly being surrounded by adults.  I went to the coffee bar to get my coffee, and tried to encourage Jim to go get in the popcorn line, but because we had so much time and Granuaile was wandering around the theater lobby, he decided we’d wait in line together.  I got my coffee, and then we got a kids’ pack for each of the two little kids, and popcorn for the rest of us.  We walked in and picked up two of the movie booster seats, and headed in to the theater.  It wasn’t very crowded, but to my dismay, the people in there were a handful of senior citizens and a couple of people between Brighid’s age and my age.  No kids at all.  A few would eventually enter the theater, so I hoped that they would misbehave loudly enough so that when Granuaile misbehaved, she wouldn’t be noticed.

After a few rounds of the local artists’ works popping up on the screen, it was time for the previews.  At this point, Jim decided he needed Twizzlers, and I told him to take Granuaile with him.  This would be her last chance to get out of her seat, and I thought she might need it.  They were back in no time with Twizzlers and pretzel nuggets, and the baby took her seat between Brighid and Jim.

Well, she laughed, she pointed, she got so excited over the movie and the snacks, it was adorable to watch her!   She ate a little popcorn, a little candy, drank a little juice, and really enjoyed being in the theater.  Of course, she’s two, so there were a couple of times where we had to remind her to use a quiet voice, but she wasn’t trying to wiggle out of her seat or pick stuff up off the floor or call to people in the back of the theater.  When she did start to get a little loud with her singing, we gave her a binky, and she sat quietly until nearly the very end of the movie.

And that’s the saddest part.  She got whimpery, like something was bothering her, and started to grab at her diaper.  I figured she must need changing and she must be uncomfortable.  Jim and Brighid took her out to change her, and she was upset to be removed from the theater.  She didn’t cry or make a big fuss, but Brighid said she really didn’t want to leave.  There is no changing table in the movie theater, so they had to go out to the car to change her.  Unfortunately, at that point, as they were removing the old diaper, she peed before they could get the new one on, and it got all over her clothes.  I just emptied her diaper bag the other day and neglected to put a clean outfit back in the bag 🙁   Because she was wet, they couldn’t bring her back in the theater, so Jim sat outside with her and they both missed the last 10 minutes of the film. 

I was so proud of her.  She did WAY better than I expected her to, especially for a movie with no real “kid” stuff going on.  She ate her snacks, paid attention, and did so little fidgeting, I thought a couple of times she must have fallen asleep. 

I worried over nothing, but I’m glad the worry didn’t keep me from having Brighid snap a picture of her sitting in the movie theater.  This is my last baby, so this is the last time I’ll get to take one of my kids to their first movie.  She was by far the best of the three.  Let’s see if that carries over to other areas of her life 😉

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad’s 69th birthday.  Jim took me and the kids over to the cemetery on Sunday to visit with him, and I’m glad we did it then instead of doing it on his actual brithday.  Visiting the cemetery is like a sharp slap in the face.  It’s a reminder that life has ended and everything you work for, hope to attain, and dream about is gone in the blink of an eye.  When you drive around the cemetery and see huge mausoleums just feet from plain, small, flat headstones, you are affected by the reality that everything in death is equal.  The guy in the mausoleum is just as dead as everyone else.  There aren’t any first class seats here.

But birthdays are days for celebrating.  They are days to remember how great life is and how blessed we are to be given another year to appreciate all that we have.  Even though my dad isn’t here to celebrate his birthday with us, we can still think about what a wonderful man he was and how much he meant to us.  I value every lesson I learned from him and every minute I had with him.  I admire the way he conducted himself, and I am grateful that even though it took most of his life, he was able to find someone like Ann to love him and share things with him.  Sometimes, after my parents were divorced, I would feel badly that he was alone.  I am so happy that his life didn’t end that way.

