on babies in bars and kids in restaurants

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants

Kids in restaurants have been a hot topic lately because of a restaurant owner who definitely acted like a jerk over a kid who was maybe or maybe not acting like a jerk while the parents maybe or maybe didn’t do something about it. Until some third party describes what really went down in that situation, I’m not making any judgments about it.

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants

However, as someone who loves food and likes eating out and also has two small humans who often accompany us when we eat out, I did want to talk about eating out with kids. Part of my job as a parent is raising my small humans to be good citizens, who know how to navigate social situations, who know how to act in public. Eating out is part of that. And you can’t learn how to do that until you actually do it. Our kids have been going out to eat with us for all of their three years of life. The best times were probably when they were infants. We could put them on the floor in their baby buckets…I mean, car seats…and they’d sleep the whole dang time while their tired twin parents guzzled cheese dip and margaritas. Local Mexican restaurants and an Oyster Bar near our house were two favorites. As they got to be older babies and early toddlers, we played to our strengths: we went to noisy places, the types with high chairs and kids menus, and we went EARLY. We took toys and sippy cups, and when they fell apart, we took their butts right out, sometimes even all the way home, although that was rare. Now that they’re three, they’ve had years of practice eating out, and also years of practice of being expected to sit in their high chairs, eating their food, at the table with everyone else, until everyone is finished for dinner at home every night. I can’t remember the last time we actually had a bad experience in a restaurant.

Now, we don’t just have to stick to “family restaurants,” but can even go to places with like, actual table cloths and stuff, like in that picture from Forty Two at the Clinton Presidential Center, which may seem fancy, but also has a very courteous wait staff and a GREAT kids’ menu. Strangers have actually remarked to us on several occasions how cute and well-behaved our children are in restaurants, and we smile and tell them thank you, it took a lot of practice, and if they weren’t being cute and well-behaved, we wouldn’t be staying long.

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants
We love the patio at US Pizza. The girls love their spaghetti and meatballs, which can feed two kids for $3.50, and we can walk there.

The way I see it: no one else should ever have a bad time at a restaurant because my kids are being annoying. Generally, if a place has high chairs and booster seats, I assume my kids are welcome, and I expect that they will behave appropriately– otherwise we won’t be sticking around. We don’t take them to bars, though we have taken them to a local brewery, Lost 40, where they enjoyed the heck out of drinking water from little flight glasses and eating cheese dip and bratwurst. (Jon happens to love their beer, so we always have a keg from them in our kegerator at home.)

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants
Etta at Lost 40.

I think the best statement I’ve ever seen on kids in bars was on the menu of a place called The Bird where I had one of the best burgers of my life in Jackson, Wyoming.

Kids in bars and restaurants, some guidelines

I probably would not take my kids to The Bird, because we like having high chairs, and because it really is more of a bar than a restaurant. Once they were old enough to not need a booster seat? Maybe. But I like that they make their standards clear, and I realllllly loved that burger. I’d hope that if they did have a kid or parents who were “messing up,” they’d just politely ask the family to handle the situation or leave, without, you know, screaming at children.

on babies in bars and kids in restaurants
For the record, this is the amazing burger and amazing view at The Bird. A literal cheeseburger in paradise.

Parents want to be able to eat out. Kids need to be able to eat in restaurants in order to learn how to act in restaurants. Obviously kids will mess up along the way to learning how to act, and it’s on the adults around them to model correct behavior, like asking people to leave *politely* if they’re being a disturbance, like getting the heck out of Dodge if your kids are consistently being obnoxious/tired/emotional/loud. If everyone did that, everyone could have a good time not just at The Bird, but in every restaurant.

I eat local. I also eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Hanging out at the play place with friends.
Hanging out at the play place with friends.

As has been the case for the past couple of years, the sales numbers for Little Rock-area restaurants have been released, and the local Chick-Fil-A franchises are in the top. This has our local alt-weekly foaming at the mouth pitting people who eat local against those who eat at Chick-Fil-A.

For one thing, as I learned when trying to decide if I, a huge supporter of marriage equality and gay rights, should boycott CFA, our CFAs are locally owned franchises. I don’t personally know the owners, but friends who do have told me that they are not homophobic and do not support anti-equality causes. In fact, they have supported friends’ ministries, like Young Life.

