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!!