On The Menu

Chicken Chili/Chicken Stew ?

Comments (0) | Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not really sure what to call this dish. Basically we had veggies leftover from the previous night and some frozen drumsticks. I seared the drumsticks and then took them out to rest. Then I quickly cooked some onions, shallots and garlic. Next, I put in a can of tomatoes and the leftover veggies along with a little chicken broth. Brought everything to a boil, then took put the drumsticks back in and covered and put in the oven for about 40 minutes. Turned out pretty good, but I probably could have seasoned it a little better. It's not quite a chili, so I guess it's just braised chicken with veggies. Whatever, it's super easy and a good cleaning out the fridge type of dish.

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Beer and Bacon Fest 2010

Comments (0) | Monday, April 26, 2010

Quick! What are your two favorite things? If you’re anything like me, those two things are BEER and BACON. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered eatBoston’s Beer and Bacon Festival! It started at 2 so at around 1:45 we walked over to the Trolley Barn and got into line. The line, btw, was ridic. Can’t say I’m surprised, who doesn’t love beer and bacon? We ended up getting into the barn around 2:30ish and by 3:45 the line had all but disappeared. So what to do first? Eat? Drink? We ended up drinking first because that was closest. We tried a tasty organic beer by Peak Organic and then made our way to Gaslight’s table for beignets dipped in mustard. SO tasty. Since we were in early enough, every table still had food. We tried pork belly BLTs, bacon with potato chips, and then my second favorite, chocolate covered bacon. Heaven. We made our way around and tried Fisherman’s beer from Gloucester, pork belly Viet syle from 51 Lincoln, beer from Moby D (“it’s just beer”), and then wandered around some more. We tried Myers and Chang’s “Banh Mi”.I wouldn’t consider it a banh mi, per se, but it was still very tasty and very spicy and the bread was right. This is where things begin to get fuzzy. I blame the Narragansett…We tasted these awesome steamed buns stuffed with egg, cheese, and bacon and topped with candied bacon. If I could eat these every day for breakfast I’d be a happy girl. I’d also, however, be the size of a house and probably die from cardiac arrest.
Next up, a giant line. What is this line? We have no idea, but since it’s long it has to be something good, right? We waited for an eternity…or at least after all the beers I’d had it felt that way. Seriously though, what are we going to eat? No one knows. And those walking by just keep saying, it’s totally worth it. We get to the line and it’s…RIBS! Scrumptious. I ate them in about 30 seconds all the while wishing I had more, but not wanting to wait in the line again.
We noticed Tiffani, the newest chef at Rocco, and Top Chef Season 1 finalist. I had heard she was the new chef and, to be honest, upon hearing it, I wasn’t that impressed. She was mean on that show and I wasn’t sure if her food could trump her attitude. Amazing what Bravo’s editing can make you believe. Anyway, so we see her table and try her bacon. It’s DELICIOUS and by far my favorite bacon of the night. It was perfectly cooked bacon, crispy with a bacon ranch horseradish (I think) aioli on top. We chatted with her for a bit and she was very pleasant. Now that niceness could be an act, but it was enough to make me want to at least try her cooking at Rocco.
We hung around a little bit more and ate and drank what was left. While standing there, we people watched and I found some of my favorite T-Shirts. The winners are:
3. A slab of bacon with a “Hello my name is Kevin” tag.
2. A hamburger with a voice bubble that says “I want to be inside you”
And then my favorite of the day:
1. Reelect Clay Davis – Maryland State Senate

While people watching, our attractive and hilarious friend Sarah laid eyes on a handsome chap. He was wearing a gray cardigan with a green and yellow design piping the button area. By the time she got up the courage to speak to him, he was gone! He was with a taller gentleman in, I believe, a blue shirt. If you are him, or know him, get in touch! You should meet my friend!

I definitely had a BLAST at BEER AND BACON Fest. I hope they have another one next year because I would definitely attend again! Thank you eatBoston for a great event!
I give it a 4.5 out of 5!


