Thursday, May 28, 2015

Maine Lobster Roll #3: The Clam Shack (Kennebunkport, ME)

Ahh, summer in New England. That only means one thing, lobster shacks!! I visited quite a few lobster shacks in Maine (including Bite Into Maine) and Connecticut last summer, including The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, ME, which won Tasting Table's Lobster Roll Rumble in New York one year.

We got a whole steamed lobster (for only $12!), a lobster roll, a crab roll, and an order of steamers.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Picnic at LACMA's Jazz Night

by guest blogger @btsunoda

Growing up, my idea of a date night was usually dinner and a movie. As I got older, my interests have changed and I like to vary it up a bit. One of my current passions is attending a live music event. It doesn’t matter if I know the band or not, it’s the fact that my senses become heightened.

My wife and I recently attended Jazz Nights at LACMA, for which Ray's and Stark Bar recently started a picnic basket program. There are two options to choose from: The Duke ($40) which comes with a whole roasted or fried Jidori chicken with sides and dessert, and The Louis ($100) which comes with the above along with charcuterie, a bottle of wine, real china, a fold-out table, a picnic blanket, all nicely packed in a wicker picnic basket. . To experience Ray’s and Stark Bar’s new Jazz Nights picnic basket program, I preordered the “Louis” thinking that the culinary experience with the live music would be a nice date night for us.
Our picnic basket arrived promptly at 6pm. We were directed to a grassy area where there was a table, blanket, and two red cushions. A bud vase with a flower and a candle nicely finished this thoughtful presentation. Looking at this, I thought that it was nice that they did the work for me and I didn’t have to carry everything from my car!

The picnic basket was assembled in an impressive way. The first thing my wife said “Can we take the basket home?” They included real silverware, cloth napkins and real wine glasses. The lack of paper plates and plastic forks made for a classy experience.

Two containers of roasted rosemary chicken were on the top.

The chicken was tender and roasted to perfection. The rosemary sprigs gave off an extremely pleasurable fragrance.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spring in Provence at Kendall Brasserie (Los Angeles, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

Taking a staycation can be a unique way to try a restaurant that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit. While on a staycation, consider changing your eating habits and wander outside of your hood. Why not take the opportunity to mimic something that you would experience in another country?

Kendall’s Brasserie is the ideal place to have a transportive experience to France without spending the money for travel. As in true brasserie form, the bar is the center of the restaurant; the French antiques that adorned the walls made me forget that I was only miles away from home.

From now until the end of May, Kendall’s Brasserie is featuring “Spring in Provence”. This special event is part of their “Passport to France” series where executive Chef Jean-Pierre Bos takes guests through a virtual culinary tour through France. Recently, I was able to preview some of the items that will be served.

Housemade albacore tuna confit is the centerpiece of their Niçoise salad. 
They add Boston lettuce, haricot vert, tomatoes, potatoes, chopped eggs, niçoise olives and toss the ingredients with  a shallot vinaigrette. The fresh albacore confit made me realize how tasty tuna can be. Farmers market quality ingredients allowed the salad to shine.

Tomato tarte tatin consisted of tomato confit, basil and parmesan.
Most tarte tatin crusts are similar to a pie or a quiche in appearance. Their version was unique because the bottom of the crust was very thin and super crisp. Tomato lovers will enjoy this dish.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ames Street Deli (Cambridge, MA)

Backbar is one of my favorite bars in Boston, so when the same team opened Ames Street Deli near MIT, well, I was quite excited (and scared for my wallet).

Ames Street Deli is open from morning until evening with different offerings throughout the day (making the place even more dangerous for the wallet!). In the morning, come for a kouign amann. Ames Street makes a great one, the layers are so flaky and crispy with the baked sugar.

Kouign amann
They also have breakfast sandwiches and scrambled egg donut and bacon and egg donut! I'm not quite sure yet what those are like because I haven't woken up early enough to go to campus for those, but I'm certainly intrigued. The kouign amann is also typically gone by late afternoon, so you should come earlier for that, too.

At lunch, you'll find sandwiches. The sandwiches are on the smaller side, but each order comes with a side dish! I really enjoyed the Rabbit Sandwich (mustard bread, rabbit mortadella, pork liver, beets, radish)
Ames St

Monday, May 18, 2015

Haggis Burger and More: Hard Rock Cafe's World Burger Tour

I don't even know how many years it's been since I stepped into a Hard Rock Cafe, but when I heard from Deep End Dining that the Boston location is offering a haggis burger during the World Burger Tour promotion, I decided I had to try it!

I didn't know this before, but each Hard Rock Cafe location has their own unique burger, dubbed Local Legendary Burger. During the World Burger Tour, which is happening now until June 30, the Hard Rock Cafe locations in the USA will be showcasing different local burgers from all around the globe. Each US cafe will feature four different burgers, and the menu will vary from cafe to cafe.

