Saturday, December 31, 2011

The only thing Harvard has over Michigan...

    I attended the University of Michigan in the beautiful Ann Arbor, Michigan for undergrad.  I absolutely loved it there and think it's one of the best places on Earth.  They have a great burger joint there called "Blimpie Burger".  For you food network feens, it's been featured on a few of their shows.  They make amazing burgers and have always been on the top of my list.  But... dare I say... Harvard has a place that could give Blimpie's a run for their money.  My fellow carnivores, may I present (drum roll please) "Mr. Bartley's"!

  This place is known across the country for their burgers.  They have been voted "Best Burger" in tons of magazines and newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and featured on shows like "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives".  They have a huge selection of burgers and all with funny names like "The Newt Gingrich" and "The Jersey Shore".  I went with "The Scott Brown (what the truck)". It comes with bacon, American cheese (I had mine with Chedder instead), grilled onions, jalapenos, & french fries.

  As you can see, it was overflowing with deliciousness!  It was amazing.  The burger itself was huge and so juicy.  The bacon was thick cut but still crispy, just the way I like it.  The onions were buttery and tender, adding that great sweet onion taste and the jalapenos were crunchy and spicy.  I gotta have some crunch on my burger and I usually stick to pickles, but the jalapenos made the perfect finishing crunch and kick.  This was the kind of burger that has things pouring out of it with each bite, but isn't eating all the drippings from the plate the best way to finish a burger?!  This burger was pretty much perfect.  The complete package.  Oh... and the fries were great too.  :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

When the moon hits your eye...

    When you think Italian food, you think pizza.  Even if they didn't originate it, they certainly make mean pizza.  "Regina's Pizza" in the North End lives up to our stereotype and exceeds our expectations. 

    My friend Katie, who lived in Boston for 4 years, guided me through the winding back roads of the North End of Boston to Regina's Pizza.  This is a no frills, pizza is the only thing on the menu kind of pizza joint.  There were pictures covering every wall of historic pictures of the North End and famous people who have eaten at the famous Regina's.  Katie and I looked at the menu and could not decide between all the fabulous looking pizzas.  So we decided to make our own.  We had ours with caramelized onions, basil and pepperoni. 

    It was great!  Definitely some of the best pizza I've ever had.  I think the secret behind this great pizza is all in the sauce.  It was a sweet sauce that was bursting with flavor.  You could taste the fresh tomatoes that it was made from.  It was a smooth sauce, no chunks of tomato or anything, but not watery in the slightest.  It was perfect.  The toppings all tasted great and the crust was a nice, thin crust with just enough crunch and just enough dough.  Katie and I were using our crust to sop up every last bit of sauce and spice left on the pan.  This was such a pizza success and made me excited for Chicago deep dish on our next tour stop. :)    

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cannoli Challenge!

   In the North End, I was told about two places I had to try for their famous cannolis.  One was the legendary "Mike's Pastries" and the other is a smaller shop called "Modern Pastry".  They are the same block and both boast having the "best cannolis in town", so they are pretty much asking for a challenge.  I felt that I was up to that challenge and put these two cannolis to the test.

  First was Modern Pastry.  It's a small and cozy shop with a small display case where everything looked amazing.  It is cash only and run by a few people alternating between the kitchen and the counter.  They offer the five classic varieties of filling for their cannolis, and fill the shell right when you order.  I ordered a chocolate dipped shell and stuck with the classic ricotta filling.
    It was delicious!  The filling was nice and light, not too sweet, and had a great custardy texture.  The shell was crispy but still light.  This cannoli reminded me of ones I had while in Italy.  Simple and light, but has great flavor and a nice, creamy texture for the filling.  It was also the regular size for a cannoli, so a very manageable dessert for one.  I very much enjoyed this cannoli. 

  We were then on to Mike's Pastry.  The atmosphere could not be more different from Modern.  Mike's is big, with about 20 different flavors of cannolis.  There are workers everywhere behind the giant counter taking orders like a cattle call and boxing up cannolis in record time.  Also, the cannolis at Mike's are HUGE.  Easily double the size of Modern's cannolis.  About the only thing these two places have in common is the street they share. 

    I ordered the chocolate mouse cannoli.  It was also very delicious.  The mouse was extremely creamy, and oozing out the other side with each bite.  It had a great texture and chocolate flavor and was heavier than Modern's filling.  The cannoli shell was also heavier and thicker than Modern's but still crunchy and sweet.  I also loved the chocolate chips on the outside.  The added a nice bite to all the creamy mouse filling.  I would definitely recommend splitting one of these monsters because they are very good but a little too big for just one person.

