Saturday, November 15, 2008

Judie's Restaurant - An Amherst Classic

If you live in the Pioneer Valley, you've probably heard of Judie's. It's an incredibly popular little restaurant in the heart of downtown Amherst serving warm, comforting, delicious and often innovative dishes. Judie's is especially well known for the HUGE popovers, as well as the delicious freshly made poppy seed dressing that accompanies most salads.

The decor at Judie's is part of what appeals to me about the restaurant. The walls are covered with beautiful art from a local artist, Donna Estabrooks.

Estabrooks' art is bright, colorful and inspiring and, in my opinion, brings a special warmth to Judie's.

Also somewhat unique to Judie's is that you'll often see Judie herself serving customers at the bar, checking tables or even offering suggestions to customers who seem stuck on making a choice from the menu.

In the last couple of years, Judie's has seen some big changes. They took over the space that was next door to them and expanded, adding a new seating area with a fireplace and beautiful handpainted tables, as well as an ample skylit bar.

The menu, however, has stayed pretty much the same, though there are always new specials to choose from. Today, Mr. valleywriter and I were both in the mood for popovers, so we each ordered one of the popover meals. Mr. valleywriter had the gumbo popover with chicken, chorizo and shrimp (sorry - no picture!) and I had the basil pesto chicken popover with spinach, mushrooms, zuchinni, peas and pasta shells in a pesto romano sauce:

As you can see, when I said the popovers were huge - I meant it! They're served warm with a side of apple butter and are always deliciously crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. This was the first time I'd had the basil pesto chicken popover and, as with all of my Judie's experiences, it did not disappoint. The pesto romano sauce was surprising light and refreshing. The zucchini, peas and mushrooms were all perfectly tender-crisp and the pasta was just right - nicely firm to the bite.

Mr. valleywriter's gumbo was also very good. It was well spiced, not too hot, just a little kick to let you know the heat is there. The chicken, chorizo and shrimp were all cooked just right - not at all rubbery or tough like some gumbos can get when they sit too long in the kitchen.

With the giant popovers and generous bowls of gumbo and basil chicken pesto, Mr. valleywriter and I were far too full to indulge in dessert today. But in good conscience, I can't *not* tell you about the incredible bananas foster we usually enjoy at Judie's. It's definitely a dessert for sharing. You get a big glass sundae dish filled with creamy, rich vanilla ice cream, sliced bananas and gooey foster sauce (butter, brown sugar, rum and spices), all topped with whipped cream and served with straws to make sure you get every last drop of gooey goodness from the bottom of the dish. To die for!

Every time we go to Judie's, we say we need to buy a popover pan so we can learn to make our own at home (Judie sells a cookbook with many of her recipes in it - including the popover recipe). But several years later, we still don't have a popover pan... I think maybe that's our subconsciences' way of ensuring we still have an excuse to visit Judie's and indulge :-)

1 comment:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I haven't been to Judie's in a really long time! It looks brand new! WOW! I remember those popovers though and I am glad to hear that they haven't changed!