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Before leaving Orange City for good, we had to get breakfast at a renowned local fixture: Gram’s Kitchen.
There are four Gram’s Kitchen in Florida, all in the same area around Orange City. The first one opened in 1987. The owner decided that, in order to honor his grandmother, who owned restaurants in Michigan in the 50s, he would have the same familial atmosphere as she did back then. And since everybody was calling her Gram, well, he decided it was logical to name the whole thing Gram’s Kitchen.
Located in the 1876 Heritage Inn in Orange City, Gram’s Kitchen looks very attractive from outside. Inside? Well, not so much. This is not a fancy place. But I’ve learned not to judge the food by the looks of the place.
This looked like any corner’s mom and pop shop. It’s been there for a long time and renovations are needed. The floor was in rough shape. The ceiling wasn’t very clean. There was stuff everywhere not belonging in a restaurant, but somehow it all made sense there.
We sat down at our table, between a couple of retirees who had come for bacon n’ eggs, and a couple of bikers on a road trip.
Our menus came swiftly, stained with coffee and other breakfast products. It was quite a large menu, and we learned that they serve breakfast all day, which is nice when you are vacationing in the country and feel like breakfasting right after getting up, say around 3 PM.
Our attention was immediately focussed on Grandpa’s Gourmet Omelets section. Yes, O-me-lets. With your choice of cheese (Cheddar, Swiss or American – hmmm, American cheese!), your choice of toast (Rye, Wheat, White, Sourdough or Homemade Biscuit) and your choice of homefries OR grits. At $6.75 each, they looked fantastic – on paper.
Mel opted for what they dubbed as their House Special: Gram’s Special Omelet: Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Tomatoes, Onions and Cheese. Minus the onions. I went for Gram’s Club Omelet, apparently their famous club sandwich on eggs: Turkey, Country Ham, Bacon, Tomato and Cheese.
Gram’s Kitchen proudly states that they are using only Grade A Extra Large Eggs, and when the Omelet showed up, we realize they weren’t kidding – they were quite big.
My Club Omelet was soooo juicy. The turkey was real turkey, not processed, and it was very fresh and moist. The country ham added an interesting touch, but wasn’t really necessary. The bacon was crisp, the tomatoes not mushy, which happens in omelets sometimes. This was the best Club Omelet I have ever had. Of course, it is the only one I have ever had, but if I had had others, I am very confident that this would be at the top of the list. No wonder their club is famous, although I had never heard of it before.
Mel’s Omelet was quite yummy. Cooked to perfection, there was a lot of meat in it. If anything, she claimed that there was too much meat. I don’t think that is possible, but that’s what she said. Fluffy, not heavy, despite the amount of ingredients in them, these omelets were very tasty, and we were quite full at the end of our meal. The main problem with both omelets was the processed cheese. No matter how hard you try, it will never live up to real cheese.
Mel ordered coffee with her breakfast, and was lucky enough to get it in CHICAGO, the musical mug. Lucky her. I settled for orange juice in a jar. Classy, on all counts. Coming with the meal, as previously stated, were their biscuits. They were fairly thick, and quite heavy – they could have been the breakfast on their own. Quite tasty, though, although they were not buttered but margarined. Much better were their home fries: these guys were huge! Nicely fried, quite firm and with a bit of crunchiness left, they were awesome. Too bad their ketchup is House Recipe, a very ordinary generic brand from Sysco Corporation, the largest food distributor in North America, who has among their costumers Seattle’s Best Coffee and Burger King.
We left fairly happy with our breakfast, especially considering that we got 10% off on our bill, thanks to a coupon that you can find in the multitude of coupon booklets available everywhere in Florida. A coupon-based economy, my dream come true! If by some weird circumstances you couldn’t find any booklets while roaming Florida, Gram’s Kitchen has taken care of you – you can print their on-line coupon here!
There, no excuses!
My girlfriend’s brithday being a day to remember, I organized her a surprise dinner party.
As usual, she had no idea.
Because Mel loves Italian food, I picked an Italian restaurant and made a reservation for 8 pm, for 12 people. My uncle JP, who was visiting, played along and asked for an Italian place for dinner. A quiet dinner for the three of us, she thought. If only.
I had heard good things about Mamma Grazzi’s Kitchen.
The place has won “Best Italian Food” as voted by readers of the Ottawa Xpress in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007. It was deemed a “Great Spot for a First Date” by Cheapeats Ottawa in 2006.
The place has a prime location in the By-Ward Market, and surely they would be happy to receive such a nice group of people the day after New Year’s Day, when business is slow and people usually travel or stay home, to recover.