My father surrounded us with wonderful things.  Every day with him was an experience from which we learned and grew into respectable adults.  We came to treasure things like our Irish heritage, our South Philly upbringing, and having family around you to celebrate and to mourn.  We were taught appreciation for history, museums, national treasures and rose bushes, baseball, and water ice.  He lived his life loving things and loving people, giving what he could, when he could, to whomever needed.  He is a man worthy of a celebration.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I don’t think a day goes by when you are not thought of, remembered, cherished, and celebrated.

Goodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on…
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be

Casona of Collingswood

Having lived in South Florida, we’ve  were very fortunate to have access to some of the best Cuban food you can get this side of Havana.  Not only did we have neighbors that would often take pity on us, knowing I come from culinary challenged Irish stock, and provide us with their own versions of some of Cuba’s favorites, but we were within close driving distance to plenty of good Cuban restaurants.  When we moved home to South Jersey, we rediscovered the one thing we really missed about food in South Florida – DINERS!   But we lost all of our much loved Cuban foods.

While browsing the phone book for a new restaurant to try last weekend, I found a listing for Casona of Collingswood, a restaurant that bills itself as having “authentic Cuban and nouveau Latin cuisine.”   That sounds like it might be calling my name!   We phoned them to see if they were kid friendly, since we have a house full of the little rugrats, and we find out that they do not have a children’s menu, although they are not unfriendly towards children.  I assume that means they won’t fatten them up and try to roast the little buggers, but we opt not to visit while we had hungry children on our hands.

As luck would have it, Jim arrived home early today from Milwaukee.  His usual flight gets him in just about 11 PM, so we head for our local diner and grab a quick bite before going home.  His flight today had him arriving at 7 PM.  I had Eilis packed in the car and hungry, and Jim decided we would go to our favorite Japanese restaurant.  We pulled in to the unusually quiet parking lot to find a sign on the window advising us that they would be on vacation.  This might be a great time to try Casona!

The restaurant is on Haddon Avenue, in the heart of Collingswood, and has a large, wrap around porch with hanging baskets of fern, quaint porch lights, and delightful ceiling fans keeping the place cool and comfortable on a sticky summer evening.  Inside the restaurant, there are plenty of tables and very nice wood, and the layout is definitely intimate. 

We are seated, and we wait a few minutes before the hostess who seated us comes by to tell us she will be our waitress for the evening.  She promptly disappeared after making that announcement, and we wondered if we would see her any time soon when she finally came back to pour some water.  We had long been ready with our order, and when she asks for drink orders, we give them, and then ask if she would like to take our order.  She hasn’t got a pen or a piece of paper, but she says she’s ready.  We place our orders, and she disappears again. 

Eilis is hungry and getting tired, and she is in no mood for food you have to eat with a fork.  I try to talk her into the appetizer empanadas, but she decides she wants the tuna steak.  Jim lets me choose his entree and mine.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE Cuban pork (did I mention I LOVE this food?), and one of house specialties at Casona is Lechon Asado – a citrus marinated pork over saffron rice.  I order that, and Jim orders my all time favorite Cuban meal, which is Ropa Vieja.  We also order the black bean soup and the Cuban spring rolls. 

We are soon presented with three of the Cuban spring rolls.  They resemble, of course, the traditional egg roll – the long, skinny, deep fried rolls.  Accompanying the spring rolls was a sauce that looked and tasted pretty much like thousand island dressing.  Eilis took one bite and immediately decided she didn’t like them – although she is a huge fan of the Chinese version.  Jim thought they were tasty, and finished the ones on the plate and then the remaining piece of Eilis’. 

Following up the arrival of the spring rolls is the bowl of black bean soup.  The good sized bowl is a very simple and traditional presentation of this popular Cuban soup.  It’s not too thick and not too thin, chock full of tender black beans.  There are a few dices of tomato floating around in there, and I’m a little disappointed that it’s not chorizo, which is what I originally thought it was.  But, that doesn’t take away from the soup.  The only criticism here is that it could have been served a bit hotter.  Since having gastric bypass surgery, I don’t eat as quickly as I used to, and if a soup is coming out served warm to begin with, it’s ice cold by the time I’m enjoying the last of it.

