Sherman's Food Adventures: 2024

PizzaCake by Buddy Valastro

We moved from one Buddy Valastro joint to another in the nearby Harrah's.  Located within the casino, PizzaCake offers up, you guessed it, pizza and cake.  In addition to whole, really large NYC-style pizzas, you can get them by the slice as well.  That goes for the cake offerings too.  Naturally, we tried all the available slices of both pizzas and cake.  Much like Jersey Eats, PizzaCake is open late until 4:00am on weekdays and 5:00am on weekends.  Therefore, it is a great place to grab a bite after some clubbing or gambling.

Before we get to the pizza (and cakes), we had the Garlic Bites first and I really enjoyed them.  They were essentially pizza bread triangles tossed in herbed garlic butter and parm.  A few of us thought they were a bit salty, but for me, they were super garlicky and the saltiness of the parm was quickly doused by the side of tangy marinara.  The pizza bread itself was soft and airy while crispy on the outside.

As for the pizza, we tried every available slice and I had my definite favorites.  I thought the Boss Slice was the best with cup & crisp pepperoni, sliced sausage, meatballs and bacon crumble.  Yes, this was a meat heavy pizza, but that is what I like!  The crust was classic NYC thin and crispy.  Toppings were considerable and hence, the flavor was intense.  I also enjoyed the Chicken & Bacon Alfredo Slice (love Buddy's bacon!) where it was creamy and meaty with the aforementioned bacon.

Onto some sweets, we tried the Cannoli and it featured a thin and crisp shell while the ricotta filling was creamy and fairly light.  It was sweet, but not overly so.  The show stopper of the bunch was the Rainbow Cake with 6 layers of colored sponge cake.  The cake itself was airy and light while not overly sweet.  However, the icing was definitely sweet.  I believe you need a sweet tooth to properly enjoy this!

They also have a Peanut Butter Cookie Cake as well as a S'mores Cookie Cake.  They at very much like how they appeared being sweet and candy-like.  I much preferred the peanut butter one since I personally love the flavor.  Moreover, it had a bit more variation in taste other than being just sweet like the S'mores.  Both featured a cookie base that was somewhat soft with a crunchy edge.  So there you have it, a spot that serves both pizza and cake...  until 4:00am!  Well, we were here much earlier than that and the pizza was great with a thin crispy crust.  Cakes were good too, but you need a sweet tooth!

*All food was complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Lots of pizza slices
- That crust was excellent!
- Open real late

The Bad:
- Cakes and desserts were pretty sweet, but no issue if you have a sweet tooth!

Buddy's Jersey Eats

So I've been to Vegas quite a few times, but each time, it has either been with my guy friends or with my family.  I'm sure you know what a guys trip to Vegas would look like and what a family trip to Vegas would entail.  Both are great, but they limit what I truly want to experience in Vegas.  So imagine my excitement when we planned a foodies trip down to Sin City!  Yep, Roanna, Jacqueline, Eileen and I traveled down for some fun and most importantly, to eat!  Finally, 4 people with the same goal and none of that other stupid stuff that costs me too much money... 

Our first top was Buddy's Jersey Eats located in The Linq along the Promenade.  It is a quick counter-service joint specializing in hot dogs (Jersey Rippers), chicken sandweeeches, waffle fries and wings.  They are open late (like to 4:00am) and is a great spot for a casual bite that is not a chain restaurant.  We sampled almost the entire menu with the Wings coming up first.  We had the Buffalo and the Dry Rub.  Loved that these wings were quite large and were still juicy inside.  The skin was well-rendered and crispy.  I actually preferred the lemon dry rub as it was flavourful and tangy while the skin was crisp.  Buffalo was good too, especially dipped into the blue cheese dressing.

We can't forget about the Hoboken Chicken Wings either and heck, the Hoboken Chicken Sandweeech.  These were totally different than the Buffalo and Alfredo.  This was all about the spice and tang which added a considerable impact to the chicken.  For the wings, it was a bit less apparent since they were tossed and topped with the peppers.  For the burger, it was right in there, so you got a burst of everything with each bite.  Of note, I would've liked to see the bun toasted (or toasted more) as it was a bit stiff.

