September 7, 2010

Fairytale Feasts: Fire and Ice on Toby Creek

Nestled off of the Dallas Highway lies a quaint and cozy restaurant that is much deserving of recognition for its excellence.  Fire and Ice on Toby Creek is unique in every way to the Wyoming Valley. The atmosphere is welcoming and anything but stuffy. The decor dark, warm, and cozy. The staff patient, friendly and attentive. And most importantly, the food is fit for a fairytale.

The restaurant boasts a menu designed for every taste and budget. Kids even eat free on Mondays. (But foodie friends, don't stress. Your children won't be the only ones in for a treat!) There is also a soup and salad lunchtime buffet available. Chef Gary Edward's love for food shines through his creative menu selections, which are refreshingly solid yet adventurous. Each item is intricately described on the menu and it is evident that much thought was put into each ingredient constructing the dish. The menu is also diverse, offering different sized portions (pub plates or entrees) and a sampling different ethnic tastes. Try finding a restaurant that offers the popular German dish Weiner Sneitzel (pounded veal with breadcrumbs and spaetzle, or tiny dumplings/noodles) or a Sweet Bourbon Pork BBQ sandwich or and Eggplant Rollatini all on the same menu.

    At the 2010 Food and Wine Dinner, Chef Edwards discussed how he utilizes locally grown ingredients and changes his menu seasonally, allowing for fresh tasting food that is better for our local economy and our environment. (Learn more about Chef Edwards and co-owners the Fasula Family here.)  At this dinner, Chef Edwards also prepared a tender sampling of skate fish for each guest which I really hope will be featured on the menu sometime because was delicious and very difficult to find in this area! Until then, see the recipe here.

The restaurant's name "Fire and Ice" comes from its' fresh hearth-baked bread and iced plated salads. The hearth-baked bread is accompanied by Honey Thyme Butter and Roasted Garlic Hummus. The hearth baked bread is soft and doughy, and unlike any other bread baked in the entire Wyoming Valley.  I love the intense flavor of the rich and creamy but gritty Roasted Garlic Hummus so much that I have admittedly eaten it straight out of the small ramekin it is served in (and almost asked for an extra side to go). The bread and hummus alone are worth the trip!

One of the best components of a meal at Fire and Ice is its' signature Orange Cognac Salad - field greens tossed with organce cognac dressing, dried cranberries, candied walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese on an iced plate.  I have sampled the other salads at Fire Ice, including the Caesar Salad and the lunchtime Island Tropic Salad. Both were equally delicious but I would recommend trying the Orange Cognac if it is your first time there.

Several soup selections are available at Fire and Ice.  The traditional baked French Onion Soup topped with a crispy, creamy and oily Gruyere cheese was sinfully delish - a must have indulgence for anyone in need of a bowl of comfort. On one occasion, I had a cream of asparagus soup there which was as rich as the finest velvet and bursting with the fresh flavors of the asparagus.

One of the best things I had at Fire and Ice was a wintertime special: a risotto appetizer made of the traditional Italian Arborio rice, baby peas, shredded duck and bacon cracklings.  If this were a permanent fixture on the menu at Fire and Ice, I would order it regularly. (Please bring it back for your winter menu!) It was that perfect comforting blend of creamy, buttery goodness topped with tender pieces of shredded duck and bacon.

Another wintertime option was a tender, generous portion of a half chicken paillard stuffed with spinach and peppers over corkscrew pasta.

Notably, the Lobster Mac and Cheese at Fire and Ice (on their winter menu) is the best I've had ANYWHERE. (Yes, even better than the Mac and Cheese that I've tasted while living in NYC at Cafeteria, Chat n' Chew, and in Philadelphia at Continental.)  For $23.95, you get a king's portion of  corkscrew pasta baked into a creamy Gouda and Cheddar cheese sauce with jumbo chunks of REAL lobster meat.  The whole thing is topped with smoked bacon crumbs and fresh herbs. This dish really is a feast fit for a king or queen and should top the list of dishes you need to explore before you die.

Fire and Ice offers a nice selection of seafood, including the Seared Scallops Provencale.  These pan seared jumbo sea scallops are served over Gorgonzola orzo and garlic spinach with tomato, caper and Kalamata olive ragu.  It is topped with a balsamic glaze.  Never a big fan of warm, pungent Gorgonzola cheese, I had my reservations about this dish.  But after sampling it, I was relieved and pleased.  The flavors were perfectly balanced and the Gorgonzola did not overpower the scallops or orzo. My only complaint, which is a matter of personal taste, is the long dish it is served on. I've never been a fan of long plates for a hot meal. Where are you supposed to start eating, the right or the left? What do I do if I want to mix all my food together? But props to Fire and Ice for presenting the scallops in a trendy, creative and fun manner. 

Another option is the shrimp scampi, which is served with a side of angel hair pasta with eggplant, garlic spinach, tomatoes and a white wine sauce.  Because of the way it is served, there is a bit of a disconnect between the shrimp and the side of pasta and perhaps the shrimp should be served over the pasta.  But there is nothing stopping one from pouring it over it themselves.

If you're looking to order something on the healthier side, try the Hearth-Baked Cedar Planked Moroccan Salmon topped with fat-free cool cucumber sauce and served with jasmine rice and the chef's vegetables. (Here, I substituted the mixed greens for the rice.)

The lobster crab cakes are also a specialty at Fire & Ice. These are delicious but be warned that these are a little different than your typical crab cake.  They are filled with chunks of real lobster meat, but that they are a little bit creamy - if they are undercooked, the texture can be a little unappetizing. 

Notice the mixed roasted vegetables that accompany the food at Fire & Ice - roasted beets, broccolini, onions, peppers and beets. This is another nice little touch which sets this place apart from other restaurants - the vegetables are not from a can and real thought was put into their preparation. You won't leave your vegetables untouched here!

The Pork Tenderloin Tournedos were a tasteful hearty treat that I would absolutely order again. The pork seems to be ground and is wrapped in applewood smoked bacon and dressed in a sweet cider bourbon glaze. They are accompanied by cheddar and Boursin whipped potatoes and crispy onion strings. (Boursin cheese is a rich and creamy triple cream cheese that is made with pasteurized cow's milk.)

A new and recent addition to the menu is the Chicken Chausseur - sauteed chicken scallopini with a Forrest mushroom demi glace, oven dried tomatoes and tarragon butter.  It is served with Jasmine rice and vegetables.

Finally, one of the best dishes I've ever had at Fire and Ice was the Angus Center Cut Filet Mignon. On the menu, the red meat is listed as coming from the finest grain-fed cuts of Midwestern Beef. 
It was so juicy, so tender, so rich. The meat melted in my mouth. At $29 for this generous 8 oz. filet (including salad and your choice of sides), the price is right. Moreover, each of the steaks at Fire and Ice can be prepared in a variety of sauces: fresh herb burgundy au jus,  sauteed onion and mushroom demi glace, shallot and marsala demi glace, or whipped blue cheese butter.  For an additional charge, your steak can be served atop of a grilled portabello mushroom with gorgonzola cheese, balsamic onion marmalade and sweet marsala and onion demi glace.

The mini desserts at Fire and Ice are a can't miss as well. And since the come in a mini size for only $2-$3 each, it's hard to say no to them. On one occasion, I couldn't decide which dessert to chose from so the pastry chef sent both of them out and then personally came out to meet me. Here are a sampling of some of the treats we have enjoyed there.

Fire and Ice is located on 111 South Main St. in Trucksville, PA 18708.  It is open daily for lunch and dinner and also offers a twilight menu. For exact hours of operation and a full menu, please visit their website


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