spoon

On The Menu

Links

Comments (0) | Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Neat website (Scanwiches)

Cool website that lists deals for Boston area restaurants. (Hubeats)

NYTimes article on how the economy is affecting chefs. (NYtimes)

NYC sitcom map. (link)


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Chicago Wrap Up (Hot Dougs and Publican Review)

Comments (1) | Sunday, March 15, 2009

So we went to Chicago this past weekend for a friend's wedding. Not only did we get to play with two of my nieces, but we also pigged out. Seriously, I must have gained 15 pounds this weekend.

Hot Dougs

I'm slightly hesitant to like a Chicago Style Hot Dog. I like my hot dogs plain, from dirty hot water or on a grill with relish and mustard. Sometimes with saurerkraut. A Chicago style dog has everything on it, including a long pickle slice. Then I saw Bourdain go to Hot Dougs on his show and I knew I had to go there. Even my foodie sister and brother-in-law have not been there yet, mainly because they did not want to wait in the famously long line. Abby and I weren't to be turned away. We were willing to wait 2 hours or more for these famous dogs, not to mention the duck fat french fries. (Yes, I did say duck fat!) Just like when we went to Pink's in LA, we must have had the hot dog gods smiling on us, because the line was not that bad. We had to wait about 30 minutes from once we got into the line outside the restaurant to ordering the food from the owner, Doug Sohn, himself. (He was extremely nice and made it feel like it was an honor for him to be taking our order instead of the other way around. He did this with everyone in line and made sure he told everyone to have a good weekend.) We had two orders, one for us to eat right then and there, and the other to take home for my sisters and niece. Doug was kind enough to hold out on the other order until we were done eating to make sure it's nice and warm.

Our order consisted of: 1 Hot Doug with everything on it, including chili and cheese, 1 Hot Doug with everything on it, 1 corn dog, and 1 duck sausage with foie gras. Also one order of the duck fat french fries.







Let me say this off the bat: I am no longer a hater of Chicago styled hot dogs. Holy smokes were these things fan-freaking-tastic! The hot doug with everything on it and with chili and cheese was the greatest example of the perfect hot dog I have ever known and eaten. The hot dog had the perfect snap once you bit into it and all the condiments worked perfectly together. The chili could have been eaten on it's own with some bread or crackers. The pickle was a real pickle (unlike those New England ones I've been bitching about lately). The bright neon green relish tasted fresh and you knew did not come out of one of those plastic containers that you get at most hot dog stands. And the price! Starting at $1.75, this is a steal!

The corn dog was equally fantastic and delicious. I love corn dogs, and I think the best ones are the foot longs that you get at carnivals and state fairs. This corn dog lived up to those expectations. (However, there was one fault I will talk about in a bit.) The batter was so good, you probably could have made corn bread with it alone and had it with pulled pork. I had mustard and ketchup on the side, but I didn't need that much of either because the corn dog was perfect on it's own.

Now we get to the "gilding the lily" portion of our meal: The duck sausage with foie gras hot dog. Ok, the sausage was perfect on it's own, moist and tender with amazing flavors and the casing added that crunch one needs in a hot dog. The addition of the foie gras...well you don't necessarily have to have it, but you definitely won't complain that it's there. It melts perfectly in your mouth with every bite and the home made mustard that was put in the bun with the duck sausage was a marriage of unbelievable taste. I wish I could say more about this, but Abby only let me have two bites because she was so in love with it. If you go to Hot Doug's, please get this duck sausage and give it a try. This duck sausage should have it's own Michelin star (or 3).

The duck fat french fries stole our hearts when we saw it on the Bourdain show. And we had to get them. And while they were good, I honestly couldn't tell the difference between regular fries. There were some hints of duck flavor on some bites, but I guess I just assumed that the fries were going to taste like crispy duck skin. They weren't bad fries at all, actually they were really good. I just didn't see the magic of the duck fat.

Now onto my only complaint: The bottom of the corn dog. Any corn dog aficionado will tell you the greatest part of the corn dog is the little bit of batter at the end of the hot dog weiner that got fried onto the stick.