Onto the other sammies, it continued a familiar theme with the Buffalo Chicken Sandweeech as well as the Alfredo Chicken Sandweeech.  Consisting of the same crispy chicken patty (with moist chicken meat), the buffalo was similar to the wings with a tangy spice cooled down with the blue cheese dressing.  The Alfredo was predictably creamy and cheesy with the same delicious chunks of meaty bacon.

Onto the Waffle Fries, we had the Disco and the Alfredo.  The fries themselves were crunchy but with some potatoey goodness left inside.  With the gravy on top of the disco fries, the waffle fries ate a bit softer, but were still crispy.   Lots of salty goodness here along with plenty of cheesiness.  A bit like a poutine.  I liked the Alfredo more due to the considerable amount of that same meaty bacon.  They were in large cubes that had much more meat than fat.  Hence, they were a nice little snack that I could pick off and go with my beverage.

With some of the same toppings, we had the Jersey Rippers (aka Hot Dogs).  Naturally, I gravitated to the Alfredo due to that awesome bacon.  I think that the bacon not only added the usual smoky saltiness to the dog, but the textural aspect was even more impactful.  It gave the hot dog more body and made it more fulfilling.  Not to mention the cheesy creaminess made this a rich concoction  Now the Hoboken ripper was even more flavourful due to the spicy tanginess.

We ended off strong with the Italian Donuts and they were served hot out-of-the-fryer being crispy with a warm soft interior.  It was dusted in powdered sugar and drizzled with nutella.  Pretty delicious way to end the meal.  Overall, the food at Jersey Eats is not complicated.  They have a few options with similar toppings/flavors.  However, the food is prepared properly and I found it impactful and yummy.  Prices are reasonable for the strip and it is a great place to grab a quick bite whether it be for lunch or late into the night (or early morning).

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Has a focused menu and does it right
- Food is flavorful
- Reasonable pricing

The Bad:
- Limited seating
- A few repetitive flavors

H2 Kitchen + Bar

I have fond memories of the Westin Bayshore as it was "the" hotel back in the 70's.  It was originally The Bayshore Inn before Westin bought it in 1981.  Everyone knew about Trader Vic's, the Polynesian-themed restaurant located within.  Fast forward to the recent past and the present, Westin is now owned by Marriott and their current flagship restaurant, H2 Kitchen & Bar has gone through a few iterations.  They have been featuring a Southern-style menu for quite some time and also a Sunday Supper Series, which features a 3-course meal for $40.00.  I've been here on many occasions including their wonderful Mother's Day brunch.  But this time, I came back with the fam to try out their current Sunday Supper feature in addition to their Smokehouse favourites.

Before we got to the mains, we decided to start off with a few appies including the Baked Spinach Dip featuring a 4-cheese blend, pimento, pico de gallo and caramelized onion with corn tortillas.  This was pretty typical with a creamy mix of cheese and spinach with tomatoes and onion.  I felt that they was pretty flavourful and full of textures.  Although they were pretty generous with the melted cheese on the top, it was probably a bit too much as it made the dip heavier.  However, what do I know?  A lot of melted cheese and chips?  I'm sure many people would love that!

One of the best items we had was the Bison Tartare served atop smoked bone marrow topped with pickled mustard seed and aioli.  This was accompanied by house made waffle chips.   As for the tartare itself, it was buttery soft (despite being lean) and well-dressed.  The whole mix of ingredients was creamy and slightly tangy.  Combined with the fatty bone marrow, the little bite atop each chip was sinfully delicious and silky.  Loved the crispy chips as they were the perfect textural contrast for the tartare.  I only wished that the chips were slightly larger in size as I wanted more of the tartare on top of each piece!  Lastly, the whole thing was brought to the table underneath a glass cloche with an intoxicating amount of smoke.  Nice presentation and added even more smokiness to the tartare.