    Both cannolis were amazing.  I think if you are looking for a more traditional and super fresh taste, Modern is the way to go.  But if your looking for fun and interesting flavors (I hear the Limoncello cannoli is awesome.) and a big and crazy cannoli experience you gotta head to Mike's.  Really, I recommend you just do what I did and get the best of both worlds!  La dolce vita!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So good I had to go twice...

   There is a little joint in the North End (Boston's Little Italy) called "The Daily Catch".  It's small and has that "hole in the wall" feel to it, with the menu written up on a chalk board and the kitchen right in the middle of the dining room.  If you walk by too quickly, you may not even notice it, it's that small.  My friend Rylyn and I found it, however, and were soon being served some of the best seafood I've ever had.  We both ordered the exact same thing, the broiled Haddock with squid ink pasta.
    The haddock was, first of all, HUGE.  It was cooked in fresh garlic and butter, which had slightly caramelized on the outsides of the haddock and around the plate to a thick and sweet sauce.   The fish tasted so fresh and was flaky and super juicy and flavorful.  Each bite just melted in your mouth.   Our server (the only server in the place since there were only about 5 tables) was so passionate about the food he was serving us.  He described the Sicilian style in which they cooked their food and their commitment to using only the best and freshest ingredients.  The quality of their ingredients was completely evident in their food.  Simple and absolutely delicious.    

   I won't lie, I was a little nervous about the pasta.  It comes out black and I had no idea if I liked squid ink at all.  But as soon as I took one bite, all fears were cast aside.  The pasta really tastes a lot like regular pasta, except it has a distinct but not overpowering fish taste.  I ordered mine with the Aglio Olio sauce which is ground calamari, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies.  It was amazing!  The calamari on top was delicious and the anchovies provided a perfect salty taste to accompany the noodles and garlic.  

     As the title of this post says, I loved my meal so much that I had to go back again.  Except this time I took my boyfriend.  He ordered the exact meal I had last time (and loved it) and I ordered the grilled shrimp and scallops with vegetables.  Again, it was incredible.  The scallops were tender, the shrimp tasted nice and fresh and the vegetables still had a nice crunch to them.  I'm not sure what exactly the green sauce was, but it tasted delicious.  If I had to guess, I would say it was some sort of pureed parsley and olive oil mixture.  I love when anything is grilled and has that slight charcoal, smokey taste.       

Friday, December 16, 2011

"We're Going to DOYLE'S!"

  Our tour has now brought us to the wonderful city of Boston.  Since it is the home of Samuel Adams Beer, a group of us decided to visit the Samuel Adams Brewery!  If you are ever in Boston, and enjoy drinking beer, you really must check out this brewery.  The tour is free (they only ask for an optional donation for a local children's fund), the tour is interesting and fun, and you get to try a bunch of their brews at the end!    

   During the tasting session at the end of the tour, our tour guide told us about a pub a few blocks away from the brewery named "Doyle's".  Founded in 1882, it is one of the oldest pubs in Boston.  And being so close to the Samuel Adams Brewery, it is also the first pub to offer Samuel Adams on tap.  Today, they offer the most varieties of Samuel Adams on tap than any other bar in Boston.  And thanks to its historic look, Doyle's has also been featured in many movies and TV shows such as Mystic River and Boston Legal.  Our tour guide also informed us about the free "party trolley" that takes people to Doyle's from Samuel Adams.  So obviously we needed to check out Doyle's. 

     Once on the party trolley, our driver began to tell us all about Doyle's and how awesome it was.  Every time someone new got on the trolley, he would yell "We're going to DOYLE'S!" with his fist pumping.  He had the music blaring and the lights flashing the whole way.  Our driver had a thick Boston accent, was hilarious and his genuine excitement and love for Doyle's was like watching a little kid describing Christmas morning.  He recommended the onion rings with great vigor, so I knew what I was ordering before I even looked at the menu.