When done right, this little piece of heaven is sweet and crunchy. I have no idea what makes it so good, but for some reason most carnivals and state fair corn dogs do it perfectly. At Hot Doug's...well, it tasted just like the rest of the batter. Which was lovely and tasty on it's own, but for a true corn dog to be the perfect meat on a stick, it has to make this little part 1000% better than the rest of the corn dog.

As you can see, Hot Doug's did not disappoint at all. Our to-go order consisted of another order of duck fat fries, a corn dog for my niece and a Salma Hayek (spicy sausage) with chili and cheese. A drink each for Abby and me, and our total for it all was only $30!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Hot Doug's is a freaking steal and gets a 5 out of 5!

Hot Doug's on Urbanspoon

Publican

Describing our meal here at the grastropub of Paul Kahan (others are involved as well, I just happen to remember Paul's name the easiest) would be a difficult task. While all the plates ordered were hits, some were home runs while others just singles or doubles. Meaning we did not have a bad dish amongst the many that we ordered, but there were definitely some memorable ones that will have me drooling in Boston as I think about them whenever I get a pork craving.

First, let me talk about the service. Our server (the one that we had for dinner and not the one at the bar) was great. She was funny and enjoyed our stupid jokes. The bus boys refilled our water glasses constantly. Apologizing each time to reach over us to fill the glasses. The food runners brought out each dish with perfect knowledge of what was on the plates. Even during a mishap of bringing us mussels we did not order was fine. No harm, no foul. For this, I give the service a huge A+. However, I cannot forget the horribly slow service at the bar. While waiting for our table, we were 15 minutes early, we stood in the middle of the dining room at the "bar area" and waited for what seemed like forever to order and receive our drinks. In fact, our table was ready before our drinks were ever brought to us. The fact that we had to wait and close out our tab with the bar waiter before being seated seemed a little odd. Couldn't that waiter bring our beers over to our table and also the tap? I guess not. So we had to stand there knowing our table was ready and our beers were still not in our hands. To make matters worse, I see 4 glasses waiting patiently at the bar to be picked up while our waiter was chatting it up with friends or whoever not even acknowledging us. For this, service at Publican gets knocked down to a B-.

The layout of Publican is very different than what I was expecting. In my mind, I was thinking it was going to be like my favorite gastropub, The Spotted Pig. How wrong could I be. Located in what seems like the meat packaging district of Chicago, the restaurant is in a huge open space with large glass ball lights coming down from the ceiling every foot or so. There are large communal tables lining the entire central dining area, with a standing area for the bar patrons in the center of it all. Lined around it all along the wall are booths that have half doors on them. We were lucky enough to eat in one of these, though they were a bit confining and felt like veal pens. And just like veal, we were fed unbelievably well.

We were going to order the 1/2 suckling pig but were told that it was already sold out, Paul Kahan only having 2 pigs for the entire night and was just trying out the item on the menu. Seeing as we weren't the only ones scared off by the $75 price tag, it looks like Paul will more than likely have more in stock for next Friday night. We made up for the fact of no suckling pig by ordering basically the entire pig along with some other tasty bits. Our nice server mentioned that we had no vegetables ordered, but we told her we did order the pickles...

There was too much food, though we ate about 98% of all of it, to talk about, but I'll give a quick run down with the pics.



Oysters: The kumamatos were as good as always and the other oysters were good as well, but there was one type that was muddy and "tasted like poop" as my sister said.



Pickles: Our veggies for the evening...the cauliflower was surprisingly good.



Sardines: This was a great plate. I really like sardines and think they are underused at restaurants.



Spicy Pork Rinds: The single greatest reason to go to Publican! These were the greatest snacks ever. I love pork rinds and I have no hesitation to call these the greatest pork rings in all the known universe. We ordered 2 more of these as the night went on.





Bone Marrow: We were told we got the last order of bone marrow for the night. Not sure if this was true or not, if this was to make us feel better that we didn't get the suckling pig, either way, I'm so glad we got this. Bone marrow is sooooo freaking good! People, please do not be scared off by bone marrow, if you are then you are missing one of the greatest tasting parts of an animal. This bone marrow was buttery and spread onto the bread easily. Even the bread on this plate was unbelievably delicious.