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"Beef Wellington"

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Dinner last night probably couldn't be truly considered a Beef Wellington because we didn't use pate or foie gras or mushroom duxelle, but it turned out pretty good. I substituted a spinach, cream cheese, and caramelized onion mixture instead. Turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Next time I'll follow Gordon Ramsay's recipe (found here) and wrap the beef with parma ham and let it sit while I roll out the dough. This would make it a much tighter package.

Recipe is as follows:

1. Sear your beef. I had a nice piece of Chataubriand left over from portioning the whole beef tenderloin that was just sitting in the freezer.

2. Take the beef out and let it rest.

3. Saute onions, garlic and shallots until nice and brown and caramelized.

4. Mix frozen spinach (thawed and drained) with cream cheese and onion mix.

5. Rub mustard over the beef.

6. Roll out the puff pastry.

7. Spread down a layer of the spinach mix over the puff pastry and lay the beef down in the center. Roll it up.

8. Score and egg wash the whole thing. Sprinkle with salt.

9. Cook 30 minutes in the oven at 400.

10. Take it out and let it rest for 8-10 minutes.

11. Cut into thick slices and enjoy.

Things I would have done differently:

1. Sprayed the aluminum foil with non-stick spay.
2. Used parma ham as stated above.

Otherwise this turned out pretty good for my first try.

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What To Order At A Vietnamese Restaurant

Comments (2) | Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ever been to a restaurant and you look at the menu and are completely terrified/confused at to what to order? Since you don't know what's good and are too afraid to just point to a table next to you and order what they are having, you end up ordering something that is familiar even though it might not be something the restaurant (or cuisine) is known for. I believe this happens a lot at Vietnamese restaurants, because I see items like Pad Thai and Chicken Fingers and Pork Fried Rice on menus. While it's not bad to order something just to be safe, don't you want to order something that the cooks in the back are more likely to make for themselves? Or maybe you are just curious about Vietnamese food and want to know what some good dishes are to order. Here's a little guide to help you along.


Probably the most popular item at any Vietnamese place. It's the greatest noodle soup ever, at least in my mind. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's simply just rice noodles in a chicken or beef broth with some onions and meat of your choice. Served with bean sprouts, mint leaves, lime, chili sauce and hoison sauce, it's the most personable meal in the world. No one eats their pho the same way as anyone else. You add whatever you want and slurp it down. (Don't be afraid to slurp, it's not considered rude. In fact, the more slurping the better.) For the meat, Pho Ga is simply Chicken Noodle Soup. Pho Bo is the beef version, but you can get different types of beef cuts. For example, Pho Tai is rare flank steak that is cut very thin. You can tell the quality of a Vietnamese restaurant by how rare the meat is when it comes out to your table. The broth is so hot that it cooks the meat when you mix it all up right before you eat it. The rarer it is, the better it is. If you don't like to see rare meat in your noodles, you can order Pho Chin which is well done beef. Bo Vien is beef meatball and you can have it alone in the pho or add it to any other Pho Bo choice. I normally do and I judge most restaurants by how many meatballs I get. For a $1 or $2 more per bowl, I like it if I have more than 4 pieces of Bo Vien. If you are feeling adventurous or just love various types of beef, get Pho Dac Biet, which basically is the kitchen sink in Pho Bo. You get tripe, tendon, flank, brisket, tripe and bo vien all in your bowl. This can also be called Xe Lua, which literally translates into "Large Train" in Vietnamese. This is the XL, or extra-large bowl size. If this little write up on Pho still confuses you, a better write up can be found here.


