Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Mourning of Pufferbelly and Wegmans
Joel and I get into Erie the next day and I was shocked. Erie was nothing like I expected. Do not ask me why, but I was expecting Erie to be a small town. It is not. Erie seemed like an odd mix of Long Island, Philidelphia, and Hinton, West Virginia all rolled into one. It really was not what I expected. Again, we asked our hotel for a recommendation on dinner and we were told, hands down, the Pufferbelly was the place to go.
The Pufferbelly is where the original fire station for Erie was located. It is a neat building and quite beautiful. We had called ahead and they were all booked but the lady had told us we could still come and if no table was available we could sit at the bar and eat. That worked for us, so we went. We get there and belly up to the bar, the bartender/waitress came over and we asked if we could get a menu , she told us a table was about to open up. She said if we wanted to get a drink at the bar she could seat us in a second. Outstanding! We ordered our drink and before we even got it she had us seated.
I had a martini, slightly dirty and a Joel had a Makers Mark and Coke. I am usually hesitant to order a martini out anymore. Typically if I say dirty, slightly dirty, barely dirty, (Donna, I swear stop it!) I get a drink that has as much olive juice as gin and I find it undrinkable. Considering in Richmond a martini will set you back anywhere from $10 to (as I found out at Can Can…grrr) $19 it is a bit too expensive for me to experiment. However, I really just wanted a martini and decided to take the plunge. It was the best martini I have ever had that my husband did not make for me. Whoohoo! We were off to a good start.
Joel and I order the muscles in a garlic wine sauce for a starter. I order the Dijon pork chops and Joel ordered a pasta with chicken in a sauce of fresh tomato and bacon. We get the muscles and there had to be 50, it was a huge serving. They were wonderful. Joel loved his pasta, which was full of a basil (yumm, and just a side note under $9) and I got two huge pork chops that were wonderful(and the best mashed potatoes).
To make the experience all the better we had the best server. Mary Ellen. She was outstanding, warm and funny and helpful. I was not surprised to find out that her and her husband owned the restaurant. Then before we left she gave us a list of other restaurants she recommended that we should try the next day. Sadly non of her recommendations were open the next day (it was a Monday).
So what do you think 4 top shelf drinks, one appetizer of mussels, one pasta entrée and one pork entrée plus a take home dessert, a beautiful setting and an outstanding server set us back? Under $65.
I really wish we had a place like Pufferbelly here. A place that I would tell offered dressy casual dinning, outstanding food, at a very affordable price. Sigh. So if you are ever in the area, go visit
So the other thing about Erie that leaves me feeling want is their grocery store, Wegmans. If you have a Wegmans near you, kiss someone, because it is the store I dream of. I get that very few people while on their first multi-day vacation in over 5 years would not think to peruse the local grocery store, but what can I say, that stuff kind of geeks me. When I walked into Wegmans I wanted to cry. It was like, I suspect many folks feel upon walking into the Louvre. I only saw about 15% of the store (it was HUGE) but this is what I noted. Their produce, was beautiful and inexpensive. Their organic prices were less then Krogers regular prices. They had a gynormous deli counter where you could bring a filet of fish and have it prepared to your specifications (are you kidding me??). They had fresh handmade sausages, even hot dogs. Their cheese… ohh , their cheese, they had an entire cold case that was just Blue cheese, an entire cold case that was just Spanish cheese… etc. etc. Their meats, their BUTCHER meat was cheap. Their pork tenderloins were $1.39 a pound, and fresh and gorgeous. Their freshly cut standing rib roast….$5.99/lb. What on earth?? People of Richmond, we are being robbed by our grocery stores. This store, in my opinion handily put Whole Paycheck to shame yet was priced less than Food Dog. WHAT ON EARTH. I feel like I uncovered a whole food conspiracy. The conspiracy to sell me inferior food for exorbitant prices.
Sadly I don’t think there is much I can do about it, except covet what Erie has… sigh. I feel a road trip coming on again.