Still, I get the urge to shop local and eat local. I’m a largely vegetarian, farmer’s market shopping foodie. When we go out to eat, our favorites are local places like The Root, South on Main, Bruno’s, Big Orange, Local Lime, The Fold, La Hacienda, and Damgoode Pies. I haven’t eaten at a chain like an Applebee’s or Chili’s or Olive Garden in YEARS. I think eating locally grown, locally made food from locally owned places is absolutely the ideal.

IMG_6722
Farmer’s market babies with their local produce.

But as a mom with young kids? I also eat at Chick-Fil-A. Not because my kids only eat nuggets. Nope. I’m raising baby foodies who eat whatever we eat, every single meal. But because there is just no locally-owned equivalent to my usual CFA experience: going at breakfast time, sipping coffee with my mom friends and getting to socialize, while our kids play on a safe, clean, indoor playground. Plus, our local CFA’s always have more than enough high chairs, changing tables in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, free placemats, and a really excellent staff that usually helps me to my table with my food and highchair and kid. They have never ever ever looked askance at me and my mom posse dragging along a pack of short people.

In my wildest fantasies, there would be an indoor play place at someplace like Mylo Coffee, and I could eat delicious pastries while chatting with my mama friends and watching my kids play, and not a single hipster with a Macbook Air would give me a dirty look over my kids harshing their quiet coffee shop mellow.

But that doesn’t exist. So I’ll keep taking my kids out to eat hyper-local food for dinner, but I’m also not giving up my occasional mornings at CFA, either.

kitchen catch-all

My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week.  Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!

eating in

This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.

  • The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
  • The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme.  Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery.  This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
  • Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over.  I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar.  My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream.  To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes.  I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300.  I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.

    Ok, so, you can't see the berries, the cream would look better if it had been piped on, and the chocolate wasn't thin enough for pretty drizzling. STILL. This was amazing.

eating out

Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.

  • Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University.  The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked.  I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries.  The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned.  The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals.  They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.

food for thought

  • I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
  • My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion.  Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook.  I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
  • I’ve also been dreaming of replacing my non-stick KitchenAid cookware for a stainless steel set. Serious Eats says the Tramontina sets sold at WalMart are basically as good as 5 x’s pricier AllClad sets.
  • First cupcakes, then macarons, then whoopie pies. Apparently the next big dessert trend, according to The Kitchn, is Moon Pies.
  • From The Atlantic, a theory about why we love food TV so much.

kitchen catch-all

This will be the last Kitchen Catch-All for a while. We’re starting a new season with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA on Tuesday, our second season with them after the late summer/early fall season we did last year. On Tuesday, I’ll walk around the corner to the Glass Onion and pick up a ginormous box of fresh, local veggies (my husband, a sucker for the “best deal” likes to sign the two of us up for a family-sized box). I’ll lay them all out on my kitchen table, take a photo of the spread, and then get to cooking. Each week, most likely on Tuesdays, I’ll post a round up of what we got, what I did with it, and how we liked everything in a CSA: Charleston post.  It will basically be an Iron Chef battle of me versus a bunch of produce each and every week, and sometimes the veggies do win. There will be an added challenge this season because we’re moving at the end of it, so I can’t freeze things for later. I’ll have to figure out to eat it all!

eating in

kitchen catch-all

If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, you may be noticing by now that I basically only cook vegetarian and seafood dishes, with the occasional hint of bacon or chicken stock.  This is because we radically changed our eating habits about a year ago, after seeing the film “Food Inc.” and reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This involved a shift toward eating more locally grown, and, when not local, organic produce, and giving up most meat at home because we cannot afford to buy, nor can we find as readily, the type of pastured, sustainably grown meat we have committed to eating. So, we mostly eat vegetarian and seafood dishes when we cook at home, flavoring our foods with certified humane all natural bacon, which is readily available at our usual grocery store, and organic free range chicken stock, which we find at Costco. We also eat a lot of pastured eggs. Anyway, I just thought some folks might be starting to wonder why they almost never see chicken or beef dishes around here, and that’s why. For the record, while we try to mostly frequent restaurants that serve food that fits in with our values, we don’t hold hard and fast to our “rules” when dining outside our home. Onto what we ate this week:

eating in

We mostly ate at home this week, so I did a lot more cooking. This week we ate:

  • Image by Yunhee Kim via rachaelraymag.com

    Rachael Ray’s Tuna Orzo Salad.  This is a really colorful and tasty dish, full of veggies and sprinkled with feta cheese, one of my favorite things.  It made good leftovers for me to take for lunch at work this week, because they don’t have to be reheated. I recommend using less red onion than called for unless you are just really a big red onion fan. Sometimes I don’t have the suggested red wine vinegar, so I use balsamic instead. I also don’t bother to buy tuna packed in oil, so I just make my own vinaigrette using regular olive oil, rather than the oil from the tuna.