Inside the historic Doyle's

   At the brewery, one of the beers we sampled was their Harvest Pumpkin Ale.  It was delicious!  But because it is now December, stores are no longer carrying it.  But Doyle's did not let us down.  They still had it on TAP!!  I had to order one. 
   I am usually not the biggest fan of pumpkin ales.  They are usually too sweet or just taste like fake pumpkin mixed with flat beer.  Now I am by no means a beer connoisseur.  My beer palate goes about as far as I like it or I don't.  But this pumpkin ale was unlike any other that I have ever tried.  It had a great earthy taste to it, with the sweetness balanced beautifully by the bitter.  And you could truly taste the spices in it; from the cloves to the nutmeg to the cinnamon dashed on top of the foam.  It has great clarity and goes down so smoothly.  If you haven't tried it, be on the look out next fall.  This is one seasonal beer you don't want to miss. 

   As I said earlier, our party trolley driver raved about the onion rings.  After such praise I had to try them.  These bad boys are hand battered and each order is individually crafted.  They tasted amazing!  One order is enough to feed a small country, but they are so tasty that you won't have any trouble finishing them off.  The onions tasted sweet and fresh and the batter is light and melts in your mouth.  Each bite has some crispy and some slightly doughy batter.  These are some of the best onion rings I've ever had.  And, they give you so many that you can share with your friends without secretly wishing they had just ordered their own. :)          

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bon Appetit in Cleveland

   My family and I stumbled upon a darling little cafe called "Le Petit Triangle Cafe" while looking for a place to grab dinner before the show one night.  If you have ever been to Cleveland, it is in the same neighborhood as the West Side Market.  It looked adorable from the outside and was even more adorable once inside.  It's name comes from the triangle shape of the restaurant.

   They cook everything in a little, open air kitchen right inside the restaurant.  From our table we could see everything they were cooking in their tiny kitchen.  I love when you can actually see how the food is prepared and watch the chefs create your meal.  I ordered the special of the day which was duck in a red wine reduction sauce, braised greens and mashed sweet potatoes.  

     I don't order duck a lot, for fear of it tasting too "gamey".  But this duck came highly recommended by our server, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I'm SO happy I did because this was hands down the best duck I have ever had.  The duck was cooked to perfection and very tender, full of flavor and very moist.  I'm not sure what they used for the outside of the duck, but it was crispy and salty and was the perfect accompaniment to the tender inside of the duck. The red wine reduction was lovely and added a very nice, fruity note to the duck. 
   The greens were delicious and cooked with a little garlic and salt.  The mashed sweet potatoes were fluffy and flavored with cinnamon.  Yum!  I was so pleased and impressed with my meal.  My parents both thoroughly enjoyed theirs too.  The environment was very romantic and warm inside the cafe and our waiter was very nice.  I would love to have gone back one morning for a cappuccino and crepe and enjoyed it with a good book.  If you are feeling a bit European or just looking for a romantic little spot, I highly recommend Le Petit Triangle Cafe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Unique Greens

     I am always on the lookout for green, local farmer supporting restaurants.  Not only are they better for the environment and economy, but the food always tastes so much better!  The proximity of where the food is grown and the quality in which it is grown truly makes all the difference in the world.  If you've ever grown your own produce or herbs, you know what I am talking about.  Once you have tasted a tomato straight off the vine, you can never go back to the anemic, flavorless tomatoes at the grocery store.  That being said, I stumbled upon a restaurant in downtown Cleveland named "The Greenhouse Tavern" and it seemed right up my alley.   
    The Greenhouse Tavern is an amazing restaurant that runs their business off of two principals: the idea that the proximity of the farm and soil to a restaurant correlates to the quality of its food and that environmentally conscious or green business practices are fundamental.  They offer a list of local farms where all their food comes from and also a list of all their "green" practices on the back of the menu.  I loved this place before I even ordered.  And once I did order, they continued to impress me!
    We started off with an order of "Devils On Horseback".  These are bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds, bitter chocolate, and roasted fresno pepper:

    These little devils covered just about every taste and texture there is.  You have your sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, crunchy, juicy, gooey, and creamy all in one bite.  It's a lot going on, but I think these are pretty much as close to perfect as a bite can get.  They were delicious!!