Of course, everyone has heard of Cha Gio (Egg Rolls). The Vietnamese version are normally smaller and thinner than the Chinese versions, but made in the same way. A filling of pork, mushrooms, rice noodles, carrots and other vegetables are placed inside a wrapper and rolled up and deep fried until crispy gold, brown and delicious. These are normally served with lettuce, pickled carrots and Nuoc Mam, fish sauce. I like to wrap the lettuce around the egg roll, add some of the pickled carrots and dip into the nuoc mam. If you are afraid of the nuoc mam (and I know it doesn't smell like the greatest thing in the world; be sure not to spill some on your clothes.) Just eat the egg roll plain or try the Goi Cuon (Spring Rolls) which are served with a peanut flavored dipping sauce. The spring rolls are shrimp and/or pork rolled into rice noodle wrappers with some lettuce, rice noodles and some mint.

Banh Xeo is a fried crepe dish that can be a meal for one person or an appetizer for multiple people. Shrimp, pork, bean sprouts are pan fried in a crepe batter and flipped over like an omelet. Similar to the egg rolls, lettuce and pickled carrots and nuoc mam are served with it and the banh xeo can be wrapped up and eaten with your hands.

Bun and Com (Rice)

I put bun and com into the same categories because they are served basically the same way, except one is in a bowl and the other is on a plate. Bun is rice noodles and com is rice. You can order Bun Thit Nuong, which has grilled meat (either chicken, pork or beef) served over the rice noodles that lies in a bed of veggies (carrots and lettuce mainly). A side bowl of nuoc mam comes with it that you can add however little or much you would like. Mix it all up and eat. I normally like to add a Cha Gio to my order, which means that the restaurant will add an egg roll that is cut up into 3 or 4 bite sized pieces and added to the bun. Com Thit Nuong is basically the same thing, except the meat is not cut up into smaller peices. So normally you'd get a grilled pork chop served over a bed of white rice.

Banh Hoi

Let's say you like both the Bun Thit Nuong and the Goi Cuon, but can't decide which one you want. Well, you can order the Banh Hoi. Basically, it's the Vietnamese version of fajitas. You get rice noodle wrappers, a bowl of hot water, a plate of cooked chicken or pork or shrimp, and some rice noodles and veggies. You dip the rice noodle wrapper into the hot water, lay it on your plate, add some meat and veggies and rice noodles and roll it all up. Dip it into some nuoc mam and you are all set. Very simple and a fun meal to order for a group of people to try it out. Remember, Vietnamese food is not fine cuisine dining. It's slurp, get messy, talk to your friends and enjoy your meal dining.

Family Style Options

Whenever I used to eat out with my family, my dad would order 4 or 5 different dishes and some white rice. This is a great way to try out different Vietnamese items and it again is a much more fun option than everyone having their own dish. Here are some of the dishes I love to order: Bo Luc Lac, cubes of beef sauteed in fish sauce, Canh Chua, a Vietnamese sour soup made with seafood and pineapple, Tom Rang Mua, fried shrimp (with head on of course) in a salty spicy covering, and Ca Kho To, fish cooked in a clay pot.

So there you have it. A quick little guide to ordering Vietnamese food. And don't stop at just the dishes I've listed, try whatever sounds good too, or ask your waiter what they think is good. Or, if you are still afraid to order something different, just got the Banh Mi. You can never go wrong with a good sandwich. (You do know what banh mi is, right?)

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Top Chef Masters II

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So of course I'm a big fan of Top Chef Masters. I loved the first season and was very happy that Rick Bayless (a dude originally from the Sooner state) beat out some great chefs to win it all. I'm also very happy that Bravo decided to do a second season. However, why do the magical elves feel the need to induce drama? I dunno, maybe I was in the minority, but damn wasn't I giddy over the fact that these best-of-the-best chefs were acting like long lost best friends? They were all smiling, joking around and just enjoying the competition. And were they ever into the competition, fighting for a charity they all believed in. This was very refreshing after the crap show that the regular Top Chef was becoming. All these cheftestants should take a look at how some real chefs treat each other with respect. Now that we have watched two episodes of the latest season of Masters, Bravo is trying their hardest to make these chefs reduce to the same level as their less experienced counterparts. By making these elite chefs work together is probably the easiest way to induce some drama and that is what they did. Luckily so far the most drama we've seen has come from Marcus Samuelsson admitting that he was too focused on his own dish to help out others. However, in the upcoming previews they show chefs bickering and yelling at each other just like in the regular Top Chef. Here's hoping that's just editing for a trailer and there's not much more that what we see in the future episode. I for one enjoy watching the best chefs at the top of their game actually being cordial and nice to each other.