In fairly short order, our dinners begin arriving, and the assistant waiter pushes aside the empty spring roll dish and the half empty bowl of soup to make room for the dinner dishes.  Um, how about clearing them away?   Novel idea. 

Here’s where the restaurant departs from “Authentic Cuban” and delves into the “Nouveau Latin”.  If you’ve ever been in Miami and the surrounding areas, and you go to an authentic Cuban restaurant, you will have a plate piles high with rice, beans, and whatever entree you ordered.  There will be enough for you to eat, share with your dining companions, and take home for lunch the next day.  But in this upscale environment, the pork and ropa vieja are expertly molded into a circular portion the size a little larger than a hockey puck.  The presentation of both dishes has the rice on the bottom, the pork/beef next, and then an arrangement of fried plantains circling the top of the dish.  Both dishes feature sauces – a dark brown gravy with the beef, a light brown gravy with the pork.  Eilis medium-well tuna steak is presented on a tomato based sauce that she promptly declares inedible.  I thought it was pretty good, and for an almost well done tuna steak, the fish was still fork tender and very flavorful.

The pork is as good as I remember it in South Florida.  It is moist and deliciously seasoned all on it’s own without the sauce that accompanies it.  The light brown gravy is very heavily salted.  I am a salt fiend, and will eat salt on just about everything, so for me to notice the heavy salt was probably not a good thing.  Someone who does not normally use salt (like my in-laws, who watch their salt intake due to high blood pressure) will find this amount of salt completely overwhelming to the sauce.  The sauce on the other side – which was not described to us, and since our waitress disappeared we couldn’t ask her – was much more mellow, and when I mixed the two sauces, it definitely helped to cut the saltiness of the gravy. 

Jim’s ropa vieja was tender and delicious, although not as stew-like as most of the ropa viejas I recall from South Florida.  His gravy was beefy and wonderful, and the aroma from his dish just made my mouth water.  We tried to get Eilis to taste it, but after a few bites of pork, she really wanted to concentrate on her fish.  The ropa vieja was spotted with peas, and had just the right combination of flavors – onion, peppers, tomato.  It was very good and Jim’s plate was quickly cleaned.

Since we waited until half of our meal was over before we received our drinks, we were surprised to see our waitress back just after Jim finished his meal to bring more water.  We had 4 empty water glasses on the table, which Jim drained, and she only refilled one glass, which he quickly polished off.  My iced tea, especially because the glass was small, was emptied rather quickly and a refill was never offered.  Eilis said her soda tasted funny, and she didn’t finish the drink.

We skipped dessert at the restaurant, fearing it would be Tuesday before we ever actually saw the dessert course, but as we waited (and waited, and waited, and waited) for our waitress to collect our check, Jim decided to order something to take home.  We had a delicious tres leches boxed up for us, and almost as soon as we were in the door, it was gone.

Our overall experience was enough to bring us back.  The atmosphere – especially sitting out on the porch – was relaxing and casual, and without a child in tow, it would have been down right pleasant.  The food really brought back great memories of some of the meals we enjoyed in South Florida, and it’s great to have someplace so close that we can go to when we get homesick for Weston.  If they could just work on the service – which is a make or break thing in Jim’s book – this could easily become one of our favorite restaurants.

Casona of Collingswood
Restaurant review
Authenitc Cuban and nouveau latin cuisine

 http://www.mycasona.com/

563 Haddon Ave
Collingswood, NJ 08108
(856) 854-5555

Mo’s A Place for Steaks

With the kids happily tucked in with a pepperoni pizza and a movie on TV, Jim decided to take me out to try one of Mo’s other restaurants.  This time, we decide to head to the steak place.  We call and make a reservation for 5 o’clock.  It’s Friday night, Jim is home early from work, and we want to spend the evening with the girls, so an early dinner is going to work for us.