   For my entree, I chose the Stuffed Provencal Pepper with heirloom tomatoe sauce.  It is stuffed with ratatouille rice pilaf and topped with toasted chevre breadcrumbs:

     It was absolutely delicious.  The red bell pepper was cooked just enough that it still had some crunch too it and the ratatouille filling was incredible!  It was slightly sweet from all the eggplant and other veggies, but hardy and filling from the rice pilaf.  The chevre breadcrumbs were excellent and added just the right amount of spice and texture.  But the heirloom tomato sauce really brought the whole dish together.  It was sweet and creamy and helped mold each bite together.
    I would recommend The Greenhouse Tavern to anyone in the Cleveland area.  A very chill and cool atmoshere, the staff was all very friendly and knowledgable about the food they were serving, and it's a great place to get a unique twist on everyday vegetables and meats.  Enjoy those seasonal, organically grown veggies!!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sweet Baby Jesus

   We had a lot of incredible food while in Baltimore, but this might be my favorite.  One night after a show, a few of us needed some late night munching.  We found ourselves at "Blue Moon Cafe" in Fell's Point, an area right next to Inner Harbor if you're familiar with Baltimore.  This place is exactly what you would want a 24 hour joint to be.  Funky and eclectic decorations, lots of locals (even at 1 in the morning) and good music playing.  Blue Moon Cafe has been featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" for their now famous "Captain Crunch French Toast".  I had decided that was definitely what I should try until our waitress came over and told us the special of the day was a little dish called "Sweet Baby Jesus".  Our interest was immediately peaked. 
   "Sweet Baby Jesus" is a plate of hash browns topped with eggs, cheese, crab meat, old bay seasoning, tomato, and finished off with hollandaise sauce.  All I have to say about this is... sweet baby Jesus.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Burger to Bank On

  I decided I needed a little break from crab meat and get back to my landlubber roots.  I went with some friends to "The Alewife", an old bank turned delicious bar and restaurant right down the street from the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.  The atmosphere in this place was great.  They managed to keep many of the original doors, teller windows, lights, vault, etc. and incorporate them into a beautiful and very chill restaurant.  The Alewife is obviously a local favorite.  We were there at 5:00 and it was already full with a dinner crowd.  As we looked over all the amazing choices on the menu, we kept seeing the same thing coming out of the kitchen.  Plate after plate of a huge burger and incredible looking fries.  That was all the convincing I needed.  I ordered the "Smoke Burger and Duck Fat Fries" and waited anxiously.
   About 30 minutes later (they warn you it may take a while to cook this bad boy) this masterpiece was sitting in front of me:

  It is an 11 oz. house ground ribeye, brisket, skirt and filet of beef burger topped with smoked Gouda, Gruyere cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, caramelized Cipollinin Onion and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun.  And as the name implies, the fries are herbed and cooked in duck fat.  Yeah...

  Because of all the cheese and sauce, the burger had molded too much together for me to get a picture of the inside of it.  But I found this one online, just so you can get a better idea of what all was on this beast:

   This burger is a carnivore's dream.  The meat was super tender, juicy and flavorful.  The bacon was thick, but still slightly crunchy, not the chewy kind at all.  I love cheese in any form, but not when it overwhelms every other flavor it is paired with.  They put the perfect amount of each, smoked Gouda and Gruyere, so that they were more of an excellent accent.  The two worked beautifully together!  The chipotle aioli added just enough spice to help balance all the cheese, sweet onions, and meat.  And of course you can never go wrong with caramelized onions.  All the flavors hit you one by one as you bit into the burger.  The meat and gooey cheese, followed by the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness from the onions, and lastly a little kick from the chipotle aioli.  The flavor was so wonderful (and the burger was so big) that I abandoned the bun completely and ate the whole thing alone with a fork and knife. I don't know if I can say this is the BEST burger I've ever had, but it certainly makes it into the top 5. Definitely one of the most unique. 
   The fries were pretty killer too.  The duck fat and herbs added a great, rich flavor.  I didn't need any ketchup or anything.  They were obviously cooked from freshly cut potatoes and had a great earthy taste with the herbs and fresh potato taste.  My personal favorite fries are the kind that have been cooked just long enough for them to be slightly crunchy on the outside but still soft on the inside.  The Alewife did not let me down.  They were cooked just the way I like em. 
  If you are ever seeing a show at the beautiful Hippodrome Theatre, The Alewife is definitely worth checking out.  I wish I could have gone back and tried out more of their amazing looking food!



