Classy sushi

19 Feb

I’m a sucker for sushi. You can quote me on that. I might also be a bit of a snob by Gainesville standards.

You see, in Miami, you don’t expect a sushi dinner to be ordered from a line, like Bento, or for establishments to offer online order “specials” like 3-for-$10 rolls with an added delivery fee, like Sushi-2-Go. You expect something trendy, like Sushisamba, or authentic and intimate, like Sushi Republic.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t have survived four years of college without Bento. Their food is good quality for a cheap price, and sometimes, quite frankly, I just don’t want to wash my hair to go wrestle my ginger salad with chopsticks. Don’t even get me started on when I can’t even be bothered to throw on a baseball cap, because the Sushi-2-Go delivery man is my best buddy.

But, like most college students, I sometimes long for the comforts of home. And yes, home comforts can include chic sushi restaurants. So, when my friend Anna suggested when we go to Ichiban Sushi, I was game. It looks like a quaint, hole-in-the-wall, family-owned restaurant from outside the Downtown Gainesville, brick-paved streets. But, when you walk in, it is a) large and b) hip. I was beyond excited.

The contemporary colors and modern booths were nothing I expected from the many times I had passed the place. Even more of a delight was the menu. I decided to let my inner fat kid get the best of me and ordered the dynamite roll. Let me tell you, these people understand how tempura should be done. Plus, the ginger dressing on my salad was newly made, and the fish was fresh. While the server wasn’t the best, the food more than made up for it.

Ichiban is perfect for a fun night with friends or a hot date, and its interior will impress anyone who’s a Bento regular. I only wish I had discovered it sooner.

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Brunching to contentment

19 Feb

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ve heard it since you were a kid. Your mom would tell you. Your teachers would tell you. Even experts you didn’t know would tell you.

So here’s my question to those all-knowing adults: Does brunch count as breakfast?

Well, I certainly think it should. I mean, it’s usually eaten within the first hour or two that a college kid drags themselves out of bed. While that might be a bit later than normal people, we look forward to this meal. Aside from the opportunity to stuff ourselves with large quantities of food (I get to choose two sides?!) for a small price (And it’s not even $10?!), it’s also a social occasion. And what college kid doesn’t like social occasions?

So, I found myself answering the call to brunch this morning. We piled into a car and toodled along to the Flying Biscuit Cafe, a place I had heard only great things about but never had ventured to. We were off the beaten route of Gainesville college kids, so I had no idea where we are about five minutes from leaving the house. We passed some weird statues and some weirder looking homes, as our driver knew the back roads that would take us to our meals.

When we finally got there, I was surprised at how many peers were standing around, waiting to be seated. Okay, maybe it wasn’t off the beaten path. It’s just that after four years of traversing places simply located off Newberry or Archer, I’ve gotten lazy. Anything more than ten minutes away is just too far.

As a courtesy, the Flying Biscuit had set out canteens of coffee and water. And my, what a courtesy that is to have for those who only had a few hours of semidecent sleep and a pounding head. Luckily, we were seated right away in a happy, cheery room painted with sunflowers. Though a little bright for my taste, it was still fun to look at.

But the looking didn’t last long. As soon as I opened the menu, I may or may not have started to drool. There were so many breakfast options, all of which came with cheese grits as a side. Let me disclose here, I absolutely, completely and totally love cheese grits. As much of a city girl as I am, my dad’s family is from Cotton-Mill-Itty-Bitty-Town, Georgia, and are probably the reason why eggs, sausage and cheese grits are my all-time favorite breakfast foods.

So, naturally, I ordered the Flying Biscuit Breakfast. It is quite simply described as “Two large farm fresh eggs served with our signature chicken breakfast sausage and creamy dreamy grits.” Which is an awful lot like how heaven sounds to me. It tasted what heaven might taste like too, and it didn’t help that it was served by a plump, sing-songy lady who wanted to make sure our orders were just perfect. As we walked out, I decided to become a frequent customer.

So, I’ll see you next weekend.

Oh, and PS – I asked about the weird, pyramid-like statues on the way home. Turns out they’re planets. 

Down home cookin’

31 Jan

It was my friend Kelli’s birthday last week. She turned a whole 23. Kelli goes to grad school at FSU, getting her masters in something that will let her make a lot more money than an undergraduate degree in poli sci ever would.  It’s non-thesis, so she comes to Gainesville about once every three weeks. So, naturally, she used her birthday as a reason to venture east on I-10 and celebrate here.

As per some unknown origin of the tradition, you do as the person whose birthday celebrations wishes. Kelli’s choice for dinner? The Yearling.

I’m going to give you a minute to go click on that link and full explore the site. Located a little under 30 minutes from the University of Florida campus, the restaurant is named after the book of the same title, as its author lived close to the area where the restaurant now exists. And the place where it exists requires one to travel down an unpaved road and lose cell phone service. A Miami-raised girl, I kept on thinking that my mother would be horrified if she knew such a place even existed.

Once we piled out of our cars, we entered the restaurant. I had never been in such a “Southern” place this south of the Florida state line. Everything was shiny, varnished wood, a DVD of Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert blared on the TV and the woman behind the bar had not had proper dental work ever.

Once all our party had arrived, we were ushered to our seats in some strange, offset room (sadly with no speakers, so we could not hear the last six  minutes of “Free Bird“). The menus offered cooter (which is apparently another name for turtle), venison and gator. Being so out-of-element, I played it safe and ordered the catfish.

Despite the grouchy waitress and what seemed to be some kind of Cross Creek town meeting going on in the next room, I ended up enjoying The Yearling. The catfish was delicious, perfectly fried and completely satisfying. The fried green tomatoes were almost as good as my Mawmaw’s, and I even ate most of my okra. What I’m most proud of, however, is that I tried the venison.

It was actually pretty good, like a tougher steak. Come to find out, you even cook it like beef. As I sat there chewing the piece I had been given, I just tried not to look at the painting of the little yearling deer across from me.

Also, I’ve been avoiding watching “Bambi” ever since this happened. Poor little yummy deer.

Food in a college town

30 Jan

Hi there, reader! Thanks for checking out my blog.

I’m a student at the University of Florida, located in Gainesville, Fla. And, like most college students, I like food.

Most of my food intake happens at my sorority house. A meal plan is part of our dues. I will admit I am lucky to not have to subsist on the age-old college staples of Ramen and pizza, but meals made for more than 100 people aren’t exactly that tasty. We have Chef Dave, who has a way with beef. Apparently he used to work at a steakhouse, which explains this. Yet, our steak meals are few and far between due to budgeting to feed our chapter. According to our house director, this sometimes is a challenge because we like to eat. Correction, we like to eat A LOT. Unfortunately, this means most of our sides consist of things that are heated from the freezer and loaded with salt to save on cooking time. Just full of no nutritional value, really.

Also, this meal plan only includes lunch and dinner from Monday to Friday. Plus, dinner is served at 5:30 every night. Talk about learning early about the early bird special. So, sorority girls go bananas with their food choices on weekends, basically.

Since I’m a senior graduating at the end of the semester, this will be a blog devoted to experiencing Gainesville’s array of food establishments. Well, food establishments that fall within a student’s budget. Join me as I try to eat at new places before I have a diploma in hand and leave this college town.