  • Real Simple’s Skillet-Poached Huevos Rancheros.  Though this recipe says it serves four, it served the two of us for exactly one meal. Maybe we’re just hungry hungry hippos. We love Mexican flavors, and we love eggs, so this recipe hit a real sweet spot for us.  I’ll definitely be making it again. I’ll note that I forgot to buy scallions, so I sauteed some onion in the pan before putting the salsa and beans in. This would also be yummy with the addition of pepper jack or cotija cheese on top.
  • Real Simple’s Creamy Shrimp with Corn and Bacon. This is basically like a corn chowder, plus shrimp, served over rice. It’s pretty tasty, but definitely not one of our healthier dinners.
  • Hummus! I started making hummus a while ago, because we eat so much of it, and it’s much cheaper to just make it myself. I follow this recipe from The Kitchn, for the most part, though I always add more lemon juice than called for, as well as lemon zest, because I like my hummus to have a real lemony kick. This week I followed that recipe but made two different types. With one batch, I threw in a can of artichoke hearts, which makes for very creamy hummus with a subtle artichoke flavor. With another batch, I threw in some sundried tomatoes and a little bit of smoked paprika– this batch was AMAZING. I’m going to be making more sundried tomato hummus in the future for sure. It was an especially yummy treat when scooped up with red bell pepper slices.
  • Fried Rice. At the end of the week, when I have some leftover veggies in my fridge, I often make a big thing of fried rice (a lot like the frittata method I used the other week). This week’s batch featured brown rice, bacon, egg, squash, celery, carrot, red onion, and green peas.

eating out

  • Only ate out once this week. Friday night, I met up with some friends and ate at WOK (World Oriental Kitchen) on King St. for the first time. I described WOK to Jon as “the Chipotle of stir fry.” You basically get to choose noodles or rice, a protein (tofu, shrimp, beef, or chicken), a few veggies, and a sauce, and they fry it up in a wok and bring it to your table. The service was a little slower than I expected, but the food was tasty. The entire place is very eco-friendly, with reclaimed wood tables and other “green” touches, and all local, organic ingredients, all of which I LOVE. My only suggestion would be to ditch the paper straws. They turn soggy and useless halfway through a drink. Why have straws at all if they’re useless?

food for thought

  • So, the other day, when pondering my stove-top popcorn obsession, I mused to Jon that maybe popping popcorn in a pan I’d just fried bacon in would make for lovely, bacon-flavored popcorn. He thought that sounded insane. But then, what to my wondering eye should appear on The Kitchn but “How to Make Bacon Fat Popcorn.” I’ve yet to try it, but I think I might have to, since I invented it.

kitchen catch-all

So, I’ve been slacking on the blog a little this past week.  I expect posting to be lighter than usual for the next few weeks, as I work at a college and the end of the term gets a little crazy, and on top of that, I’m trying to get things ready for a new person to take my job, trying to sell a house, and working on coordinating our move to Little Rock, AR.  That said, we’re still eating and cooking and working extra hard to try as many restaurants in Charleston as we can before we leave, so Kitchen Catch-Alls will definitely continue!

