Thursday, September 17, 2009

Girls just wanna have lunch

I had a minor medical procedure last Friday, which has dampened my wine drinking a little, so I've been recovering at home this week. My mom came on Sunday to help take care of me as well as so Hubby would catch a break with cooking and housework during a crazy work week for him.

On Tuesday, I was finally ready to venture out of the the house, so we went to lunch at Duck's Cosmic Kitchen. This was a place I'd driven by frequently and had seen the sign for, but hadn't tried until Hubby and I recently stopped in for a quick breakfast. The menu, although short, has a good variety of "bistro fare" including sandwiches, pizzas, and "small plates." They also have a different soup daily as well as other specials. Mom got the special sandwich, which had raw vegetables and hummus. She deemed it to be very good. I had the California pizza, which has chicken, mozzarella, garlic, avocado, and tomatoes as well as tomato sauce. I thought the presentation of the avocado, one long slice per quarter-slice of pizza, was a little odd, but the flavors worked well together. I also had a "Cosmic Side Salad" with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, blue cheese, and vinaigrette. I thought it was a good bistro-style salad, and the mix of textures and balance of flavors were just right.

Duck's does have a short beer and wine list. The reds are heavily weighted toward California, but the whites show more variety, and they even offer a rose and small bottles of sparkling. Even better, they suggest food pairings for the wine.

Dessert looked wonderful, especially the bittersweet chocolate pie, but alas, that will have to wait for another time. We did bring home a donut for Hubby to have for breakfast the next morning, and he was very happy. I've had the chocolate chip and walnut scone, and it was fresh-baked and really good.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Nice and casual; maybe a little too casual for a business lunch
Food: Very Good
Wine list: Limited, but not bad
Wait staff: Excellent, very warm but not hovering
Desserts: Look very promising
Vegetarian friendly? Yes
Kid friendly? Maybe? It is Decatur, after all.
Would I go back? Definitely!

When Mom's in town, shopping is definitely on the to-do list, so yesterday we ventured to Perimeter Mall and Nordstrom to check out boots. I would prefer to not shop in a high-end department store, but I wear a 10 1/2, and that's the only place I've consistently found cute shoes in my size. I had heard good things about the Nordstrom Cafe on the third floor, so we went there for lunch.

The cafe is set up cafeteria-style with sandwich/panini, salad, and "special" sections. They also offer pizza, pasta, and desserts. They have Roma Tomato Basil Soup daily as well as a soup special. I had the Chicken Mozzarella Ciabatta, which has thinly sliced grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, balsamic glaze, spinach, and pesto aioli served on a parmesan ciabatta with chips. I also got a cup of the Roma Tomato Basil soup. The sandwich was very good once I distributed the meat from where it was concentrated in the middle to the whole sandwich. I didn't really taste the balsamic glaze, but everything else tasted fresh. The soup was a little creamy, but the tomato flavor was not overpowered, and it had a nice texture, like thick tomato sauce. I also liked the parmesan cheese toast that came with it.

Mom had the Blue Cheese & Pear Salad in an attempt to be healthy. Overall, it was good, although the dressing and the candied walnuts likely sabotaged her efforts. Also, the pears looked and tasted like apples. That's not a switch I would have expected, at least not without notification.

Dessert was, sad to say, disappointing. We split a Tiramisu, and it was not what we expected. If there was any amaretto at all, it was a tiny layer on the bottom. The creamy part was very sweet and tasted like vanilla pudding rather than mascarpone cheese. I had been worried about sharing a dessert with my mother because it has been known to lead to a battle for the last bite, but we each ended up taking a couple of bites and leaving the rest. That, my friends, qualifies as an epic dessert FAIL.

The other thing to know about Cafe Norstrom is that they have wait staff to help clear the tables, refill water, and bring to-go boxes. They will leave a little tray at the end with a couple of chocolate mint sticks so that you'll leave them a tip. There's no chance to do so ahead of time, even if you pay with a credit card.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Somewhat noisy
Food: Good, but watch out for sneaky substitutions
Wine list: Tiny
Wait staff: Good, attentive
Desserts: The Tiramisu was meh; the cake pieces look huge, but I'm wary now
Vegetarian friendly? Somewhat
Kid friendly? Yes
Would I go back? Maybe

Random note with intuitive ramble: The inspiration for the title of this blog post is from Weird Al Yankovic's 1985 album "Dare to be Stupid," on which he parodied Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Yes, I have the Weird Al album. My karaoke buddy Ms. Vegetarian and I did "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" to much acclaim one evening. Another song that was received well was Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Mary Travers died yesterday at age 72 from leukemia. She will be missed, and I'm grateful to my parents for exposing me and BabySis to the music from their generation.


Carl said...

I used to buy trays of Duck's fruit bars for parties (I'm particularly fond of the raspberry, but the apricot can also do just fine for me). On my last visit, Duck had created a dark chocolate peanut butter pie, which was just heaven. I couldn't thank her enough for it. Now I'm just holding out again for the lavender scones to return!

I enjoyed Café Nordstrom when that location opened in 1997 (and their Starbucks coffee was still a quarter on an honor system) but feel like the quality has gone steadily downhill. I attribute this at least partly to the restaurant never really seeming busy. I find that I always enjoy the setting more than the actual food and leave thinking I overpaid for very mediocre food. I may have finally trained myself to stop trying, but there's always the chance I'll give them the benefit of the doubt just one more time...

Cecilia Dominic said...

It was definitely busy when we were there yesterday. It's sad that it's not better because it reminded my mom of the European tradition of going shopping, then to lunch at the store.

If you go back, don't have the tiramisu. :)