GUEST POST: Mmm… mussels!!

Zena and her son Jack love to hit the road with their GPS and explore, especially if the destination is a tasty meal! They are currently on a quest to get to know Lancaster City better by finding local businesses or restaurants that offer flavorful kid-friendly foods (and desserts) that even parents would enjoy. They also hope that their food adventures will inspire other parents to expose their children to different kinds of foods from a variety of cultures. To find out more, go to https://www.facebook.com/livinlavidalocal.pintsizedfoodie.

Here is a special guest post from our friend Zena.

On a VERY breezy day, Jack and I made our way to Iron Hill Brewery for a celebratory lunch.  Jack had recently graduated from kindergarten and I had promised him that we would go out for mussels.  I wasn’t sure if Iron Hill still had them on their menu, but I knew they had a nice selection of seafood that Jack could choose from… just in case.  I know that many people may not think of Iron Hill Brewery as a family restaurant, but it can be.  The restaurant satisfies a variety of tastes and is a place where kids can feel comfortable and parents don’t have to worry about keeping them completely silent.  

As we walked up to the restaurant doors, I wished it wasn’t so windy out; it would have been nice to eat outside in the shade of the trees and under the black umbrellas.  Pushing through the wind to get inside, we were hit with a variety of aromas that immediately had Jack saying, “My stomach is grumbling, I am so hungry!”  At the hostess desk, we were greeted warmly by Jean, who gave me a choice of adult and children’s menus, regular or gluten-free.  Not only do they have, what I think is the best and most reasonably priced children’s menu, but to offer gluten-free options—that’s great!  Jack and I have friends who eat gluten–free, so this is definitely a place I can suggest we eat at together.  It’s so nice to have options!

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Looking at all the selections on the menu, I hoped that Jack didn’t inherit my habit of being indecisive.  I can’t help it, sometimes everything looks good!  I’m sure I can’t be the only one who feels that way… right?  Well, Jack must take after his father; it only took him a few seconds to read through about 18 entrée/sandwich options on the kids’ menu to decide on the fish and chips with steamed carrots. 

Now, the pressure was on.  Not only do they have an extensive menu, which is updated every six months, but they also have daily “Lunch Features.”  Yikes!  So many delicious choices, so little time – especially when your son’s stomach is talking back to you, literally.  Fortunately, Jack had decided to check out the features menu with me and saw the “Flat Iron Quesadillas.”  He quickly decided that I should order that dish because they had two of his favorite ingredients, exotic mushrooms and cheese.  I don’t often order beef, but I love quesadillas and the combination of ingredients sounded too good to pass up.  Funny, now my five year old is making decisions for me! 

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Next, we selected our appetizers.  Yes, I know, we are supposed to do this first, but it’s a quirky family tradition.  “Mom, they do have mussels!” Jack said excitedly, “Which kind should we order?” Oh, great, I thought, three different preparations!  Jack decided he wanted to try the Thai Prince Edward Island mussels with red curry, coconut sauce, cilantro and lime.  Sarah, our server, mentioned to Jack that the mussels had a little “kick” to them, but he still wanted to try them. 

When the mussels came out, I think both of our mouths started watering.  Jack couldn’t wait to dive right in. He was too quick for me; at least four mussels had been eaten before I had a chance to taste my first.  “The mussels are very soft and kids can just gobble them up!  There is a hint of spice (heat) with good flavor and little sweetness.” Jack said between chews.  He was right, the mussels were not chewy at all and with a squeeze of lime, the flavors in the broth were brought to life.  As I was basking in the warmth of the curry, I realized that Jack was actually using the bread to sop up the savory broth.  He never does that!  He likes to keep his bread “clean,” so I knew he was really enjoying his appetizer.  When his lips started burning, he didn’t want to stop eating.  Sarah came to the rescue suggesting a “secret” cure to Jack, wipe some blue cheese dressing on the lips and the burn will go away.

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Soon after we were done with our mussels, Sarah brought our entrées out.  For a kids’ meal, the serving was quite substantial, plenty of chips, carrots and a large piece of fish, that mom could “taste” a few times during the course of the meal.  Jack really enjoyed his dish, the “crust” was piping hot, yet the fish inside was flaky and moist, not over-fried or over-battered.

 After a few bites of his food, Jack started to gaze over at my plate.  I knew what was about to happen, so I quickly grabbed a quesadilla and started eating.  The toasty quesadillas were filled with two cheeses, blue cheese and Colby jack, with the mushrooms and pieces of steak scattered throughout.  I hope this dish makes it to their regular menu soon -- I think it could replace my favorite grilled cheese sandwich at another restaurant.  In case it doesn’t, Jack and I may have to experiment at home with this combination of ingredients!

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Our stomachs were almost full, but of course we had left a corner free for dessert.  Today, both of us were in the mood for ice cream and we wanted to try something new.  Jack chose “birthday cake” ice cream and I couldn’t resist the “malted bourbon pecan” ice cream on the lunch features menu.  After eating one creamy spoonful of my ice cream, I had a grin as big as Jack’s.  He seemed to be so amused by his ice cream, real layer cake with icing and sprinkles mixed in vanilla ice cream.  I know this flavor exists outside of Iron Hill, but it was sooo good and fun!  I think he will have to order this on our next visit --so we can both enjoy it!

As we were leaving, we saw many young adults, families, couples, and business people enjoying their meals and microbrews.  Jack said, “Mom, when are we coming back?  We have to try the other two kinds of mussels.”  Though we had thoroughly enjoyed our entrées and desserts, the mussels were the definitely the highlight of our meal.  Soon, my young foodie, very soon…

Also, for more Livin’ La Vida Local – with my pint-sized foodie, visit www.facebook.com/livinlavidalocal.pintsizedfoodie.

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