Our last starter was the Chicken & Corn Chowder, that was included in the Sunday Supper Series 3-course meal.  This was an enormous portion that ate much more like a chicken pot pie than a chowder, especially with the piece of puff pastry on top.  The viscosity was of the chowder was on point as it coated the spoon without being clumpy.  There was an abundance of natural chicken flavour in the thickened broth as well as being properly seasoned.  There was no absence of tender chicken and soft potatoes (that were still in one piece).

Onto the mains, the featured dish for the Sunday Supper Series was the Smoked Picanha with roasted carrots and broccolini, red skin mashed potatoes, burnt onion jus and chimichurri.  This was one big plate of food where the picanha was medium-rare and sliced thin.  As such, the meat ate fairly tender despite having an inherent chew.  Thick and silky, the onion jus was full of depth and intense smoky sweetness with a bite.  Those roasted veggies were perfect where they retained a fresh crunchiness.  The chimichurri was bright and garlicky, which lightened up the richness of the dish.

Just because he loves burgers, my son ordered the Whiskey BBQ Beef Burger with cheddar, bacon and all the produce on brioche.  This was a well-constructed burger where the Prairie Ranchers beef patty was thick and fairly moist while sporting a nice char outside.  The bacon was supremely crispy and the thick slice of melted cheddar coated the whole patty.  Naturally, the whiskey BBQ sauce took centre stage offering up a smoky sweet tang with the unmistakable bite of whiskey.  Good balance on that.   He subbed the waffle fries with yam fries, which were uniformly crispy served with a spicy chipotle mayo.

For Viv and I, we had to try their Date Night Meat Sweats that included 1/2 lb of CAB Smoked Brisket, 1/2 lb of Smoked Pulled Pork, half a rack of St. Louis Ribs, Cornbread, House Pickles, 2 Sides (Mac & Cheese, Ancho Creamed Corn) and choice of Sauce (OG H2 BBQ Sauce) for $68.00.  Considering the amount of food, we felt this was a very well-priced platter.  Moreover, the components were good too.  The brisket was fatty and buttery soft while the pulled pork was tender.  There was a balanced smokiness to the meats as well.  As for the ribs, they were large and meaty while tender enough.  I liked how the meat still had a chew and wasn't completely melting.  Yes, these were legit smoked ribs (not par-cooked and then BBQ'd).  Loved the BBQ sauce as it was tangy, smoky and sweet.  Oh that cornbread was fantastic as it was moist with a firm texture.  The spiced butter only helped elevate it.  For our sides, we chose the Mac & Cheese and it was excellent being cheesy and creamy with al dente noodles.  The Ancho Creamed Corn was also creamy with a bite.

The Sunday Supper Series also included Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.  We enjoyed this as the cake itself was soft, fluffy and smoky.  It wasn't overly sweet, but the actual caramel sauce underneath was plenty sweet.  However, we liked how we could regulate how sweet we wanted it by either soaking it in the sauce or not.  It was topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and a crunchy brandy snap.  We also added another dessert in the Apple & Caramel Cheesecake.  This ate more like a crumble with a cheesecake crust.  In that respect, I really enjoyed it as the apples were sweet and tart while the cheesecake was classic New York-style being firm and rich.  Overall, the food was just as good as the previous visits we've had at H2.  The best part is their reasonable pricing given that they are a Downtown hotel restaurant.  You can really eat here and not break the bank.  Something that cannot be said about eating out these days.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Generally well-prepared eats
- Menu is focused
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Maybe less choice for the people who don't like BBQ


Although our itinerary said that we were visiting Nice for a few days, we were actually staying a bit aways in Sophia Antipolis.  We had a car anyways, so there was no need to stay in any city centre.  We were actually closer to Cannes than to Nice, so our first day in the area, we made our way to Cannes for some lunch.  Naturally, parking was hard to find and even their free parking lot was totally full.  We did some driving around looking for parking to no avail, so we ended up in a pay lot.  By then it was 2:00pm and we just made it before our restaurant of choice, L'Epicurieux, closed for their afternoon break.

