Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: The Copperline Eatery

The Copperline Eatery of 409 Broadway St., Chicopee, Mass is, in my opinion, the best diner in I've ever been to. Now, I have to admit, I do have a personal connection to the place...Owner Glenn Chamberland is my uncle, and I worked there bussing and serving for over six years...but still, I've been to a lot of other diners in the area, and the food at the Copperline is by far the best diner food, and the least expensive, that I've found in the area. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the line to wait for a seat is usually out of both doors that lead into the restaurant. Most of those in line are regulars who get their "usual" every week, a sign that Copperline has two very important things in the restaurant business-quality and consistency.

The inside of the restaurant is small and cozy. There are nine four-person booths, six two-person booths, and one eight-person booth. The only other seating is at the counter, which, playing off the name, is made of real copper, and seats about 10 people on rotating bar stools. The restaurant has a friendly atmosphere, and all of the food is prepared right in the same room where the seating is. So, if you sit at the counter, you can watch as the chefs prepare your breakfast, lunch or dinner for you.

The Copperline is famous for two things. First, is their eggs Benedict, which consists of two poached eggs, served on English muffin halves, topped with Canadian bacon and homemade hollandaise sauce (you can substitute regular bacon or even ham for the Canadian bacon if you want). They finish it with a side of their signature home fries, which are hearty chunks of boiled and then grilled potatoes, seasoned with paprika and a few other secret ingredients. A sprinkling of parsley and the dish is complete, and although it's decadent, many customers come in more than one time a week just to have it, and they say that it's the best eggs Benedict in town.

The second item that they're known for is their homemade corned beef hash. It's a little bit spicy, with finely-shredded corned beef and pieces of potato, and it gets put on the grill and weighted so that the outside gets crispy and the inside stays soft. At $1.95 for a small and $3.25 for a large, it's full of bold flavor and if you're a fan of hash, you'll never go back to the canned stuff after you try this. Every time my family and friends go camping, we get a bucket of hash to take with us. The stuff lasts for days and there's never any leftovers-it's that good.

Another one of my favorite things about Copperline is the way in which the omelet selection is set up. All omelets come with a side of home fries and your choice of toast, and you can get whatever you want in your omelet for no extra charge. None of this "please choose one meat, one cheese and one vegetable" stuff. A two-egg omelet is $5.45 and a three-egg is $5.95 and it ends there. You can literally put every single item in your omelet for no extra charge-ask for an "everything". My recommendation, however, is a two-egg with egg whites, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and Swiss cheese. At $5.95, you can't go wrong. Add a side of rye toast or try their homemade whole wheat bread (for 50 cents extra) and you're good to go. It's light, yet filling, and pretty healthy too. They also have items like the Copperline special, which comes with three eggs, two pancakes or french toast, home fries, and toast all for just $5.50. The breakfast sandwiches are awesome. Try a bacon, egg, and American cheese on a water roll, which rings in at only $3.30.

But they don't just stop at breakfast. The Copperline also serves lunch Monday through Saturday, and dinner Monday through Thursday. They open at 6:00 am Monday through Saturday and at 7:00 am on Sundays. I've never been for dinner, and even though they have great lunch food too (I love the potato and cheese pierogi) I always find myself ordering breakfast whenever I can.

If you're looking for a great place to eat breakfast, it'd be in your best interest to go with what the locals say on this one, because there's a reason that so many people come back to the Copperline week after week for the same thing. The Copperline Eatery is a small, friendly, and very inexpensive place to get a flavorful and filling meal any day of the week.

*All of The Copperline Eatery's menus are available at their website listed above.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Pasta E Basta

Whenever I'm in the mood for a fresh, hearty pasta meal I head over to Pasta E Basta of 26 Main St. in Amherst, Mass. The quality and authentic flavors of the food created at Pasta E Basta are not something that has come from a jar. Everything on the menu is fresh and fairly priced, and the portions will keep you full for days. (I've actually gotten three days worth of lunches from just one meal.) The interior is very cute and cozy, and on weekends it can get pretty packed. Walking in, you immediately smell the aroma of fresh garlic sauteing in olive oil and you feel like you're in heaven. When I went, we were lucky enough to be sat in the upper level of the restaurant, which was less crowded and had windows which overlooked the entire center of Amherst and the lovely green common. Although the service was a little bit slow, it never affected the quality of our food...everything we were served was piping hot and well worth the wait.