Steak Tartare: Not the greatest steak tartare I've ever had, but not bad in the slightest. The fries were nothing special either.



Charcuterie: This plate consisted of head cheese, duck and foie gras terrine, pork pie, morteau, pickles and mustard. Some good like the pork pie and the mustard, but mainly just ok. The head cheese was surprisingly tastier than the terrine.



Pork Belly: If you don't get the pork rinds and the pork belly when you come to Publican, please remove yourself from the human race. It's dishes like these that I'm glad I'm not part of a religion or a family that has beliefs like "Do not eat pork" because a life without pork belly has got to be freaking tough.




Potee and Ham Chop: These dishes were good, but paled in comparison of the other dishes. Well done, but I just didn't find them as interesting or as tasty as the rest of the meal.



This was how our table looked at one point. We got dessert as well, some chocolate caramel thing that wasn't that great. It was suppose to come with olive oil gelato, but came with caramel ice cream instead. We did get to try to olive oil gelato...not that great.

Publican is a must try if you live in Chicago. Go get the pork rinds and pork belly for sure. There are tons of specialty beers too here, but the beer takes a big back seat to the food in my eyes. Overall, I give Publican a 4 out of 5. I'd go back just for the pork rinds alone. The service in the bar area needs some work though as well as the desserts.

Publican on Urbanspoon

All that food, from Hot Doug's to Publican, in one day. I've said this once if I've said it a million times: This is why we are fat.


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Pork Stir Fry and Steak Tips

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These were dinners taken last week, just been lazy about updating the blog.

I basically made Bo Luc Lac, but instead of beef we used pork. Turned out pretty good. Though next time I'll cut the pork into strips instead of cubes and maybe serve with noodles to make Bun Thit Nuong instead.

The steak tips were the same Newbridge Cafe steak tip recipe I've done before (marinating in coke and ketchup) and just served it over the leftover rice we had from the pork night.




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Texas Roadhouse (JP Review)

Comments (0) | Sunday, March 8, 2009

I'm totally losing all hip foodie points with some of our latest reviews. Applebee's and Texas Roadhouse? Not the latest inspirational spots of cuisines, but hey, sometimes you gotta go chain even if you don't wanna.

So it's a Sunday after mass and we have to go to Everett to go to Target and Michaels...I never said our lives were interesting. Our eating options are TGI Fridays, Panera Bread, Chuck E Cheese, or Texas Roadhouse. I think as nearly as badly of TGI Fridays as I do as Applebee's so that's out. We don't want to look like pedophiles, so Chuck E Cheese is out. I actually do like Panera Bread, but soup and sandwich wasn't going to cut it. Texas Roadhouse...a chain that we've had just as many decent meals as bad ones. Time to roll the dice once more.

We enter and are seated in the bar area immedietly. So that's nice, no wait. Peanut shells everywhere. Hey, that's ok, this is the type of place we are in. I'm ok with that. While the peanut shells are a well known advertised gimmick here, the automatic feeling that you are the thinnest, most in shape person in the whole restaurant isn't as well known. Things are larger in Texas, and at Texas Roadhouse so is the clientele. Kids who have to be 10 years or younger must have weighed more than Abby and myself combined. At least all the young waitstaff were thin, leading one to believe that they don't dine at the establishment that they work at. (The kicker to all this was the large group of high school cheerleaders that were having lunch at the same time as us. Now when you think high school cheerleaders, you think hot thin girls right? Ali Larter putting whip cream all over her body type of girls. I don't know what high school these girls were from, but their entire cheerleading squad comprised of the bottom of the pyramid type of girls. Things have changed since I've been in high school, and equal opportunity is really at work here.) Oh wait, I'm suppose to be talking about the food...sorry...I get distracted when things like cheerleaders are involved.



I have to admit it: the rolls here are consistently good. Very buttery and very moist. They are on the sweet side and are served with a cinnamon butter spread that some people love. I think they are good without the spread though.

The portions at Texas Roadhouse are incredible. Every meal gets 2 full sides. The prices are equally as incredible, with some steaks under $9.99. I get the country fried sirloin (chicken fried steak is what I call it) and Abby goes for something called the Roadkill.