Friday, November 11, 2011

Surely You Can't Be Serious, Miss. Shirley

    Miss. Shirley's Cafe is a shining light in Inner Harbor, Baltimore.  There are tons of delicious restaurants, but there is something special about Miss. Shirley's.  Maybe it's the southern flare, maybe it's that it is named after Shirley MCDOWELL so we are probably related some how,  but it's probably just the amazing food that leaves you dreaming about it the rest of the day. 
    My brunch buddy, Cathy, and I went to Miss. Shirley's and, after being overwhelmed by all the delicious looking options, opted for a sweet dish and a savory dish to split.  Ladies and gentlemen..... I bring you: 
   Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict


Pumpkin Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast

   Is your mouth watering yet?  The only thing traditional about this eggs benedict is the poached eggs.  The eggs are on mini jumbo (oxymoron...haha) lump crab cakes on top of fried green tomatoes.  It is then served with a refreshing corn & tomato relish with asparagus and old bay hollandaise sauce.  It was amazing!  The crunchy, fried goodness of the green tomato was the perfect base for the gooey poached egg and crab cake.  I can never turn back to an english muffin again.  And once you pour that hollandaise sauce on top of it all, you have truly reached perfection.  I put hollandaise sauce on the same pedestal as butter, chocolate, and peanut butter.  It just makes everything better! 
(A little side note about the relish: It had sunflower sprouts in it!  If you've never tried them, change that immediately!  They are delicious and such a surprise in this lovely relish.)

    On to dessert/more breakfast.  This stuffed french toast was just silly.  Pumpkin cream cheese, homemade whipped cream, thick pieces of bread dipped in an almond scented egg mix, graham cracker crumbs, and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  And as if that wasn't enough, there is an amazing raspberry puree forming a heavenly moat around the whole thing.  Surprisingly, this wasn't overwhelmingly sweet.  Granted, I didn't add any syrup, but the cream cheese added just enough creamy, saltiness to balance all the sweet beautifully.  The bread was soft and the whipped cream was light.  It was a very moving experience. 

    If you are in Baltimore, you must give Miss. Shirley's a visit.  But I recommend going during the week.  I walked by on Saturday morning and the line was out the door.  And rightfully so.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Miss. Baltimore Crabs

    The show just spent a week in Baltimore playing the beautiful Hippodrome Theatre.  Needless to say.... I ate crab.  A LOT.  My wonderful friend, Patrice, is a Baltimore local and took me on an adventure to try her favorite crab cakes in Baltimore.  We ventured into the famous Lexington Market (which is an experience!) to "Faidley's Seafood".  Faidley's has been serving up delicious seafood since 1886!  They have many amazing seafood dishes to choose from but their lump crab cakes are their crowning glory.  They have won many awards over the years including 1st place in Baltimore's Magazine for Best Crab Cakes 10 years in a row!
    Patrice and I both opted for the crab cake platter.  I got mine with collard greens and mac and cheese.  When our plates came out, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about! :)

    To say that these crab cakes were unbelievable is an understatement.  These were hands down the best crab cakes I have ever had!  The lumps of crab were flavorful, soft, and absolutely divine.  The cake itself had a perfect consistency that melts in your mouth.  It's browned and crispy just enough on the outside to match the soft, stuffing-like center.    It comes out warm and bigger than your fist.  And even though one is enough to leave you full all day, you're going to want 10 more.   
    Faidley's atmosphere just adds to the whole experience.  You eat at bar top tables with no chairs, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow crab cake lovers.  There are no frills to Faidley's, just good, fresh seafood.  After all these years it's still a family run business.  We got to meet Miss. Nancy Devine, current owner and descendant of founder John W. Faidley.  Not only can she make a mean crab cake, but she had seen La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway and loved it!  She was fabulous.
Miss. Devine with fellow cast member, Todd!
    If you are in Baltimore, you MUST go to Faidley's.  Thank you Patrice for taking me!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brunch over lunch, please!

    My other favorite place from Minneapolis is another brunch place.  Can you tell I love breakfast food?  This next place was called "Moose & Sadie's".  It's an adorable coffee shop/cafe serving up delicious and homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner all complimented with organic coffee and made-from-scratch pastries.  Their whole brunch menu looked great but, being the southern girl I am, I couldn't resist the Andouille Sausage & Chedder Cheese Grits:

