Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Lenten Project, Week 4 (1 of 2)

Originally, this week's fish fry visit was to be at just one location, Our Lady of Grace in Hinckley, Ohio. Because of the massive snow storm that hit the Akron area just two weeks ago, I had to try and reposition the two fish fries I wanted to hit that day for an alternate Friday. Since one of those dinners was actually a lunchtime fish fry at the Peninsula United Methodist Church, I easily moved that one to this week's docket. Given that today was a beautiful and warm day, I happily headed up Route 8 until I reached Route 303 and drove west until I reached downtown Peninsula.

The Peninsula United Methodist Church was located at 1575 Main Street, Peninsula, OH and can be reached at 330-657-2567. Unfortunately, there was no website associated with this exact parish at the time of this writing. Parking was either on the street or in a lot at the rear of the church.

After parking and getting out of my car I decided to take a shot of the front of the church:

The lunches and dinners are very clearly advertised. What wasn't so well advertised was where the entrance to the fish fry was. I actually ended up going into the kitchen instead of the real entrance. The real entrance was on the left side of the church and looked like this:

Very clearly marked, no? The door at the top of the stairs was the entrance into the small room where long tables had been set up and paper placemats arranged at every seat. As with most of the fish fries I've been to so far, there was a small desk sitting by a menu where you placed and paid for your order.

Here was a shot of the menu on the wall:

At $7.50, this was the cheapest fish fry I have attended, but then again, macaroni and cheese wasn't being offered which would've driven the price up slightly. I would say that the cost was very much inline with most of the others. What surprised me was the sheer number of available pierogi from which one could choose: Potato and cheese; potato and onion; potato, cheese, and bacon; sauerkraut; yam and walnut; apple pie; apricot; and prune. Wow! And all homemade, no less. Deciding I'd stick with the savory over the sweet, I ordered the combination platter which would give me my choice of two pierogi and one piece of fish, baked or fried; I chose fried.

After paying for my order, the woman behind the desk told me to help myself to a roll and condiments. I selected a table near a window and snapped a photograph of my spoils:

Rolls and pats of butter had been individually portioned out into small plastic bags. I wasn't crazy about the commercial tartar sauce, but I could live with it. I thought about eating my roll and butter while I waited for my lunch to arrive, but I'm glad I didn't. Within about ten minutes, my first plate arrived at the table:

I now had two rolls, two pats of butter, two sour creams, and two tartar sauce packets. I went ahead and returned the originals back to the baskets up front. I'm sure you'll also notice, gentle reader, that something was missing from the above plate. The woman who brought this out to me told me that the fried fish would be out shortly. I decided to go ahead eat what was in front of me while I waited for my fish since the pierogi were hot and I that was the way I wanted to experience them.

The applesauce was sweetened and had cinnamon added to it. While I don't mind the addition of the cinnamon, I prefer my applesauce unsweetened. Fortunately, this one wasn't too sweet, so it didn't offend. The roll was of the standard restaurant dinner variety. The pat of butter had clearly been out of refrigeration for a while as the butter was easily spreadable. The coleslaw had a bit of an acidic zing to it which was nice, but given the very even cut of the vegetables in the slaw, this clearly was not homemade.

It turned out that the only item on my plate that was homemade today were the pierogi:

Swimming in a pool of melted butter and topped with fried onions, both of my pierogi were quite delicious. The casing was tender and the filling in each was seasoned quite well. While I questioned the provenance of the potato and cheese pierogi at first (the one on the left) because it kind of had that perfectly shaped appearance, one bite of the filling and I knew that this had not come from a machine. The potato hadn't been mashed completely smooth, so there were still small nuggets of cooked potato that gave this a wonderful texture. The sauerkraut-filled pierogi was equally good, although the casing tended to fall apart just a bit too easily. This made it harder to get a nice bite of filling and casing at the same time.

Here was a side shot of the potato and cheese pierogi:

After finishing my pierogi and most of my tray full of food, the same woman who had run my food out of the kitchen the first time returned with a small plate of fried fish:

Normally the combination plate was two pierogi and one piece of fish. Because I had waited for the fish, she brought me an extra piece for my trouble. I kind of wish she hadn't. It turned out that the fried fish was a frozen breaded cod that came from Gordon Food Services (GFS). While the fish had been fried correctly, the coating was so hard that I needed to employ my plastic knife in order to even cut it. Even with the knife, it didn't prevent the fish inside and the coating outside to split apart because of the force required to portion the fish into bite sized pieces.

Here was a shot of the interior of the fillet on the left:

The fillet on the left was the thinner of the two and was therefore drier. While the fish by itself was decent, the breading had a very strange flavor that completely overpowered the delicate flavor of the cod. I tried a bite of fish with some of the tartar sauce, but unfortunately, all I could then taste was the overly sweet pickle relish-laden tartar sauce. Texturally the fish was fine, but between the odd flavor of the crust and the somewhat dried out fillet I received, I think I'd recommend passing on the fried fish.

The pierogi, however, were definitely worth the drive. Between the tender casings, the clearly homemade fillings, and the sheer variety available, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend just going for an all pierogi dinner (which gets you four pierogi, by the way). I arrived today at 11:15 AM to find myself the only person dining at the church. By the time I left, thirty minutes later, there were probably about eight other people sitting and waiting for food. Apparently they do a lot of takeout during lunch hours and the dining room is much busier for the evening fish fry.

Starting with this post and continuing for the remainder, at the end of each review, I'm going to give my rankings from best overall to worst overall as well as an individual grade for each of the major elements on the plate (Fish, Mac & Cheese, and Pierogi).

1. St. Joan of Arc (Streetsboro): Fish, B; Mac & Cheese, A; Pierogi, A
2. Our Lady of Peace (Canton): Fish, A; Mac & Cheese, C; Pierogi, C
3. United Methodist Church (Peninsula): Fish, C+; Pierogi, B
4. Knights of Columbus (Mantua): Fish, C; Mac & Cheese, C-; Pierogi, A
5. Duffy's Restaurant (Akron): Fish, C-; Mac & Cheese, F

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