We ended up sharing 2 appies including the Escargots which were tender with a nice rebound texture.  But we all know the best part is the garlic butter and this one was delicious.  It was buttery (of course), garlicky and bright while being perfectly seasoned.  This was excellent with the snails, but really, it was great for soaking up with the bread.  We got more bread to not waste any of the liquid gold.

We also had the Terrine Maison that was meaty with plenty of aromatics.  This featured tender nuggets of meat mixed with just enough processed meat and fat to create a texture that was both appealing to be eaten by itself or with bread.  We enjoyed how this was obviously fatty without it tasting nor feeling like it was fatty.  Rather, the fat was a great binding agent and provider of aromatics.

For our mains, we shared them all including the Beef Tartare that was served with frites.  This was the the most flavourful dish of the meal with plenty of tang and acidity.  It also benefitted from enough olive oil to give it some moist texture and separation (rather than being clumpy).  The ample red onions gave the dish some bite and brightness.  The accompanying frites were crispy and aromatic due to being cooked in beef fat.

We also had the Grilled Pork Spider with chorizo, baby potatoes and meslun greens.  Although this cut of pork generally has striations of fat, this was cooked pretty aggressively.  There was a hard sear on the outside that was well-seasoned, yet it made the pork pretty firm.  Understandable because you can't undercook pork.  It was still tender though with a chewier exterior.

My favourite dish was the Roast Seabass Filet with Marseillais Panisse and Pesto.  The fish itself was cooked beautifully where it was tender and flaky.  The skin and the fish itself was seasoned enough while the skin was seared until crispy.  Not just sitting there as a side, the panisse was quite delicious.  They were not overly dense while the exterior was crispy.  They were also well-seasoned.

Somewhat of a surprise, the Fiocchietti with gorgonzola cream was only mildly sharp with plenty of mild flavour.  The sauce was creamy, but not too creamy while perfectly seasoned.  The pasta itself was thin and delicate while still a dente.  The ricotta filling was moist and mildly-seasoned.  So in the end, this was a delicious lunch that was reasonably-priced.  People are super nice there too!

The Good:
- Well-executed dishes
- Super-nice people
- You have the option of A/C inside

The Bad:
-Seating is a bit tight

Bistro & Co Rooftop Bar

After an early morning in Pisa catching our first bus to Genoa, then having a 3-hour layover and ultimately taking another bus to Nice, we still had to pick up our rental car at the airport.  That meant we checked into our hotel at 8:00pm completing our 12-hour journey.  However, we still needed to grab dinner.  After tracking down a grocery store that was open and acquiring some water and snacks, we made our way to a random place called Bistro & Co Rooftop Bar in Antibes.  We snagged the last parking spot in the lot (which was an omen to what we were going to experience later).

Heading upstairs, we could hear the awesome live music as well as the energetic vibe of the place.  Unlike some of the more traditional restaurants we've had in the past week or so, Bistro & Co offers up a huge rigatoni menu as well as burgers and other North American dishes.  Even though I was pasta'd out, I went for the Rigatoni Bolognese just to see why the section was so huge.  Now this was more of American Italian pasta and in that respect, it was good.  The tubes of rigatoni were al dente while the meat sauce was balanced and there was a good amount of cheese baked on the top.

For my son, he was craving a burger and hence got the L'Oncle Sam with bacon, crispy hashbrown, tomato, onion ring, BBQ sauce and cheddar sauce. plenty of BBQ ingredients.  This was an absolutely massive burger with 2 patties (cooked to medium) and a crispy hashbrown.   I guess this was a ode to the States due to its components and considerable size.  This was actually quite good and the fresh-cut fries were crispy too.

My daughter had the Pavé de Salmon with a soy, honey & sesame glaze as well as rice and vegetables. and it was not bad with it being moist and flaky but could've been cooked just a little less.  The sauce was predictably Asian-tasting with a good balance between sweet and salty.  The veggies on the side were a little overdone while the rice was on the drier side, but worked well with the sauce.