    I've eaten many a grit in my life and I have got to say these were some of the best!  They had that great, actually cooked on the stove from scratch taste.  They were smothered in cheese but not overpowered by it.  These are not your instant, overly salty and dry grits out of a box.  The andouille sausage was slightly spicy and very juicy and flavorful.  A perfect pairing with the cheesy and salty grits.   The eggs were from a local farm and you could taste the freshness.  My friend Rachel calls eggs fresh from the farm "Happy Eggs" because you can truly taste a difference.  The biscuit was a homemade buttermilk biscuit and was warm and fluffy on the inside but still flaky on the outside.  The butter just melted on top.  This meal is the ultimate comfort food to me.  It just makes you feel good.      
   Moose & Sadie's turned what could be a very ordinary meal into a delicious, flavorful and cooked with love experience.  I didn't get a picture of the coffee, but it was also incredible.  I got the dark roast and loved it so much I went back for 2 more cups!  It was a rich and smokey blend that went down so smoothly.  Moose & Sadie's is a great spot for food, coffee, or just to hang out.  A great and relaxed atmosphere, they support using organic produce and they brag about using REAL butter.  Any restaurant that is proud of their real butter usage gets an A+ in my book.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heaven in Hell's Kitchen

  Hell's Kitchen, in downtown Minneapolis, is an experience unlike any other.  Once you walk down the stairs (yes, you must go "down" to get to Hell's Kitchen...) you enter a whole new and bizarre world of red and black with many "hell-ish" decorations and, oddly, a stage with a live folk band playing.  But something about the mixture of dungeon and folk music works and you are immediately transported into the Devil's dining room.  Once you sit down, the first thing you must order is the homemade peanut butter and jams.  If you want to go all the way, you should do what we did and order the sausage loaf with the peanut butter and jam. 
 This is not for the faint of heart.  This amazing, and very dense, bread is made from their own homemade bison sausage, toasted walnuts, black currants, black coffee and spices.   I topped mine here with their incredible blackberry-ginger jam and peanut butter and I couldn't even wait till after I had taken a picture to try my first bite.  The peanut butter is a sweet, cinnamony taste that is still slightly crunchy from the little bits of peanut butter.  The bread is sweet, salty, and slightly bitter all at the same time. The combination is truly one of a kind.
  I know I just said order the peanut butter first, but I take it back.  This is what you should order first:
  I present the bellini.  It is in the mimosa family, but on the rich, home on the French riviera side.  It is sparkling wine and their homemade peach puree.  Delicious!  (And strong...)

  Okay, onto the big leagues.  My wonderful friend, and fellow food lover, Cathy and I have a new system.  We both order things we want to try and then split both.  The fruit of this genius plan was....... Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes and Bison Benedict!  I would recommend them both STRONGLY.  The hotcakes come with a warning to try them before adding maple syrup.  They are so perfectly sweet on their own, I never even added syrup.  Made with lemon zest and whole milk ricotta, they don't need any help.  The bison benedict was served with their jalapeno hollandaise sauce and their famous rosti potatos.  They are more like the “ultimate” hash browns...freshly-grated Idaho potatoes mixed with Applewood-cured bacon pieces, fresh scallions, minced garlic, sweet onions and fresh parsley, then sauteed in sweet cream butter.  If you are ever in Minneapolis, this place is a must go to! 

Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes

Bison Benedict

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Obama Cookies

 The tour of La Cage Aux Folles has officially begun!  Yay!  And our first stop brings me to Des Moines, Iowa.  Iowa is known for producing the most corn and pork of any state in the U.S.  But I will be remembering Iowa for its cookies. :)  Specifically a cookie coined "The Obama Cookie": 

  These bad boys come from Baby Boomers Cafe.  They are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had.  They are like a cross breed of sugar cookie and chocolate chip cookie.  They have the sweet, doughy texture and taste of a sugar cookie but with the delicious, chunky chocolate chips.  They are super soft and melt in your mouth.  The chocolate is chunky and not overly sweet and the cookies were cooked to that perfect slightly brown on the bottom but still super soft on the top state.  They are called "Obama Cookies" because the Obama's liked them so much that they have an order shipped to the white house every month.  These cookies are definitely president quality.  Enjoy!

Don't wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pure Perfection

   This next post is for one of my favorite restaurants named Pure Taqueria.  They have a few locations throughout the Atlanta Area and if you live ANYWHERE close to one, you really must go.  I've been here numerous times now and am never disappointed.  The menu is unique and delicious take on traditional mexican food, but trust me, this is not your typical tex-mex.  Everything here is made with fresh, good quality ingredients.  Every bite of fresh avocado and fish takes you straight to a beach somewhere in Mexico, with your toes in the warm sand, and you reach a state complete happiness and relaxation.  Then you sip on your margarita and you have truly reached pure perfection. 