eating in

  • Didn’t do a ton of cooking this week, but one thing I did make was a spring fish and veggies dish loosely based on Rachael Ray’s Spring Fish in Parchment.  Loosely because I used salmon, asparagus instead of green beans, and didn’t have enough parchment, so I cooked them in foil packets instead of paper.  Still, a yummy dish!  I had to make a quick run to the liquor store to get white wine for this recipe, which brings me to my next point…
  • We tried Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon this week.  Firefly is a local vodka company, best known for their Sweet Tea Vodka, flavored with tea grown here in Charleston.  We’ve been to their distillery and tried every single one of their products!  I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but I am a whiskey girl, so I’m PUMPED that they’re now making a sweet tea flavored bourbon.  I find the warmth of the bourbon is a nice compliment to the flavor of the sweet tea, and my favorite way to drink it is watered down with a big of homemade iced tea.  I haven’t tried it mixed with lemonade yet, but I’m sure that would also be tasty.
  • Also this week, I got obsessed with popping popcorn on my stovetopApparently there are ingredients in microwave popcorn which can cause lung disease.  This, on top of my concern at producing so much waste (a plastic wrapper and a paper bag) every time I pop a bag of microwave popcorn, was enough to make me give up microwave popcorn.  My first two attempts at stovetop popcorn turned out a bit burned and once, very much oversalted.  By the third attempt, I’d figured out that lower heat works better, and sesame oil is a better oil to use than olive oil.  It’s a little more time consuming, but I figure shaking the pan burns off some of the calories from the OMGREALBUTTER I like to put on top, right?
  • Sunday we were hungry and the fridge was slim pickin’s as we had reached the end of the week and I’d yet to shop for this week’s groceries. Glancing in the fridge, I saw a few random veggies (half a red onion, half a green bell pepper, half a pint of cherry tomatoes), some eggs, and some bacon, which I threw together into a brunch of veggie-bacon frittata served with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you have eggs and a veggie or two, you always have the makings of a meal.
  • If you look in the “eating out” section, you’ll see that we tried Baked this weekend, and I was so impressed I plunked down $30 (which, don’t be dumb like me, buy it for $18 off Buy.com) for their cook book.  Sunday afternoon, I made their Root Beer Bundt Cake, and, given that the blurb before the recipe says to expect an “avalanche of root beer flavor,” I was expecting some serious root beer taste.  But this was not the case. While the cake was rich and chocolatey, and the “fudgy” frosting was so thick it was literally like smashing fudge on top of a cake, there wasn’t even a hint of root beer flavor under all the chocolateyness. All in all a great chocolate cake, and worth trying, but certainly not the “avalanche” of flavor it’s billed to have. Perhaps if I try again, I’ll use root beer schnapps as suggested for more intense flavor.

eating out

  • On Tuesday we checked out Aluette’s, which bills itself as “holistic soul food.” Though I’m sure some would argue with a pork-free restaurant that calls itself “soul food,” I found the place plenty soulful. Aluette herself, along with Chef Absalom, prepared our meals, and chatted with us while things were cooking. We enjoyed fried shrimp in a light, almost tempura batter, along with fries and coleslaw, and a delicious lamb dish served with rice and collards. Everything was plenty tasty, but a bit pricier than I’d be willing to pay for what we got without a restaurant.com certificate.
  • Crossing another restaurant off my list, we tried Bambu in Mount Pleasant this week.  I had a Thai Basil dish with tofu, Jon tried General Chang’s Chicken, and our friend had Green Coconut Curry.  We also sampled the potstickers, which were pan fried for a really satisfying crunch on one side. All of the food was excellent, the patio we sat on was lovely, and if I weren’t trying to try so many restaurants before leaving town, I’d say we’d definitely go back.
  • Friday night, after a dinner of leftovers at home, we met friends at McCrady’s for another 25 cent cocktail night.  After giving our waitress the password, “beep beep,” we received our 25 cent sidecars.  A sidecar is a drink made with brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker.  The sidecar was probably a little sweeter than I’d order regularly, and would definitely not top my list of favorites on McCrady’s cocktail menu (I think my favorite is still the Blood and Sand, or maybe the Ward 8), but it was still a tasty drink.  We also enjoyed fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, and Jon and I shared an apple tart with bourbon ice cream (I wasn’t kidding about my love of bourbon).
  • After McCrady’s, we decided to head across the street to Baked for still more sweet treats.  Baked originated in Brooklyn, and when they expanded, chose to add a location in good old Charleston, SC (apparently one of the owners has family here). Baked is not a frilly, frothy, pink and white sort of place.  The entire shop is themed in orange, brown, and white, with some seriously trendy elements like antlers and lots of knotty pine.  Their desserts are not typical.  Each person in our group got a different dessert, and they were all passed around the table for everyone to try.  Among the things we sampled: salted brownie (OMG, I will have to fight the urge to put salt on all my brownies from now on), strawberry whoopie pie (I confess I’d never had a whoopie pie before, and it was darn tasty), key lime bar (I’m always a fan of key lime), cherry cream cheese bar (this was my choice– a bar with a crushed pretzel crust, a thick layer of caramel, and a fluffy layer of cream cheese and cherry goodness on top), and a cashew bar (I’m not a cashew fan, so I didn’t try this one.)  I loved everything so much that I bought their cookbook, so you can expect to see some Baked goods on this blog, probably sometime soon! (You can score their Red Hot Red Velvet Cake recipe right here.)
    image via Baked