Viv had the Escalope de Volaille Panée with housecut fries and salad.  She also got a side of Béarnaise sauce as well.  Good thing because the chicken breast was dry and chewy.  We did enjoy the crunchy breading though and the same house-cut fries though.  Overall, the food at Bistro & Co was decent and brought back memories of North American fare.  Loved the vibe and also the complimentary drink to start the meal.

The Good:
- Energetic Vibe
- Fairly decent eats
- Good portions

The Bad:
- The parking lot fills up fast

New Bridge Pizza

For dinner we decided to get some pizza as the last time we had it was back in Rome.  But instead of staying within the touristy spots or going for something that was considered traditional, we went new school with New Bridge Pizza that was a little bit out of the busy square.  The place is certainly modern with young hip staff and solid beats.  Love the pricing too as it is reasonable.  I guess the biggest question is what about the food?  Well, they do state on their webpage that they are both traditional and innovative.  Also, I apologize for the crappy pics as my camera was on the wrong setting!  Doh!

Well interestingly enough, it started off with the Caesar Salad which was actually more expensive than the rest of the food.  We were a bit confused at first but then discovered the bevy of sliced fried chicken breast hidden beneath the combination of parmesan, tomatoes, romaine, avocado and olives.  Yes, this was their interpretation of a Caesar and I didn't mind it.  It certainly ate like a meal with tender pieces of crispy seasoned chicken.  The ingredients were fresh and there was enough flavourful dressing that had a nice saltiness to it.

As for the pizzas, we had the Prosciutto Cotto et Funghi that featured ham and mushrooms with tomato sauce and mozzarella.  The crust was quite good with crunchy edges that had sufficient leoparding from their high-powered electric ovens.  There was nuttiness to it and it was seasoned properly.  Naturally, the crust got more tender closer to the centre, but that is expected and normal.  Tomato sauce was balanced and the amount of toppings were enough to keep every bite interesting.

We also got the Maialona which was their meat lovers consisting of tomato sauce, mozzarella, hot dog pieces, spicy salami, roasted ham and sausage.  Naturally, with all these toppings, the pizza was rather robust and filling.  I found the slices of sausage to be appealingly spicy and meaty.  Yep, there was actually hot dog pieces on the pizza and this is where the modern part comes in because no traditional pizza would have that!   I liked this one since it was all meat and the kids agreed.

Last pizza was the Capricciosa with tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichokes, fresh mushrooms, spicy salami, roasted ham.  This was somewhat of a mix between the first 2 pizzas and benefited from the spice from the salami.  Adding in artichokes provided a bit of tang and freshness.  Overall, the pizza here at New Bridge gives respect to tradition with a wonderful crust and delicious tomato sauce.  It does do some modern takes on things and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Prices are reasonable too.

The Good:
- Solid pizzas
- Reasonable-pricing
- Nice people

The Bad:
- May offend some traditionalists

Gelateria Carabè Firenze

Continuing on our quest for the best gelato on our trip to Italy, we stopped by Gelateria Carabè Firenze nearby our apartment.  This was recommended by a friend who stated that it was a lighter gelato that was less creamy yet at the same time, more refreshing.  They specialize in Sicilian-style gelato that employs some form of starch as a thickener. For myself, I personally prefer it to be more creamy and less sweet, but I have an open mind and had to see for myself.  

I decided to get a cup with a refreshing combination of Limone Sorbetto and some wine gelato that I forgot to note down (maybe Cassis?).  Whatever the case, the gelato was indeed lighter and less creamy.  I wouldn't call it icy, but there was a definite difference in the texture compared to the ones I had in Rome.  I found it sweeter with milder flavours.  I could see some people enjoying this in the heat, but for me I'm all about the creaminess.

