Dinner at Rocco with Ali

Ali and I went to Rocco (165 Monroe Ave., formerly The Olive Tree) for dinner and it was fantastic. We dropped in without a reservation and were happy to eat at the bar. Ali got the ziti with a side of meatballs which she loved — if I remember right: I was overwhelmed by the quality of my thick-cut pork chop special with parmesan cheese and a chili-spiced red sauce. Drinks, too, were excellent: the Stormy Monday was a great choice.  Ali even liked it despite that she otherwise hates the taste of bourbon. As it ended up, we were too full for dessert.

The Make and Take Gourmet Buffet

Ali heard about this new place in Henrietta — Make and Take Gourmet (1475 E. Henrietta Road) — so we went there to check it out for their menu sampling day. Everything was very good and it was nice to get to try everything. The idea is that you assemble a meal (or you can buy it preassembled "to go") and take it home to cook and eat or to freeze for later. It's definitely a niche concept but it seems to make sense: you get to try out a new recipe without the hassle of buying all the ingredients (and having to find an immediate use for the left-over perishables that wouldn't ordinarily get used) and hoping — against all odds — that you got everything you needed.

Make and Take provides a bunch of recipes to choose from each month — in May 2008, there are 16. They have "assembly stations" set up at their location with all the ingredients for one or more of the recipes and you can go there and get all the ingredients ready in a take-out container (that they provide although you can also bring your own). I think you may be able to just walk in, but they prefer that you sign up before you show up so they can make sure to have enough of everything ready-to-go. The recipes are scaled for either 2-3 people or for 4-6 people and one of the perks of making it yourself is that you can add more of what you like and omit anything you hate.

Ali set up an event on May 20 — you can see the details on Tuesday's entry of this JayceLand update.

The Blue Cactus artlessly combines traditional Mexican ingredients

Ali and I thought we'd try The Blue Cactus Mexican Grille (5 Liftbridge Ln. E., Fairport) to see how its "traditional Mexican cuisine" compares.

It was awful.

Well, that's not quite true. It was bland, unsatisfying Mexican food — "traditional" for people who think "traditional" means bland and unsatisfying. The drinks at the bar were adequate but a bit pricey, but the meal was quite expensive and only marginally enjoyable. I ordered the Chile Rellenos: (from the menu) "one stuffed with beef picadillo, the other with a corn medley, [then] oven roasted". I was irritated that the server made a point of saying something like "wow! isn't that a wonderful presentation?" — don't patronize me: I'll make my own decision on whether I think it's attractive or not. The roasting seemed to take all the characteristic flavor out of the chilies, leaving them not quite as flavorful as a roasted bell pepper. The beef picadillo wasn't bad, but the "corn medley" is a poor excuse for dumping corn and other unseasoned soup ingredients into the pepper … er … chile.

The Banana Licuados — a milk-based smoothie which I opted to add oatmeal to ("to make it really authentic!") — was really quite good. Ali and I experimented with our own rendition later. Although the server said the oatmeal was not cooked, I think it should be to allow the oats to dissolve with the milk.

An excellent meal at Michelina's

Ali and I headed to Michelina's Italian Eatery (2700 W. Henrietta Rd.) for dinner. I had never been there before, but it's some of the best Italian food I've had around here — and reasonably priced to boot! I had the Costatelle Alla Maiale: breaded pork cutlets served with marinara, eggplant, cappicola, and mozzarella over pasta. It was excellent: the pork must have been pounded tender for a whole day. Ali had the Pizziola: breaded chicken with marinara, pepperoni, mushrooms, and mozzarella — also excellent.

Dinner at Magnolia's

I just thought I'd mention that the dinner that Ali and I had at Magnolia's Market and Deli (366 Park Ave.) was very good. The French onion soup was great [although different-from and not-as-good-as that at Hogan's Hideaway (197 Park Ave.)], and the pizza we had was excellent. The only real complaint was that the cream soup (broccoli or spinach … I can't remember) that Ali got was, well, weird. It wasn't much like a cream soup at all, but more of cooked chopped vegetables in a broth with some cream in it. A quick exchange for their excellent tomato bisque fixed all that.

Juno at the Little

Ali and I went to The Little (240 East Ave.) to see Juno. We got there a bit early and ended up having some good (but a bit pricey) panini sandwiches at the cafe.

Anyway, the movie was really cute. It's about a smart, quick-witted girl who unexpectedly gets pregnant. She decides to put the kid up for adoption and finds the seemingly perfect couple — at least on the surface and through her myopic teenage eyes. It was really just a nice, light story that takes what would ordinarily be a heavy topic, and puts a bit of flair on it to make it quite palatable.

One of the complaints I had heard was that the title character Juno was too smart — too worldly for her age. Indeed she was awfully smart, but come on: have you heard teenagers talk? (And I freely include my own teenage inanity.) I don't think people would tolerate 2 hours of that. That said, they didn't do a bad job of giving Juno and her friends the pop-culture, repetitive patterns of teenage speech without making it irritating.

Dinner at Hogan's Hideaway

Ali had made homemade venison stew for dinner but it had to wait until tomorrow because it wasn't ready yet. In lieu of homemade, we decided to get some dinner at Hogan's Hideaway (197 Park Ave.) Like a lot of restaurants around here, it's not so much that they're "perfect", but that they do certain things extremely well. Both of us got crocks of French onion soup — a phenomenal experience at Hogan's. I also had the grilled cheese on sourdough bread which rounded things out nicely. We had some wine as well and much of it is quite top-notch. Good grades all around!

Dinner at Flavors of Asia

Ali and I met up with a couple friends at Flavors of Asia (831 S. Clinton Ave.) for dinner. The food there is great — it's been too long since getting take-out (i.e. back when Jan was living in Rochester some 2 years ago now). Afterward we had a nice night at home playing 1980's Trivial Pursuit and Yahtzee: one of Ali's favorites.

Friday dinner at Jeremiah's

Ali and I had a late dinner at Jeremiah's Tavern (1104 Monroe Ave.) This time the selections were good (remember that Jeremiah's changes the menu to be a bit fancier on Fridays) but the meal wasn't as great as in the past. First, there was rosemary on everything. Ali doesn't like rosemary but I do — up to a point. Ali had the chicken Marsala which wasn't all that much of a Marsala sauce. My "country pork chops" with mushrooms were good but a little tough. Everything had rosemary on it. Fortunately for Ali, simply picking out the pieces of rosemary corrected the meal, and our server was really nice when she mentioned it to him (i.e. more to ask that they add "lots of rosemary" to the menu so people know). He insisted that we take a piece of bananas foster cheesecake home.

Dinner at Gusto then off to church

Ali and I went to Gusto (277 Alexander St.) for dinner. I had the special: a pumpkin ravioli with spinach and Gorgonzola sauce. It was just the right size and tasted spectacular. Ali had the ravioli lasagna which was also great.

We had to get going by 9 to pick up Ali's kid sister who was at a concert at The Bethel Christian Fellowship (321 East Ave.). I guess this Mark SchultzMySpace link guy is quite a popular Christian singer and pianist. We were there a little early and the show hadn't let out yet but they have a cafe so we got a coffee and hung out. The tables are triangular and I noted the "trinity tables". Ali remarked that they must have a good marketing department.

Ali's sister and her friend were among the first two to get out. They got in line to meet the guy and to get autographs. A few minutes later and it seemed the whole auditorium let out and got in line too. I guess I'm the only one who heard that idolatry was some kind of sin.