Every meal at Pasta E Basta starts out with the complimentary bread basket. The bread is homemade and it is by far one of my favorite breads that I've had accompanying an Italian meal. They serve it warm with a garlic olive oil for dipping which has a little bit of heat behind it. The oil pairs wonderfully with the doughy, lightly salted bread. If you're not careful you can fill yourself up on the bread and oil's that good.

In my opinion, you can't go to an Italian restaurant and not order something "a la caprese". I happen to love fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella and they have an appetizer that's just that, drizzled with olive oil and served in layers on a plate. The best part about it is that everything is fresh and it's only $3.95 for a good-sized plate. This goes perfectly with the bread they give you, and, for me, it's the perfect way to start off the meal in a light way so that you can really indulge in your meal.

The best meal I've had at Pasta E Basta (and I've had a few) was the gnocchi with pesto cream sauce ($9.75). The sauce has a perfect balance between the cream base and the fresh and herbal pesto that it's mixed with. The starch from the potato gnocchi helps the sauce to really stick to the pasta and with a small garnish of a few sun dried tomato slices, it makes the perfect meal. If you'd like, try adding lightly caramelized onions to your plate to add another layer of flavor and a little bit of sweetness. The menu is set up so that all you have to do is pick your pasta and then pick your sauce and whatever other items you might want to add. The standard pastas like spaghetti, penne and fettuccini don't cost any extra, but for just $1.00 (and I highly recommend spending the extra dollar) you can choose from gnocchi, cheese tortellini, or cheese, salmon, pesto, shrimp, red pepper, vegetable, artichoke, porcini mushroom, or spinach and ricotta ravioli. My guest ordered the porcini mushroom ravioli with the blue cheese shitake sauce ($9.75). I have to say, although I am not a huge fan of blue cheese or mushrooms in large quantities, I actually didn't mind the dish. It was very pungent smelling, but it tasted earthy from the mushrooms, with a little bit of tangy kick from the blue cheese and was very creamy. The mushroom taste came more from the sauce than the ravioli themselves. You can expect to pay anywhere from $6.75 to $12.00 on a pasta meal, which will fill you up then, as well as many days later. Whenever I eat here, I usually can only eat about a third of the portion they bring me. The rest goes home in a doggy bag for lunch, dinner, or both over the next few days. They also offer hot and cold paninis, pizzas, and grill items such as fresh tuna, rosemary chicken, and salmon skewers.

If you're looking for a tasty Italian meal on a budget, look no further than Pasta E Basta. You'll be able to get several delicious meals out of one night out (the pasta always tastes even better the next day) and you won't have to break doing it.

*Pasta E Basta's menu is available on the Delivery Express website listed above. If you'd like, you can order their food to go as's just as good and they'll deliver right to your door for a small fee.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: The Sierra Grille

The Sierra Grille of 41 Strong Ave, Northampton, Mass, is by far one of the best restaurants in the city. It has a great atmopshere, with dark wood furniture, a great ambiance, with small votives on every table, and even better food. There truly is something for everyone on the menu. When I ate here, I was with a group of my friends celebrating another friend's birthday. It is one of her favorite spots as well, so it was an obvious choice. Now I should mention that all of these friends are also members of the professional modern dance company, Eclipse, which I am also a part of. Why should I mention this, you might wonder? Well, let's just say that the dinner we enjoyed was after a four hour dance rehearsal on a Saturday night, so we were a little bit hungry...enough said.

The great thing about the menu options at Sierra Grille is the fact that you are paying very (and I mean very) low prices for an incredibly high-quality product. One of the best ways to go is to start off with a sampling of any or all of their "Small Bites". Each of these are $2.00 to $3.00, which means that you can sample five different items for just $10, the same price that it'd cost you to get one appetizer at other restaurants. We started with the sourdough loaf, which is baked especailly for the Sierra Grille by The Old School Bakery in Northampton. The tangy and tender dough of the bread paired really well with another item from the "Small Bites" section, the whole roasted garlic cloves in olive oil, which were sweet and melted in your mouth. Other items on this list include sweet and salty vegetable crisps, which are flash fried, paper thin slices of beets, sweet potatoes and Yukon Golds as well as the olive and garlic tapenade and the spicy hummus. All of these are great ways to start off your meal, because they are little bites of food that pack a big flavor punch and are great for sharing.