We get dressed to go, and we’re early, but Jim has to pick some stuff up from his locker at the gym and we drop a suit off at the cleaners and browse the mall.  Milwaukee is so clean and un-crowded, you hardly know you’re in a city.  It’s a nice walk around for a little bit and then we head to the restaurant.

It seems the 5 o’clock reservation is hardly needed – we are the ONLY ones in the restaurant.  We are promptly seated at a table by the window overlooking the street, and we settle in for a nice meal.  I am looking forward to sampling some of the steak, and feeling a little cautious about it.    My last steak experience was during our cruise, and I got a little sick from it.  That steak was a little buttery, so I’ll be more careful of the preparation when I order this time.

We spot an appetizer that immediately gets our attention.  Why?   Because it is an appetizer that costs $77.  Yep – not a typo – seventy-seven dollars for an appetizer.  We ask the waiter what it is, and really, this appetizer is a whole meal for both of us.  We ended up ordering it – and it is glorious!   It’s called the Mark Suter Seafood Platter, and it features good sized crabcakes, sitting in a red pepper sauce; grilled shrimp on the half shell – a selection of large shrimp, half of the shell removed, and grilled to perfection; and lobster tail that is so sweet and so tender, I could have eaten it all.  They serve the lobster with drawn butter, and a nice hoisin sauce to dip the shrimp into. 

The bread looks and smells wonderful, and it is served with both regular butter and the flavored butter of the day – strawberry.  I gotta tell you, that smelled nearly as good as the fresh, warm bread!   Jim says it’s tasty, and I am going to try to find a recipe to make it at home.

Jim orders a cup of the soup of the day, which is a roasted tomato swiss soup, and I order a cup of the lobster bisque.  I am not  a fan of tomato soup, but this soup has a great flavor that I could have enjoyed a whole cup of.  The lobster bisque is about the creamiest, sweetest version of this soup I have ever eaten.  Sometimes when you get it, the soup has a little texture to it – not a “grit” necessarily, but a bit of texture.  Mo’s lobster bisque is smooth like butter – creamy and delicious.  I almost ordered a bowl, because soup is something I can eat a good bit of, but thank goodness I ordered the cup.  I’m sure there was some kind of heavy cream or something in there making it so smooth.  There were bits of chopped lobster in the bottom of the bowl, but honestly, they were just a bonus.  The soup was great before I ever got to the lobster bits.

For dinner, we are going to share the Kobe beef filet mignon, cooked medium rare.  We order a side of white cheddar mashed potatoes to go with it.  The steak is tender, cooked to perfection, and delicately seasoned.  You may choose from a red wine sauce, a hollandaise or a bearnaise sauce to accompany your steak, but we chose to let the beef stand on it’s own.  The one disappointment of the night was the side of potatoes we chose.  It was a good sized portion – although for $6, it should be – and definitely more than enough for two of us to share – more like a side dish for 3 or 4.  But they were pretty much just mashed potatoes.  The white cheddar flavor was so subtle, you barely noticed it. 

We had no room for dessert, but since we booked a reservation as a special occasion (19 years since we first met), they brought us a complimentary dessert.  I didn’t get to eat any of it, but it was a scrumptious looking  chocolate bread pudding with fresh whipped cream, and the plate was drizzled with chocolate in a lattice pattern.  Jim enjoyed it a lot, and there was but a wee bite left to take back to the kids, so we left it.

Overall, the attention to detail, the service, and the atmosphere would have brought us back for another try even if the meal itself had been mediocre.  But having had such a fabulous meal, this could become one of our favorite Milwaukee restaurants.

Where the Leprechaun’s Pot of Gold Is

Holy Jaysus!!   And to think the name of the shop is Flynn and O’Hara!   It’s me own people, from Ireland herself,  price gouging me.