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Home Cooking Vietnamese Style

Comments (0) | Saturday, April 17, 2010

One of my favorite dishes that my mom would make is Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef). We would eat this with rice and also with french fries. So good. I've made it a few times before and while it's turned out great, I've never been able to recreate my mom's dish. Food and Wine had a recipe from the Slanted Door and we tried it out one night. We used the side roast from the whole tenderloin I broke down a couple of weeks ago. Probably should have used one of the filets too, but I didn't realize how little beef I had until the end.

The next day I tried again to recreate one of my mom's best dishes, Ca Ri Ga (chicken curry). I've made this many times before and each time it turns out good, but not as good as my mom's. I just don't know what she does to make it so perfectly, but I really need to pick her brain on this.

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Latin Weekend Eats (Merengue and Heidi/Tony)

Comments (0) | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This past weekend definitely had a Latin flare.


Saturday night we didn't quite know what we wanted to eat, but we definitely wanted another "Cafe Cesaria experience". Something ethnic and delicious and not expensive. After searching all the usual websites, Abby found Merengue.

Located on Blue Hill Ave, a short 7 minute drive from our condo, we arrived to find easy street parking. (Crossing the street though wasn't as easy.) We entered in to find a bar area on the left and a dining area on the right. We get seated in a booth but are quickly asked to move to a smaller table because the entire booth was reserved. No biggie. The dining room is very colorful and there were plenty of people enjoying drinks and hanging out. This is definitely the type of place that it seems everyone there knew each other. (Sure enough, in the middle of our meal, a large group came in and the couple sitting next to us gave them all hugs and hellos and moved tables together so that they can eat together.)

The menu is big and with tons of options. Abby went with Filetillo (Steak Tips Cooked in Creole Sauce with Green Peppers, Red Peppers and Onion) and I went with Chuletas a la Jardinera (Fried Pork Chop Garden Style, Topped with Green Peppers, Red Peppers and Onion). We probably should have gotten the Mofongos, but completely forgot to order it. That was ok though because our sides (Spanish rice and white rice with beans) were plenty huge and both dishes came with a small salad too. We also ordered a drink that was very reasonably priced.

Our meals were fantastic. The pork, while a couple of bites were dry, was perfectly cooked with a nice crust. The white rice was plain, but I cut up the pork along with some of the peppers and onions and ate it all together. Very nice. The beans also were delicious. Abby's steak was in a nice tomato-y sauce and was perfectly cooked as well. I didn't think the Spanish rice was anything special, but she definitely did. Also, the portions for both were huge. This was a great dinner.

Merengue met all expectations and is a spot I'd come back to again. The service and the food was fantastic and well above average. The whole fish that our neighbor got looked amazing and I'd like to give that a try next time. The prices were also in the sweet spot, with most items around $10. I give Merengue a very, very strong 3 and 1/2 out of 5. (Probably bordering closer to a 4 than a 3.)

Merengue on Urbanspoon

Our good friends Heidi and Tony invited us over for dinner. This is what they cooked up:

As you can tell from Tony cutting her up, Lilo was very juicy and tender.

Heidi just sat there drinking a beer, not defending her "best friend".

For a starter, they had some homemade goat cheese rolled in some herbs. The condo is so big, we couldn't find the goat.

The "chicken" was indeed very tender and juicy. Rosemary and some other herbs and spices, quickly sauteed and served over a salad.

We also had apple pie and ice cream, but were told not to post the ugly looking pie even though it was very good. Having friends cook you dinner is always nice and will always make it on the blog.

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