Viv went all fruity going with the Mango and Peach Sorbetto.  These were smooth and almost fluffy.  The light texture of the sorbetto meant it was very quickly devoured and helped us beat the warm 37 degrees Celsius it was in Florence.  Mind you, the real way to beat the heat is to eat something hot to induce sweating, but we weren't going to do that.  In terms of flavour, they really came through.  I'm not sure if this was necessarily sweeter than another sorbetto we've had, but it was less tangy, so maybe that is why we felt it was sweeter?

My son is all about consistency and he once again had both the Chocolate and Straciatella Gelato.  Just by looking at it, you can tell the straciatella was less creamy and looked much lighter.  These indeed ate as such with an almost icy consistency without being so.  Flavours were on the sweeter side and the impact of the chocolate was lessened due to the texture.  

My daughter did her fruity options as well with the Strawberry and Passionfruit Sorbettos.  Maybe due to the use of different ingredients, these felt less fluffy, but then again, they weren't dense either.  Flavours were good and the sweetness was a little bit more muted possibly due to the added tanginess of the strawberry and passionfruit.  She gobbled it up pretty fast we agreed the sorbetto was more to our liking than the gelato.  Of course everything is subjective and again, I can see how some people would like this lighter version of gelato.  After all, the place has many accolades.  But for me personally, I like the one I had at Frigidarium in Rome the most.  Yes, I know, different city and different region.

The Good:
- Natural-tasting
- Light and refereshing

The Bad:
- Not as creamy

F.N. Pasta Fresca

While we were munching on meats and cheeses at Enoteca Salumeria Lombardi, we were staring at the huge lineup at the F.N. Pasta Fresca kitty corner in the Mercato Centrale in Florence.  That really piqued my interest and I vowed to return to try it.  After touring the Uffizi Gallery in the morning, we made our way back to the market and lined up for fresh pasta at only 6 Euros each.  You pick your pasta and your sauce and it is made freshly in their small kitchen. Sure, there isn't really anywhere to eat this other than some counter seating or if you brought it upstairs to the food court.  Fortunately, we were staying nearby and merely brought it back to our apartment.

I decided to get the chef's recommendation in the Ravioli al Limone with olio e parmigiano.  This was really good featuring big raviolis stuffed with ricotta cheese and lemon.  I found that the lemon really came through in an aromatic sense rather than being tangy.  The pasta itself was firmly al dente and held up even with the short walk back to the apartment.  Dressed merely in olive oil and parmesan, the flavours were nutty and slightly salty.  But not strong enough to take away from the subtlties of the pasta.

While in line, I noticed someone scoffing down some Spaghetti alla Chitarra with ragu di cinghiale.  I found this to be appealingly firm which was partially due to the perfect preparation but also the squared cross section rather than being round.  This robust texture went well with the wild boar ragu.  The ragu itself was rich and thick with the deep flavours of the meat and fat coming through.  It was a bit salty, yet at the same time that helped flavour the firm pasta.

The biggest portion of pasta happened to be the Gnocchi with ragu bolognese.  Honestly, for 6 Euros, this would definitely fill someone up.  Beyond the value, this was also delicious with the gnocchi being tender with a bite.  This was even better than the one we had in Rome on our first night (at a restaurant).  As for the ragu, it was plenty meaty with lots of body and natural flavours from the meat and tomatoes.  This was a less creamy bolognese and was much tangier.  This was also a touch salty.

Our last pasta was the Fagottini di Carne with pomodoro.  This was a good pairing of pasta and sauce since the meat-filled pasta was already robust and meaty.  The light pomodoro with plenty of fresh tomatoes acted as a counter-balance provided a lighter and brighter finish.  The pasta itself was thin and al dente while being delicate.  We felt that the pasta at F.N. Pasta Fresca to be more than acceptable given the price point.  Compared to the pasta I had at the Mercato Centrale in Rome, this was light-years ahead in quality and execution (comparing apples to apples).  Would gladly eat again if I was back in Florence.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Well-prepared
- More than acceptable given the price and venue

The Bad:
- A bit salty
- Long line (but moves)

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