I took the kids to get school uniforms today.  The total bill?   $652.00!!!   They started by ringing Eilis’ bill up first.  Okay, after I picked myself up off of the floor with that total, I figured that this is her first year in real uniforms, and really, she needed a little of everything, so her bill should be high.  Then they totalled Brighid’s bill.  Brighid already has much of her uniform.  This year, she needs new blouses, because after  a year of day in and day out wear, they get pit-stained and dingy looking.  She needs a new pullover sweater.  She didn’t even wear hers that much in the first two years, but this year, they are required to wear them every day, and the one that’s two years old is getting those little pilly things that sweaters get.  Then, because they have an on-going problem with shoes, she is required to purchase the only approved shoe from Flynn and O’Hara as opposed to any black shoe.  UGH.  Brighid alone was close to $300. 

Do these people realize that I still have to buy tights, socks, underwear, and clothes for these kids to wear when they are NOT at school?   And this doesn’t include the $100 plus dollars I already spent on PE uniforms.  I still have to take Eilis for both everyday school shoes, plus sneakers. 

It’s an outrage that uniforms cost this much money.  What’s worse, they could tell you to put your kids in navy pants and white blouse, and you can go to ANY store – Target, Walmart, Sears – and find the right color pants and blouse. 

Flynn and O’Hara has a new outrage this year.  If your items are not in stock (and I have NEVER in all the years Brighid has been in Catholic school gone and been able to pick up the uniforms that day – they always have to order them), they will charge you an additional $7 to deliver them to your home.  No thank you.  I’d rather buy $7 worth of gas to get there myself than give them another $7 on top of what they’ve already gotten.

The pot of gold?   Right under the cash register at Flynn and O’Hara.  Jaysus!!

When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New…

Lyrics to the old song – made famous by several artists, but never done as well as by Cozy Morley…

When your old wedding ring was new
And each dream that I dreamed came true
I remember with pride how we stood side by side
What a beautiful picture you made as my bride

Even though silver crowns your hair
I can still see the gold ringlets there
Love’s old flame is the same as the day I changed your name
When your old wedding ring was new

So today was a big milestone day for Jim.  After probably 13 years of having it stuck, he got his wedding ring off.  It came off and slid back on fairly easily, considering it has been locked onto his finger for so long!   He has lost a significant amount of weight, and makes at least 3 visits to the gym each week to work on losing more and toning up.  He’s doing a great job, he looks phenomenal – not that he ever didn’t look awesome, and he feels really great.  But this was a big deal.  I think it’s hard to see for yourself how much weight you are losing until something like this happens.

I’m so proud of him – and so grateful for the tan lines his ring leaves now when he takes it off 😉

11 Months and a New Milestone

As I quickly approach the end of the first year since gastric bypass surgery, I review in my head a list of things I hoped to accomplish this year.  I wanted to pick my kids up without huffing and puffing.  I wanted to put on a bathing suit and not feel like Shamu’s fatter sister.  I hoped I would get at least 75% to my initial goal weight – which was 165 pounds.  I wanted to not sweat all the time and I wanted to feel good all the time.  I hoped to gain confidence, abolish slavery and save the planet from global warming.

I never expected to be where I am today.  Yes, sitting on my ass in front of a computer – totally expected – but not weighing 140 POUNDS less than I did on August 1st of last year. 

I had an appointment today with Dr. Heck, who went over my blood work and declared me oh so healthy.  All of the levels of everything important are great, and there are no decreases since my last bloods, so that’s good.  And I got weighed.  And I weigh 155 pounds.  That’s 10 pounds less than the day I got married, and 20 pounds more than what I think my ideal weight is, but it’s 10 pounds less than my initial goal, so how much more thrilled could I be?

And I didn’t get everything I had hoped with the new body – although I’m still aiming for some of it.  But the things I got are great things.  I’m so glad to be able to do more, see more, sweat less, and enjoy life.  I don’t feel as much a hermit as I once did, and I think I have taken steps to regain some of the confidence I lost as a fat chick.  It’s a slower mental process than a physical one, but I’m learning with each new day. 