We both start with a salad and I probably could have just had this for lunch. This is no small side salad. As far as salads go, it's a decent salad. If you went to any cafeteria and got a salad with egg and cheese and tomatoes, it'll probably come up basically the same. It's not great, but it's definitely not bad.




My chicken fried steak came with a cream gravy (though you could have gotten a brown gravy instead) and with a baked potato. Again, nothing great, but it wasn't bad at all. I mean, look at the size of the freaking thing! If this doesn't fill you up, then nothing will. I remember last time getting the same order and it being salty beyond belief, but this time it had all the right flavors and wasn't bad at all.



Abby's Roadkill came out to be basically a bun-less burger. She said it tasted good and her veggies weren't bad mainly because they were made with a lot of butter.



To add to the point that the portions at Texas Roadhouse are big, check out the size of that broccoli!

Texas Roadhouse isn't bad at all, as far as chains go. You definitely get your money's worth and during a time like now with our economy in the crapper, that's a big plus. I give Texas Roadhouse a 3 out of 5.




Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon


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Saturday Wrap Up, Tremont 647 (JP Review)

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Watchmen

We had a pretty good Saturday. First we went and got a quick snack (Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich for me, Goi Cuon for Abby) and headed to the Loews Theater near the Boston Commons to watch Watchmen. I read the graphic novel and rather enjoyed it, though I didn't think it was the greatest graphic novel of all time like so many people. (The Dark Knight Returns probably takes my #1 spot.) I am a fan of Alan Moore though, really enjoying his Top Ten series and how he portrayed the Joker in The Killing Joke. I believe that reading Watchmen after 9/11 skewed how I saw the epic-ness of the work. Had I read it prior to 9/11 maybe the scale of the inevitable nuclear war between the US and the USSR might have hit a little closer to home, but seeing as we have already faced such a huge tragedy in our real lives, the brooding "end-of-the-world" nature of the book didn't faze me much. I did love the characters, especially Rorshach and I can say that they could not have gotten a better actor to play him. Rorschach on the screen was the same Rorschach in the book. (Albeit, one of my complaints is that of the child killer scene...the book has Rorschach letting the killer decide if cutting off his own arm is worth saving his, the killer, own life. In the movie, Rorschach...well I don't want to get into spoilers, but he does something that seemed out of character to me.)

The movie was good, though I did find the book to be better. The actors were all good, and Zach Snyder can definitely make a pretty movie and he took a lot of the dialogue straight from the graphic novel. But I, like so many others, did not like the ending as much as the originally had it. I am a big fan of the giant squid. While the movie ending can just be as effective, it's been done before in so many other movies. (Spoiler alert!) Nuclear destruction of major cities has sooo been played out. A giant genetically created alien squid that destroys NYC...now that is cool!

As a big side note, why the hell did a bunch of parents bring their kids to this movie? There was no less than 4 groups of parents that brought their kids, all under 10 years old...hell, probably all under 8, to this R rated movie. I've read the book, and I'm sure the parents have read the book. They know of the nudity, the rape scene and the fact that this is Zach Snyder so there was going to be a lot (a lot!) of blood. It boggles my mind that these parents would bring their 3-6 year old kids, have them sit on their lap for 3 hours, and watch such a graphic movie. Not only is it annoying for the other viewers to hear their kids talk throughout the movie and complain that they want to go home, but there has to be some sort of study that says, "Parents, do not take your kids to movies that contain a lot of graphic violence and nudity!" Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I would never bring my kids to this type of movie.

Tremont 647

After the movie, we walked around Boston for a while, going from downtown x-ing to back bay. The weather was nice, though cloudy, and the tourists were out and about. God I forgot how much I hate tourists in Boston. Standing in middle of sidewalk with their goddamn maps out. I just want to scream, "Just follow the god damn red line you moron and walk!"

Anyway, we get hungry around 6, so we decide to walk home to the South End and along the way we decide to grab dinner at Tremont 647. We've been here before and had a decent meal. Friends and other reviews have said Tremont 647 is one of the few destinations during Restaurant Week that is actually a bargain too. Something we might have to check out one day. This time, we both just wanted a nice burger.

