2022 October 14, Friday
Don Collins, Staff Writer
My wife often smiles and wades through my honesty. It’s not a badge I always wear with honor. There are times when I must remember it’s okay to be “honest,” but not “brutally honest.” If you show me a picture of your baby, and you want my opinion, my tact matured to where I might not say your kid isn’t cute, but my face might give it away.
So, for what it may be worth, my first impressions of Chef Amore (Doug and Janelle Taylor) don’t require the word “brutally” to preface “honest.”
My wife and I believe Chef Amore offers “restaurant quality” Italian-themed food, served from a truck in Blair that rivals any we’ve had in a restaurant. Which, let’s keep things real, sounds like a tough sell: If I told you there was a truck, run by local folks, where you could get the same quality as you’d expect at a restaurant in Omaha, but, in the American Legion parking lot, well…
…You know what I mean.
Tonight, we shared a Chicken Parmesan sandwich, a Sausage and Peppers sandwich (I had bread on the side), an order of “House Chips,” and Janelle’s homemade chocolate cake.
If you read no further, write this down: The Chicken Parmesan sandwich is something you want NOW. The chicken was fried perfectly. The bun was exactly right. The seasonings were tasty. It was hot, with melted cheese that added fat and extra flavor. They add a big (no joke, BIG) piece of cooked basil, which I did not feel was needed – not a bad flavor, just not a well, flavor that did much for me (although my wife said it added something). Either way on the basil, if you like that sort of thing in place of lettuce, it’s a bonus. If not, it did not detract from the overall experience. The Chicken Parmesan was “five stars” of goodness.
The sausage and peppers reminded me of fare we had at LaFata’s in Omaha. I did not eat this with the bread that comes with it (trying to, you know, leave room for the cake). The sausage was not what I would call a traditional tasting “Italian” sausage. Seemed more Cajun than Italian. However, it was good. Again, hot, and well seasoned. The pepper mix included other vegetables (carrots come to mind) that were also well-cooked. If I had to give guidance on this dish it would be unfair without the bread added to make a complete assessment. What I will say is that I ate every bite except…
…except the pickled vegetables added on the side. I like pickled vegetables, just not hot and in my Italian sausage mix. To me, it’s like iced tea on your cheerios: I love them both, just not together. I must be clear that the pickled vegetables tasted fine, though. If I give the Chicken Parmesan a “Five Star” rating, I will go with “Four Stars” on the sausage and peppers.
The “House Chips” are interesting, to me, for three reasons: 1) They taste great, have nice crunch, and the portion size was just enough to compliment a sandwich. 2) They are homemade. And, 3) It’s just something I would not expect an “Italian” food experience to include. It may be that I’ve just missed out on the “chips with chicken parm” trend, OR Doug and Janelle are about to start it out of their truck here in Blair. Because, the “House Chips” are good enough to add to the side of just about whatever you would eat. “Five Stars” for them.
The cake was where I thought this whole thing might unravel. When Janelle looked at me and said she “made it herself,” I thought, “uh-oh, I’m about to enter ‘is my baby cute’ territory.” After our main courses were finished, I grabbed the box the cake was in, opened it, and saw something that looked like, well, again – for lack of a better comparison – a “restaurant style” piece of chocolate cake. The first bite told me I could relax, eat that thick, filling, perfectly-frosted chocolate goodness, and know when I write this review I can just give it what it deserves: “Five Stars.”
The downside with all these high points is, Doug and Janelle set the bar high – right out of the gate. Doug is the cook. Janelle is the pretty face at the window (who makes fantastic cake). Liem, their son, is the 14-year-old doing what mom and dad want (on a Friday night, no less, so congrats on that). I wonder, only, if the food quality would be as high on a night where lines might form in front of their truck.
Which, I suspect by this time next year could happen.
If what you want is “cheap” food (both in cost and quality), Chef Amore, will not be for you. The food is prepared, tastes, and is priced like a restaurant. Fazolis, this is not. If you like high-quality, and are willing to pay a fair price for it, Chef Amore is a great dinner experience.
For normal, hungry people in Blair, eager to support a top-notch offering, built and served by people who love food, Chef Amore is where you should visit the next evening they serve here in town.