Mo’s Irish Pub

Had we bothered to look around the neighborhood before we asked to be seated at an outdoor table at this authentic looking Irish pub, we might have looked elsewhere for lunch.  Next door to Mo’s Irish pub is Mo’s Cucina.  Across the Street is Mo’s Steak House, and on the opposite corner is MOcha – Mo’s coffee shop.  Mo apparently can’t make up his mind what nationality – or what specialty – he is.  I later found out there is also a MOcean  – Mo’s seafood place.  He’s a busy guy.

Having already been seated and glanced at the very authentic looking menu, we decided to stay and enjoy downtown Milwaukee’s street life with our curbside table.  The host, a super nice guy, seated us and immediately moved away a chair that was at the shadiest part of the table so I could pull the stroller with the sleeping Granuaile into the shady spot.  Withing minutes of sitting down, a friendly waitress came to take our drink orders, and seconds later, we had glasses of soda and iced tea. 

The host, again a super nice guy, I wish I had gotten his name to share it with you, came over to explain to me how they could adjust some of the meals to suit Eilis, as there is no children’s menu.  He suggested some changes to the grilled cheese sandwich and the club sandwich to make them more kid friendly, and suggested substituting the chicken soup for the tomato soup as a side with another dish.  He was really helpful.

The soup of the day is an Irish staple – Italian Wedding Soup.  I’m tempted to order it, but we’re in an Irish pub, and I think maybe they must have to share the soup of the day among all of the Mo’s restaurants at this location, and today it’s Mo’s Cucina’s day to supply the soup.  I decided on the shepherd’s pie, after debating how much I would eat and figuring this a safer bet than the salmon, which also called out to me.  Eilis ordered the Pub Burger with cheese, and Brighid, after hearing about the grilled cheese sandwich and how it could be altered, opted for the sandwich without tomato and a side of the chicken dumpling soup.

It really was a pleasant afternoon for an outdoor lunch, and we had just enough time to sip our drinks a bit and soak up some of the atmosphere and our food came.  The Shepherd’s pie is served in it’s own black kettle, piping hot, with a mound of crispy topped garlic mashed potatoes.  The pie itself was a bit of a departure from the shepherd’s pie I grew up with, having all Irish grandparents.  I am used to more of a firm, with a little gravy, pie made from ground lamb or beef.  This was more of a beef stew – a tender, savory stew type beef in a stew type gravy, cooked with peas and carrots.  The flavors were very good – but it was beef stew, not really shepherd’s pie. 

Eilis’ pub burger was huge – a 1/2 pound burger, cooked to well done perfection (I always order the kids’ meats cooked well done).  It came with a crisp slice of purple onion, tomato, a pickle spear, and a beautiful piece of lettuce – green, healthy, crunchy, and fresh, as opposed to some of the limp, brown, sorta white with green edges lettuce you sometimes get.  There was a nice pile of french fries with it as well, and a really nice bun – sturdy and tasty.

Brighid’s sandwich was a 3 cheese grilled cheese – American, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, wrapped around pieces of bacon, and topped with avocado.  It was served on a thickly sliced sourdough bread, and was nicely grilled.  It came with a tomato soup, but Brighid asked to substitute the chicken and dumpling soup, which they happily obliged.  Brighid declared the soup “really good”, although I would have liked for them to skim a little more of the oil off the top.  The chicken broth was light in color, and there was a bit of a spice to the soup.  There were nice chunks of chicken in the broth and small dumplings. 

We were too full to order dessert – even though the selections were tempting.  Our drinks were refilled without request, and our waitress came by often to check on us and see if we needed anything else.  She was quick to bring things back to our table – ketchup and artificial sweetner for the iced tea – and when we asked for boxes, she whisked away our leftovers and returned them promptly wrapped to go.

The lunch bill came to $28.55 – not bad for a big lunch in downtown – but she did not charge us for the drinks, so factor in a few dollars more for the drinks.  I had not noticed the error until I sat down to write the review, otherwise, I would have brought it to her attention.

Overall, the whole lunch was really nice.  We felt like we were well attended to, had a good meal, and enjoyed the atmosphere.  We might be tempted next trip to visit another of Mo’s fine – if confused – establishments!