   Some of my favorites here include their guacamole, their "skinny" margarita (Made without the margarita mix! Just tequila, lime and agave nectar.), and the fish or short rib tacos.  But at this place, I don't really think there is a bad option on the menu.  At our last visit, my sister had her favorite, Costilla de res (the short rib tacos).   These bad boys are served in REAL soft corn tacos.  They then fill the tacos with beef short rib, smoky pickled red onions and chile morita salsa.  The beef is tender and juicy, bursting with smoky and sweet flavor.  The red onions add in a little kick and the salsa brings it all together.  My sister ordered the black beans, but I strongly recommend the refried beans.  I don't know what they do differently at Pure, but they taste unlike any refried bean I've ever had.  They are sweet, not dry at all and topped off with a little cheese that melts as you eat it.  Ooooh yeah.

   I ordered a daily special on my last visit, Seared Scallops.  Just when I thought Pure couldn't get any better, they bring me this:       

  Perfectly seared scallops served in a tomato salsa with roasted zucchini, fingerling potatoes, onions, and poblanos then topped with fresh avocado slices.  The vegetables were cooked to that perfect cooked but still slightly crunchy state.  The onions and tomatoes were sweet and the avocado added a lovely creamy texture.  The scallops, on the other hand, cannot be described.  As a devoted scallops lover, I have ordered them at quite a few places and never have I had better tasting scallops!  The were tender, not chewy in the slightest, and had an amazing sweet and almost caramelized taste.  These scallops literally melted in your mouth.  I kept trying to chew as slow as possible just to savor the taste for as long as I could.  This entire dish was out of this world and probably my favorite at Pure yet.  The only bad part about it was that it was only a daily special.     

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. —-Virginia Woolf

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

My next destination was Marietta, GA.  I grew up in this beautiful town just north of Atlanta and it was wonderful to be back.  I love the south for many reasons, but the food is one of the main ones.  The south just gets it.  From collard greens to BBQ to cornbread, it really doesn't get much better.  Southern food is the ultimate comfort food and will always fill you with happiness and that "being home" feeling.  One of mine and my Dad's favorite places to go get home cooking is a little place called Johnboy's.

  For my Georgians, it's right on Canton Hwy. and, as you can see, it's an all you can eat buffet.  :)  From the outside it looks like a shack of a house or old trailer home that they have converted into a restaurant.  The inside pretty much matches the look of the outside.  There is nothing fancy about Johnboy's.  But you better believe if you walk into this place at 12:00, every table will be filled with good ol southerner's eating delicious fried chicken to their hearts desire. 
   You know it's the real deal when you sit down and instead of being asked, "What would you like to drink?" they just say, "Sweet tea?"  Welcome to Johnboy's.  Once you place your sweet tea order, because you really can't get anything else, you head up to the buffet.  The buffet line changes daily with a few staple items that have been there every time I've gone.  There is always fried chicken, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and some sort of cobbler.  (You know, the basics of a southern meal.)  But then on certain days you can find fried okra, fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and some sort of delicious casserole.  But no matter what you get, I promise it will taste like something you grandma whipped up for ya on a Sunday afternoon.  This is a view of my (1st) plate from my last visit to Johnboy's:

  It was delicious.  I won't lie, I was a little disappointed that I didn't go on a fried green tomato day.  They really cook em up well there.  I stole this picture from my good friend, and fellow fried green tomato lover, Holly:

     So if you happen to find yourself in Marietta, GA and are looking for a filling and delicious meal for about $7, head on over to Johnboy's.  The people are friendly, the food is simple and good, and the environment is about as down home as you're going to find north of Atlanta.  Enjoy, ya'll!

"Well, butter my behind and call me a biscuit.” – Southern saying

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A love affair with Frita

Frita Batidos.  Could there be more perfect words?  This place is in a league of its own.  If you have not been to Frita Batidos, let me attempt to dictate how delicious and amazing their food is for you.  A "frita" is a cuban inspired burger made with chorizo and served on a french brioche and topped with shoestring french fries.   A "batido" is a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit, crushed ice, and a drop of sweetened milk.  The combination is truly a gift from the Gods.
   You can custom make your frita by choosing your meat (they have everything from spicy chorizo to turkey to fish to blackbean) and then choosing your toppings from a delicious list of options including muenster cheese, a sunnyside up egg, cilantro lime slasa, tropical coleslaw, and avacado spread   If you are a first timer, I say go all the way with a "frita loco" which is ALL of the above on one beautiful sandwich.  :)  
   I had the pleasure of going to Frita Batidos this past week with my good friend Colin.  Since I knew I wouldn't be back in Ann Arbor for a while, we pulled out all the stops.  We began with our batidos.  He ordered Mocha and I ordered Passion Fruit.