The menu states that there is a chef's tasting menu option for $45. This seems like a pretty good deal. We'll have to try this out one night. We both get the burger medium, but I get the fries and Abby (due to lent) gets the mashed potatoes. While we wait and sip on our drinks, we can see the open kitchen just right over our shoulder. It's a very small space for 6 chefs at one time. On the other side of the counter is a female chef doing the expediting, yelling out orders. ("I need two momos and a sashimi in 5." "Fire on 2 steaks now!") Some people may not like the fact that they can hear the kitchen conversation, but as a geeky foodie, I love it. I like seeing chefs/cooks work. It fascinates me. I guess the famous chef Andy Husbands is not there tonight since I assume he would be expediting, but seeing as I really don't know what he looks like he could have been one of the 6 chefs working in the small kitchen.



I hear our order get fired ("Two burgers medium, one with fries the other with mashed potatoes fire!") and get excited. I was really hungry at that point and made quick work of the cornbread that came in the bread basket. The cornbread was fantastic by the way. Very sweet and moist. There was also a thin, cracker type of bread in the basket that was tasty too, though there was no butter spread or anything like that to dip the breads into. Either they forgot to bring us butter, or there is none available for the breads.




Our burgers come, and they are cooked perfectly. Nice and juicy on a sesame seed bun. I was disappointed in the "pickle" though. It was sweet, not sour and tangy like a real pickle is. I've noticed that New England just does not do pickles correctly. People out here think if you dip a cucumber into pickling juice for 2 seconds, then it's a pickle...but it's not! Abby liked it though...damn her New England blood. The burger was good, but some bites were salty. The fries were really good fries. Crunchy and perfectly cooked. Not oily/greasy at all.

Overall, I like Tremont 647. I would really, really want this place to be the Spotted Pig of the South End, but it falls just a little short. It is however a place that I am surprised I do not go more often, given the proximity to our condo. I will come back one day to try the chef's tasting menu and maybe give Restaurant Week a try here too. I give Tremont 647 a 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

Tremont 647 on Urbanspoon

Sage

After our good dinner at Tremont 647, we wanted a nice nightcap. (It was only 7:45, but a nightcap all the same.) So we went to one of our favorite places for a drink, Sage. The food at Sage is great, but I love their bar and their bartenders, especially JP. We were totally underdressed, T-shirts and jeans, but we didn't care. I got a belvie and tonic and Abby got the JP Rum Punch, a concoction made by our bartender. After a couple more drinks each, it was time to go home. If you are in the South End and just want a drink or 4, go to Sage and you won't be disappointed.


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Flounder 2-Ways

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This being Lent season, and Abby giving up fried food and fast food meant that were weren't going out for McDonald's Filet o'Fish, so we cooked up our own fish at home. Last week we made salmon, this week we went with flounder. I actually meant to make catfish, but the Whole Foods I went to on my way home from work on Friday didn't have any catfish, so I settled for flounder. I made the flounder a couple of different ways, cajun blackened and lemon pepper. (Though in the pictures they look exactly the same...I probably should have wiped down the cast iron in between cooking, but I was lazy.)

The cajun blacked was made by combining a bunch of different spices (paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, etc) into a pie dish and completely covering the two flounder filets with the spices. Then to a nice and hot cast iron pan, I added a little oil and cooked the filets about 3 minutes each side. This causes a lot of smoke!

The lemon pepper was just as easy. In a mixing bowl, I added some EVOO and the juice of one large lemon and a lot of cracked black pepper. I let the filets sit in this marinade for 30 mins, then cooked it in the same manner as above.

Abby made a side of cous cous and we served it with a wedge of lemon. Turned out ok, but I think I should have broiled the lemon pepper one instead, and possibly could have breaded it. Flounder has decent flavors too, but I think I like catfish better.




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Links

Comments (0) | Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How about some links:

World's best street food - including Banh Mi! (Concierge.com)

Event to taste my neighborhood next Tuesday...sadly I have a basketball game so I won't be going. (aac.org)

Wine Riot - a wine tasting happening in my hood...this we might go to. (wineriot)

Best 80's cartoons with videos (Gunaxin.com)

16 restaurant industry secrets - one of them should be that Applebee's SUCK! (Men's Health)

I love Girl Scout Cookies (thin mints rule!) and I know I'll come off as a jerk, but this article made me laugh a little. (msn)

Random comic of how scooby doo episodes end (maneggs)


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Braised Short Ribs Recipe

Comments (0) | Sunday, March 1, 2009

Been having a hankering for some braised beef short ribs, and after scouring the web for some recipes, I was able to combine a few I found with my own little twists.

