Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Lenten Project, Week 3 (2 of 2)

Having finished my meal at St. Joan of Arc Church in Streetsboro, Ohio, I decided to take my time and take the scenic route to my second fish dinner destination of the evening in Mantua (oddly pronounced "man-a-way"). I had eaten a bit more at my first meal than I had originally intended and I needed some time for a decent amount of digestion to occur. As I drove across Route 303 and cut up Route 44, I soon found myself standing in front of the Knights of Columbus establishment located just north of the intersection of Route 82 and Route 44.

The center was technically located at 11845 State Route 44, Mantua, OH 44255 and can be reached at 330-274-2576. While there is no website specifically for this lodge, they are mentioned on the St. Joseph's website here. There was ample parking around the building, but be aware that the lot was fairly muddy when I went on Friday. You may want to drop your guests off at the front door before parking the car.

Here was a shot of the front of the building:

Once inside the front door I approached a small table where several women were filling out food orders and taking payments. I would've attempted to take a photo of the menu and prices, but there was no way to be inconspicuous about it. Fortunately, part of the menu is listed on the website link I provided above. Looking at the menu, two items immediately popped out at me. First, this was going to be the most expensive fish fry I had attended so far. Second, there was no fried fish, only baked. The Knights of Columbus (known as KoC from here on out) did have macaroni and cheese on the menu, but it was as a kids meal option. There was also no way to add a single pierog or a single piece of fish. Biting the bullet, I ordered the fish and pierogi combo and added a kids meal of macaroni and cheese.

Here was the meal ticket that was filled out for me:

Grand total? $12.50. Considering that this amount was 25-33% higher than the other places at which I had already eaten, I was hopeful that the quality would be commensurate with the price. After paying for my meal, I was escorted into the dining area where I choose a table with the best light possible. When I got there at 6:30 PM, the dining room was surprisingly only about one-third full. I had expected that there would be a larger crowd.

My server, a young woman in her early teens, came over and took my drink order, asked whether I wanted coleslaw or a garden salad and inquired as to whether I wanted to submit my food order. Apparently it was only after you give your server the meal ticket that your meal was prepared. I gave her my choices and handed her my ticket.

Soon, my coleslaw arrived:

The coleslaw was decent enough. I thought it was a bit too sweet for my taste, but it wasn't overly sweet. I thought about asking if it was homemade, but with my server's timidity, I felt like I might overwhelm the poor girl.

After a few more minutes, my dinner arrived at the table. Here was a shot of the fish and pierogi combination plate:

Clockwise from noon you have sour cream, tartar sauce, potato pierog covered in fried onions, canned green beans, sauerkraut pierog covered in fried onions and a single piece of baked fish. Let's work our way around the plate, shall we?

First up, the baked fish:

While I had assumed that the reason for no fried fish offering was due to health concerns, this baked version seemed to question that assumption. The coating was flavorful and the fish had a nice thickness to it, but it was a tad bit on the dry side. The fish also had a more pronounced flavor than the other versions I have had up until now. I don't think the fish was bad, per se, but it didn't come off as the freshest tasting piece of fish either.

Next up, the green beans:

Sadly, these tasted as bad as they smelled. When the plate was set down in front of me, the overwhelming smell from the beans invaded my sinus cavity and it overpowered every other smell on the plate. Out of dedication to my task at hand, I tasted the beans and found them to be every bit as bad as I had expected. Every dinner came with the beans, so it wasn't like I had the option of something else. I probably should've just asked my server to leave them off the plate. If canned green beans is your thing, then you'll definitely like this.

Next up were the pierogi:

Just like at St. Joan of Arc, the pierogi at KoC were fresh and homemade. Instead of being boiled like they had been at other events, at KoC they were pan-fried. The dried, slightly bubbly dough on the sides gave me my first clue. However, it was when I flipped one of them over,

that you could definitely tell that these babies had been pan-fried and not boiled. Despite being fried, the dough was still very tender and delicious. The fillings, potato and cheese in one and sauerkraut in the other, were seasoned well and very flavorful. A different, but equally excellent version to the one I had eaten earlier in the evening. The size of these pierogi was also closer to what I usually think of as a proper portion.

The final items on the combo platter were the condiments:

To the left was a rather nice tartar sauce and to the right was simply sour cream for the pierogi. The tartar sauce felt homemade. If it wasn't, at the very least, it felt like it had been doctored up. It paired well with the baked fish and the sweet and acidic flavors from the ingredients helped to pare down the stronger flavor of the fish.

Along with my combo platter, I unexpectedly received a kids macaroni and cheese platter, too:

I had assumed that it was only going to be a side dish of macaroni and cheese. Apparently, French fries come with that, too. The French fries were decent enough and I think any child would probably approve and eat these. Sadly, there was no ketchup available on the table and by the time I got around to eating these fried potato sticks, I was too full to care.

Here was a close-up of the macaroni and cheese:

This was clearly homemade and the pasta had been sauced quite nicely. It was creamy and cheesy without being soupy. Unfortunately, the texture of the pasta was slightly off-putting as it had been cooked too long. While it wasn't quite as bad as the version I had been served at Duffy's a week prior, it was only about one step away from reaching that quality.

I managed to try everything on both plates before I asked my server for a large take-home container. I left the green beans and took everything else home with me. In the end, I walked out of the KoC with more than a pound of food which made a filling late breakfast on Saturday morning.

When I was standing in the foyer placing my order, I had noticed that every dinner also came with dessert. Expecting that it would be something simple, like the cookie at St. Joan of Arc, when a woman baring a large cafeteria tray approached my table, I was a bit shocked:

This tray might be one of the reasons why a fish and pierogi combination dinner was $11.50. I'm not a huge dessert person, but I figured since I had already paid for it, I might as well choose something. After listening to her description of my choices, I settled on the pumpkin roll:

I'm not exactly sure where the pumpkin was, the cake or the filling. Either way, I couldn't really detect it. What this did taste like, however, was a spice cake that had a vanilla creme cheese filling. The outer layer of the roll was a bit stale, but overall it was a decent piece of cake. It should be noted that a fresh fruit cup was also available on the dessert tray, in case you wanted to keep it a little healthier.

Do I think that the extra cost was justified by what I received tonight for dinner number two? Other than the excellent pierogi, the rest of the meal had been about average, with a thumbs down on the texture of the macaroni and cheese. The addition of the dessert tray was nice, but when I go to a fish fry, I'm not usually looking at places that have the most dessert options. While the KoC in Mantua was not a bad experience, it was clear that it wasn't my favorite either. So far, St. Joan of Arc holds the overall title.


bonnjill said...

Sadly, I am going to out myself here as a fan of canned green beans. I blame my school lunch upbringing. My mother certainly never served them... You can throw a can of beans at me the next time you see me. :-)

And hey, at least they served a vegetable. Most fish fries are just carbs, carbs and more carbs.

Tino said...

@Bonnjill: Doesn't coleslaw count as a vegetable? :-)

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