Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Lenten Project, Week 3 (1 of 2)

After my quite disappointing visit to Duffy's Restaurant for Week 2 of The Lenten Project, I was eager to once again return to churches and clubs for my weekly fish and pierogi fix. Tonight was to be the first "double dinner" where I ate an early meal at one establishment and a late meal at the other. While I had originally planned to write up both meals in one entry, I realized that given the number of pictures I took at both places, separate entries might be better than one REALLY long lone entry. Thus, gentle reader, you'll get this entry today plus a bonus entry tomorrow.

The first dinner of the evening was to take place at St. Joan of Arc Church located at 8894 State Route 14, Streetsboro, OH 44241 and can be reached at 330-626-2446. Their website can be located here. After turning into the driveway off of Rt. 14, I followed the road to the rear structure of the property. This was the building where the fish fry was being held; entrance was in the rear of the building. There was plenty of parking around the actual building itself.

After walking in, I noticed that the menu was posted on the wall:

Looking over my options, it became apparent that the most cost efficient way to try the fish, pierogi, and macaroni and cheese was to purchase an adult macaroni and cheese dinner and add a side of fish and a side of pierogi. I placed my order, paid my $9 and received several colored paper tickets, each representing bits of the food I had just ordered. I placed these on my kitchen cafeteria tray, and as I walked down the service line, each person working their respective chaffing dish knew exactly how to plate my food. At the end of the line, the worker portioning out coleslaw took the tickets from my tray. I took my tray over to a well-lit, sunny table and started snapping photos.

First up was a picture of the entire tray:

My initial thought was that you get a LOT of food for $9. Keeping in mind I had another meal to eat, I tried not to finish all of this food, but somehow by the time I stopped eating, it was almost completely gone. You'll find out why in just a minute. Each of the dinners comes with rolls, butter, coleslaw, apple sauce, and your choice of a cookie. While there was an area just outside the ordering table where you could get something other than water to drink, each of the cafeteria-style benches had pitchers of ice water and plastic cups that were available free of charge. I opted for the free water.

All right, let's dig in. First, the fried fish:

I was a little worried when I saw this fish as it appeared to be on the small side. I was also a little worried because the fish was being served out of a covered chaffing dish, a vessel not known for its ability to keep fried foods crispy. However, I needn't have worried on either account. The fish was perfectly fried and the ratio of meat to crust was nearly perfect. The fish had a nice thickness to it, not as thick as the version I had eaten at Our Lady of Peace, but still tender and meaty. While not dried out, St. Joan of Arc's version wasn't quite up to the juiciness that had been the high note at Our Lady of Peace. All in all, though, this was definitely a nice piece of fish.

Next up was the pierogi:

There were two varieties of pierogi available today, potato and cheese and broccoli and cheese. I opted for the potato and cheese with fried onions on top. After the rather mediocre Mrs. T's-style pierogi I had experienced at Our Lady of Peace, I was thrilled to find that not only were these pierogi homemade, but they were MASSIVE. One of St. Joan of Arc's pierogi could easily be equivalent to three or four Mrs. T's pierogi. After eating my way through half of the pierogi, I took a side shot:

Filled to the absolute walls with soft mashed potatoes and wonderful cheddar cheese, these were truly a culinary delight. They had been boiled for service, so the outer wrapper was soft and pliable. Combined with some of the sour cream and sauteed onions, this was a very, very comforting flavor. By far, this was the best pierogi so far in my adventure.

Now on to the macaroni and cheese:

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have another solid winner. It was clearly homemade and the creamy cheesiness of the sauce and the texture of the elbow macaroni were perfect. I could've eaten a big old bowl of this and been one happy camper. There was nothing fancy shmancy about this macaroni and cheese, but it was executed very, very well. In fact, St. Joan of Arc's version may be as good as the best versions I've ever had in a restaurant.

Finally, the lonely cups at the top of the tray:

To the left, apple sauce. To the right, coleslaw. The apple sauce tasted of regular store bought apple sauce. The provenance of the coleslaw was more questionable as it tasted like it was homemade. The flavor didn't stand out in any particular way, but it was a decent coleslaw by any standard. Although I didn't take a picture of it directly, the tartar sauce being served was a pre-packaged variety and tasted like a combination between regular tartar sauce and the Honey Mustard dipping sauce from Wendy's. I checked the ingredients on the package and while mustard wasn't listed as an ingredients, surely something in the "spice blend" category may have had this in it. Honestly, I didn't even use the tartar sauce all that much because of how well fried and how tasty the fish was all on its own.

The dinner roll and cookie were pretty average. Both tasted store bought and as such, didn't particularly inspire my taste buds. That being said, St. Joan of Arc's Church really delivered the goods tonight at their fish fry. The fish was very good and both the pierogi and macaroni and cheese were excellent. And at $9, this was a meal I would pay for again and again. The bar has been set very high and I wonder if anyone else will be able to do better.

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