    image via Baked
  • Saturday morning we met friends for brunch at Virginia’s on King.  Virginia’s is one of the best brunch spots in a town that is seriously all about brunch (other great options include Hominy Grill, the Glass Onion, Fleet Landing, Lost Dog Cafe).  One perk of Virginia’s? $9 bottomless mimosas.  And our waitress’s stated mission was “to get you sloshed.”  Man, I love this town.  We downed so many mimosas we lost count, shared fried green tomatoes, and some of the braver among us tried fried chicken livers (our waitress brought us a complimentary plate of them)– I admit I did not try them after witnessing 3 people recoil and describe the aftertaste as “like dog food.”  I had a plate of biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns.  I have to tell you, I didn’t like biscuits and gravy until I moved here, and I’ve realized it’s because they make actual sausage gravy, not that gloopy white stuff of unknown origin.  Jon tried the fried chicken with collards and mashed potatoes, and though he got some funny looks for tearing into it like a caveman (but seriously, who eats fried chicken with a fork? Only stuffy people, that’s who!), but it was darn good.  After all those mimosas, we wandered around on King Street until the buzz wore off.  A great way to spend a Saturday.

food for thought

kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • Clafouti. It sounds like an instrument you’d play in a band that also features a flugelhorn. It turns out, however, that a clafouti is a tasty dessert, one that Julia Child had a recipe for (Bon Appetit!), which I found, by way of Honest Fare (you can go there and read for yourself what Gabi’s husband thought clafouti sounds like, and also snag the recipe).  When I read that it was like a cross between a custard, a cake, and a pancake, I knew I had to try it.  I love custard AND cake.  I made mine with fresh raspberries and blackberries and some frozen cherries.  After we finished eating our first slices, Jon said, “I like clafouti.” Me too, man, me too.  To paraphrase Schlotzsky’s Deli: funny name, seriously tasty dessert.   You should try making one– way easy, way good.  Tip: to make the homemade whipped cream extra yummy, add a little vanilla to it.

    my beautiful clafouti (yeah. it sounds funny.)
  • But don't you want to try it, funny name and all?
  • Image via Real Simple.

    We’re still trying to eat all the food I froze during the last CSA season, so I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week.  One recipe I did try was a hit, though.  It was Real Simple’s roast salmon and peppers with caper vinaigrette.  We really liked this, and I pretty much followed the recipe– the only change I made was adding some lemon juice to the vinaigrette, because I thought it needed a little bite of citrus.  I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my binder full of keepers.

eating (or should I say drinking?) out

McCrady’s is probably the most talked about restaurant in this town full of excellent restaurants.  The chef, Sean Brock, was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award this year, and in a recent Oxford American Food Poll, many of the chefs and food writers surveyed listed Brock as a favorite and an inspiration.  McCrady’s is also rather expensive– we ate dinner there because of one of my husband’s work events, but would otherwise only go there for a special occasion.  But the expense of the dinners isn’t a reason to miss out on the McCrady’s experience– just head to the bar!

McCrady’s is known for its pre-Prohibition Era cocktails, which are priced reasonably, on par with most other cocktails in town.  And to add even further incentives to check out their spirited offerings, they’ve been running a Prohibition style promotion on Facebook and Twitter, releasing a password to their followers and fans each week that will get them a pre-Prohibition Era cocktail for just 25-cents!  Friday night, a friend and I settled ourselves at the bar, and whispered “Burma” to Ben the bartender.  He smiled and whipped us up two Pegu Cocktails, a combination of Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Cointreau, Stirring’s Orange Bitters, and lime.  They were delicious, and I’m not usually a gin drinker!  We also checked out the menu of bar snacks.  I ordered the Crispy Pork Rillettes with Cranberry Ketchup, and my friend chose Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing.  We loved both!

Since our first cocktails were only 25 cents, we had plenty of money left over to try another of the cocktails.  My friend, who had studied abroad in England, went for a classic Pimm’s cup, and I, being a whiskey fan and a sucker for a cool name, went for one called the Blood and Sand.  I mean, doesn’t that drink just sound badass??  It featured Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Brandied Cherry Juice, and Blood Orange, and I enjoyed it very much.  While McCrady’s might be out of my price range for regular dinner dining, the cocktails and bar snacks are very much my speed and friendly to my budget.  I’ll have to take Jon back to try other things very soon!

food for thought