      They were perfect.  They taste like a milkshake and nothing like a milkshake.  They are very creamy and flavorful, but not as heavy as your normal ice-cream milkshake.  The passion fruit was sweet and the flavor of the passion fruit hit your taste buds right away.  Colin's mocha batido was also sweet but had that great bitter coffee taste too.  I took a sip of his and immediantly tasted the sweet from the milk and then a second or two later was hit with the strong but perfect amount of mocha flavor.  They were out of this world.  I challenge you to order one and have enough self control to still have some left by the time your food comes out.  I did not...
  Colin and I both ordered Chorizo fritas which we had "loco" style.  When they came out, they were exploding with everything our hearts could ever desire.

   This is about the most perfect tasting sandwich I have ever experienced.  It is gooey from the muenster cheese, a little spicy from the chorizo, salty from the fries, crunchy and fresh from the coleslaw and cilantro lime salsa, and topped off with a fried egg to tie it all together.  Not to mention that the bun itself is soft and sweet and soaks up all the juice from the sandwich.  One bite of this and you will know what perfection tastes like.  But be prepared with lots of napkins.
   We also ordered a side of the "best snack ever" which is just beans, rice, salsa and cheese.  But like everything else at Frita Batidos, it exceeded all expectations.  I don't know if I would call it the "best snack ever", (that may always be reserved for bananas and peanut butter for me) but it was pretty stinkin delicious.  The salsa is filled with chunks of sweet tomatos, the cheese is muenster and gooey, and the rice and beans are cooked perfectly.  Definitely a great addition to our meal.

   The service at Fritas is just as amazing as their food.  They are always there with a smile to take your order, always happy to offer their own opinions, (I ordered a passion fruit batido because of our cashiers advice.)  and always bring the food out quickly.  It's a fun and relaxed enviroment where you sit at large picnic tables with other groups and families and don't have to worry about being too loud or having a young kid running around.  I have loved every experience I have had here and urge you to give it a try if you haven't yet. 

“Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate.”
- Grimod de la Reynière

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick Italian Getaway

    Last summer I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Italy.  I lived in a beautiful little town, up in the mountains of the Marche Region, called Camerino.  I fell in love with everything about Italy and the Italian lifestyle.  I especially loved how Italians began every morning with a cappuccino and pastry from their local cafe.  I quickly became obsessed with this tradition and enjoyed some of the best espresso and steamed milk I had ever tasted.  (Not to mention the amazing brioches and chocolate or jelly filled croissants...)  Since returning to America I have been on a quest to find a cappuccino that can compare to the amazing flavors in Italy.  Unfortunately, my attempts here in the US usually leave me a little disappointed and longing for my amazing Italian cappuccino that costs one mere euro.  However, I have found a few coffee shops that manage to bring me right back to that little cafe (K2 if you've ever been to Camerino) in Italy.  One of them is right here in Ann Arbor, MI.  It's name is Comet Coffee.

   Comet Coffee is a great little coffee shop nestled right into the historic Nickels Arcade, right off State Street.  Whether you like cappuccino, lattes, or just plain coffee, Comet Coffee is hands down the best coffee in the city.  Each cup of coffee is brewed individually once it is ordered.  You wont find any giant carafes or heating devices in this place; only mugs filled with paper filters and coffee beans, slowly dripping amazing coffee into each one.  Because of this, each cup of coffee is fresh, unique and bursting with notes of flavor.  
  Now onto the cappuccino... :)

   This custom made beauty is absolutely delicious.  The espresso is flavorful and rich.  The steamed milk is foamy on top while heavy enough to combat the strong espresso flavors.  It is probably the closest I have found to what they taste like in Italy.  I take one sip of this cappuccino and I am suddenly sitting at a table right in the piazza with cobblestone roads feeling the sun on my face.  Perfetto!  They also make lovely designs on each one which makes each cup even more special.   

   So head into Comet Coffee to fare prima colazione.  Order yourself a pastry from their options of locally made sweets and order a delicious cappuccino.  Don't you dare add sugar either!  I promise it is perfect the way it is.  Bon appetit!

"Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with."  ~Terri Guillemets