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs of Beef Short Ribs (cut flank style)
Salt
Flour
Pepper
Paprika
Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/2 cup of red wine
1 can of beef broth
2 medium onions

1. In a pie dish, put in the flour and paprika and montreal steak seasoning and mix
2. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and cover with the flour
3. Heat a large pan over high heat with a little olive oil
4. Brown both sides of the ribs (in batches and space them out), about 5 minutes
5. Take the ribs out and place in a slow cooker
6. To the pan, deglaze with the red wine and the beef broth and bring to a boil
7. Toss in the onions roughly chopped and reduce the liquid by a quarter or so
8. Pour the liquid over the ribs in the slow cooker and add enough water to cover completely
9. Let it cook for 5-6 hours
10. Take out the ribs and place in some foil and set aside
11. You can make a gravy out of the remaining liquid by straining out the fat/oil and adding in some flour to thicken.
12. Serve ribs over egg noodle or rice and add some grape tomatoes for contrast.




I don't think the photos does the ribs justice. They were falling off the bone tender, and melted in our mouths like butter.


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Applebees South Bay Review (Spoiler: It Sucked!)

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I didn't want to do a review of Applebees, ashamed that we actually dined here last Thursday night, but our experience was so bad that we had to let the public know.

As far as chains goes, Applebees is probably my least favorite. I have Red Robin and Chili's well ahead it. Let me also preface this review by saying we only went to Applebees because we had a plan to go to South Bay to pick up some DVDs that just came out and go to Stop and Shop for some groceries to make dinner, but I had to work late so by the time we got to South Bay, both of us were starving and we decided to settle for Applebees.

We've been to this Applebees once before and it was a horrible experience. Fool me once, shame on you...

So we sit at the bar area at some hightops and it takes us forever to make up our minds on what we want. That's our own fault. Finally I decided on the 9 oz steak with topped off baked potato, with instructions for the steak to be medium rare and the potato to not have sour cream. Abby got some herb chicken thing. And so we waited...and waited...and waited. Finally the waiter comes by and tells us that our meal is coming out shortly. This is a tactic I don't understand at all. If our food is coming out shortly, then just bring it out, don't tell us in advanced. I mean, is that suppose to make us feel better? All I know is we waited another 10 minutes and no food. Our waiter did come out to tell us that our dinner was being plated right now and should be out soon. I really wished he didn't tell me that, because it took nearly another 10 minutes before our food was being brought out. The gave me time to think that my steak was probably getting overcooked by sitting under the heatlamp. Sure enough, our food comes out and there's sour cream on my potato. (Oh yeah, the waiter didn't write down our order either, he was one of those "I'll remember it all" types.) I mention this and the runner said she can take it back. I'm so hungry, I really don't care. That's when I decided to check my steak, and sure enough, tougher than a boot's sole and well overdone. I tell her I ordered medium-rare and she said she'll have them refire a steak. Fine, I can live with that.

Again, we wait for what seems like forever. A 9oz steak cooked at medium-rare should take 8 minutes top. After 20 or so minutes, and two different people assuring me that my food was coming out soon, we decided we had enough and that we wanted to speak to the manager. He comes out and says that the steak is almost ready, but I tell him we just want to pay for Abby's meal and to leave. He tells me the steak will be free and we can take it to go, but I really don't want it. I tell him no and that we just want our check and want to leave. He says to not worry about the bill but if I wanted to leave a tip for the waiter that would be great. Normally I wouldn't leave squat, but I felt this time it wasn't the waiter's fault and leave him a couple of bucks.

Fool me twice, shame on me. It was our own fault to go to Applebees. We know their food suck and their service is just as bad. However, it shouldn't take an hour to get a medium rare steak out to a customer, not once, but twice. I give Applebees at South Bay a 0 out of 5.


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