Although you could easily make an appetizer out of one or many of the items listed above, the Sierra Grille also has an appetizer section on the menu. But unlike most restaurants that serve food of this quality, they start at a very low price of $4.00 and end at a still very low price of $6.00. These choices range from blegian fries and smoked chicken wings, to an assorted cheese plate with fresh fruit and crackers and even prawns with chocolate sauce, reminiscent of a classic mole. The girls and I tried to opt out of the appetizer, but the men at the table just had to get the fries. They are classic, twice-fried, and come with homemade catsup, aioli and, for a dollar extra, the Sierra Grille's infamous homemade duck gravy...The boys spent the extra dollar, the girls had to try "just one" and it was well worth it...we'll leave it at that.

They also offer four types of paninis, ranging from $6.00 to $8.00 which include a duck confit panini with goat cheese, arugula, spinach, carmelized onions, and a balsamic reduction for $8.00 which is to die for. The duck is succulet and rich and it pairs wonderfully with the creamy goat cheese, the peppery bite from the arugula and the sweetness from the onions. They also have a chicken breast panini with gruyere cheese and whole grain mustard. And the paninis are so cheap that you can even order one of their two salads to round out the meal. The garden salad rings in at only $5.00, while the spinach salad costs $7.00 and you can choose from either the balsamic vinaigrette, the lobster avocado vinaigrette, tahini ginger, or smoked cheddar ranch.

One of the best things that the Sierra Grille has to offer is the way in which they have their entree menu set up. We all know what it's like to go to a snooty restaurant and want to order something on the menu, but are turned away from said item because it comes with a sauce that you don't think you'll be crazy about and they just won't put the sauce on the side. Here, you will never have this problem. All entrees, which range from $10.00 to $18.00 come with your choice of grilled protein, served with your choice of sauce, and two sides. So, if you're a vegetarian, you can get the marinated grilled tempeh with grilled vegetable kabobs, royal basmati rice, and a thai hot basil coconut sauce all for $10.00. By the way-all of their vegetarian items are cooked on a separate grill. But, if you're looking for a meal with some meat, fish or seafood, try one of these two: the tuna with grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes, and the citrus salsa for $18.00, or the hanger steak with the patatoes au gratin and the ale, carmelized onion and mushroom sauce for $14.00. I tried the tuna, which was cooked to perfection, seared perfectly on the outside and rare on the inside, with the sweet and citrusy salsa that made for the perfect counterpart. In a nutshell, you can choose from one of nine proteins, two of nine sides, and one of eight sauces. This provides for a variety of options and allows you to really customize your meal so that it suits your dining personality to perfection.

The Sierra Grille is by undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in all of Northampton. The fact that they offer a variety of choices (from upscale bar food to the truly decadent and gourmet) at incredible prices in a quiet atmosphere is something that is hard to find.

*All of The Sierra Grille's menus are available at their website listed above.

School's Out for Summer

I know many of you might be thinking that I have been slacking in the new reviews department lately, and I know I have...I'm right there with ya! But, with it being the end of the semester, that means finals time, and for a journalism major...lots and lots of articles and writing. So, I'll admit. I have ben putting Take a Bite on the back burner, but have no fear! I had my last final today, and it is officially summer!!! Which means lots of time to blog and eat fresh fruit and veggies and do all of the things I love.

Yesterday, in the midst of my frantic studying, I decided to take a break. I have been wanting to plant an herb garden for quite some time now, and over the weekend I picked up all of the necessary items to finally follow through with it. I don't have much room in my backyard for an actual garden, so I decided that two very attractive coco-fiber planters in pretty decorative wrought iron baskets would be a good choice. I filled them up with organic soil and started planting. I went a little crazy in the basil department...I got seeds for your basic, everyday basil, for lemon basil, and an heirloom packet which included seeds for seven diferent types of the stuff! Needless to say I was very excited. So...the basil went in one pot, and the rosemary, chives, and cilantro in another. I watered them and hung them up and now, we'll see how it goes. I figure if all else fails, at least I'll have some darn good herbs to freshen up my summer creations.

And I have to admit...this morning, even though I knew that there wouldn't be even the slightest hint of a sprout, I went to check anyway. Ok, I said it...Now you know my little secret.

With that said...I'll keep you posted on how the herb growing goes and let you know where to eat out in Western Mass during this wonderful season.