I was wrong. The staff on site looked bored and wanted to be somewhere else. The faster the service, the faster you are out , no? Yet, despite that simple fact, the service was slooooooow. Even though the place was pretty empty.
Drinks took forever to get to the table.
A bunch of dishes were cold.
Half a dozen errors were made.
The waitress even pointed rudely at Mel: “You – Is it your birthday?” Wow. You had to be there.
Coffees were forgotten.
Smiles were left somewhere in the basement.
And to get the bills also took forever.
Not that the food was bad – once you could get to it.
But the experience was one of the worst I’ve ever had, that most of us ever had.
Yet, Mel was happy that all her friends were around and mostly, we laughed at how bad things were. We had too.
Nevertheless, Mamma Grazzi’s Kitchen is starting up The Waffle’s Black List.
They did try to expand to Paris at some point, but for some reason it didn’t pan out.
This Holiday Season, we were not going to miss out on a great Ashton poutine. After a late New Year’s party, it was the perfect way to recover. In between two familial visits, we stopped at the 1st Avenue location, in lowertown. (A favorite of mine, this location is open until 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays - I have made a few stops there before going home a few blocks away in my university days)
Even though it was New Year’s Day, it was open, and Mel and I were very grateful.
The great thing about Ashton, is that everything is made fresh, and most of their suppliers are local. Fries are hand cut in the morning – the potatoes are grown on the Orléans Island. Cheese curds are delivered daily. Their branding is about how fresh things are, and it is mostly true. Although there has been rumours about how they processed the meat in their “pain à la viande” (a hot-dog bun filled with saucy ground beef, topped with onions and ketchup).
I ordered their Trio du Lac. A “Hot-Dog du Lac” is inspired by the traditionnal way of serving hot-dogs in the Lac-St-Jean area – with sliced cabbage, mayonnaise, and topped with fries IN the hot-dog. Wanting to be healthy, I declined the fries option for the trio – after all, there was fries IN the hot-dog, and opted for the green salad. The trio was completed by a ice cold Pepsi.
Eating a hot-dog garnished like that reminds me fondly of my days at the Jonquière CEGEP. In the SagLac area, hot-dogs are quite often garnished with cole slaw and fries – there are a few spots that I loved going to : Goofy in Alma, le Pavillon du Hot-Dog in Jonquière, and the now defunct DEC Café, 50 meters from my student apartment, who offered 2 fully loaded “hot-dog du Lac” for $1.99. Great deal for a student!
Anyway, Ashton’s hot-dog is alright. Their sausage is fairly big and juicy. You need to like the combined taste of mayo and cabbage, and need not to be taken aback by the fries on top. The side salad was relatively fresh = the lettuce was crispy, and the tomato wedges still firm. The baby carrots however were quite dry, and you could see dry white spots on them.
As a side to my Trio, we got the regular Ashton poutine, the real reason of our visit.
I do not have a very big familly, so the gatherings on New Year’s are usually pretty small.
But this year, Jacques, my mother’s widower, decided to throw a big party. He hosted it in a big community room in the building where he had recently moved to. The building being brand new, it is a nice facility to host events like these, with a fully equipped professionnal kitchen, restaurant-style.
Interestingly enough, the building was built on the site of the church where I was baptised 33 years ago, in the parish of Ste-Odile. The church had to be demolished because of major mold problems.
First, the room was quite big. But quite smokey. Eveybody was smoking. Everybody. Well, not everybody, I don’t smoke, but a lot of people were. Like the good old days, when smoking was the thing to do. Inside.
Sadly, Black Label and O’Keefe are no longer supported brands by the Molson Coors Brewing Company and are likely going to disappear in the next 10 years, as their market disappears with no new consumers making them their beer of choice. I used to be a member of the Chevalier O’Keefe’s club myself. A long time ago.
Anyway, there was also some kind of tropical punch, plenty of hard loquor and mix – Bloody Ceasar, Rhum and Coke and Screwdrivers being the favorites.
As for food, I did scare Melissa by bringing her a plate of quality party food.
Ah, unfrozen shrimp. Weiners wrapped in bacon. Assorted vegetables.
Doesn’t this look delish?
Alright, I should be fair, there was more than this available.
A selection of home made sandwiches:
- Egg Salad
- Ham and Mustard
- Cretons and Mustard
- Cheese and Butter
- Chicken Salad Stuffed Buns – my favorite!
As well, assorted deserts, including a Black Forest cake.
And, to complete the night, Jacques had put some Champagne bottles outside to “chill out” before the countdown. It was -21.8 °C in Quebec City on New Year’s Eve. And some of the bottles, well, they froze.
All in all, a good time.
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