The Boston location is featuring the haggis burger (Edinburg, Scotland), schnitzel burger (Cologne, Germany), Andean Burger (Santa Cruz, Bolivia), and the Chamorro Burger (Guam). I couldn't fit all four in my stomach, so I tried some:

Of course, I tried the Haggis Burger from Edinburgh, Scotland.

World Burger Tour

It's a beef patty topped with haggis, Monterey Jack cheese, golden turnip frazzles, whiskey maple glaze, lettuce, tomato, served with fries.
World Burger Tour
They even got the nips and tatties in there! That's turnips and potatoes, if you didn't know.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meal Kit Delivery Comparisons: Plated, Blue Apron, Just Add Cooking, HelloFresh, The Purple Carrot, Home Chef

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I don't really cook at home and I mostly eat out. All the time. But actually I've been cooking at home a lot more, lately. I don't develop my own recipes, though, and I am cooking thanks to all those services that deliver boxes of pre-measured ingredients with recipes to you. I don't have to go grocery shopping and I can just follow the recipes.

I've tried a lot of these boxes. Want to know which one to try? Well, there's a review of all the boxes I've tried and the pricing!
Yes, for all these boxes, you'll get a cheaper price per meal if you order boxes for 4 instead of for 2, but as a comparison, I'm showing you the prices if you were like me and only order meals for 2.

Home Chef
Price: $9.95 per serving for most meals with 2 servings/meal minimum. Free shipping with $40 order.
Promo: Join Today & Enjoy 3 Free Meals
Home Chef
Review: Blue Apron used to be the cheapest option, but now Home Chef is. They also let you choose your own meals each week, which is a big plus for me. Right now Home Chef doesn't deliver everywhere yet, only 60% of the country so you need to check whether you live within the delivery regions. Pretty big selection of recipes each week, and they also have cheaper breakfast items to help you meet the $40 minimum for free shipping. I thought their recipes and ingredients were of high quality - the herbes de Provence pork tenderloin (pictured) was my favorite! Read the full review here.

Price: $12/plate, $4/dessert ($50 min for free shipping)
Promo: two free plates on your first order on Plated (up to $24 value).

Pro: Great recipes and high quality ingredients. You can choose your own meals. They've also recently added desserts!
Cons: On the more expensive side, and the Chef's Table recipes cost more.

I actually really like Plated, it's just that it's a bit more expensive than some of the others. They even have special recipes dubbed the Chef's Table now, which do all seem even more interesting, but they cost even more. I select my own recipes based on my taste and difficulty level (easy ones for me), so I know what I'm getting and am never disappointed. Their recipes are pretty easy but still interesting, I've learned to make many things I've never known before. They also substitute healthier ingredients for familar recipes.

Blue Apron
Price: $9.99/plate ($59.94 for 3 meals for 2)
Promo: Keep an eye out for Gilt City or other deal sites.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Fiery Feast at Szechuan Impression (Alhambra, CA)

OK, that's not actually quite true. Szechuan Impression, which serves more of a "modern" take of Szechuan food compared to Chengdu Taste, is actually not as spicy as Chengdu. The main question on everyone's tongue is: Is it better than Chengdu Taste? The short answer is that they are each better than the other on different dishes!

One of my favorite dishes at Szechuan Impression is the mung bean jelly noodles, which I think they do much better than Chengdu Taste. This restaurant sure uses the word "impressive" on the menu a lot, perhaps in relation to the restaurant's name, or perhaps just bragging. Anyway, this dish is called the Impressive Bean Jelly ($5.99)

Szechuan impression
I thought it had a lot more flavor than the one at Chengdu. It's also not overly spicy while still having that numbing effect and bold kick. The slippery noodles have a cooling effect that tempers the spiciness for me.

My other favorite dish there was the garlic pork ($8.99)
Szechuan impression
This spicy, garlicky slices of fatty pork were very addictive! I would come back for this dish and the jelly, for sure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Summer House Santa Monica (North Bethesda, MD)

Pizza fans in Los Angeles are already familiar with chef Jeff Mahin's name and the two Stella Barra locations in LA (it's been so long ago that I've written about it, back when the restaurant was still called Stella Rossa).

Chef Mahin is bringing Southern California to the east, though, and I was reunited with his food while visiting Washington, DC. You see, Jeff Mahin is also in charge of another restaurant from the same group, called Summer House Santa Monica. Summer House currently has two locations: Chicago and North Bethesda in Maryland (if you're geographically challenged, that's a stone's throw away from DC).

The interior evokes that beach house ambiance, as one would expect, but they've done it better than what I had imagined. I love the lights hanging from the ceiling!

Summer House
You have to start with: Baked-to-order biscuits with poblano honey butter ($8.95)
Summer House
The biscuits, which are served piping hot, are incredible, perfectly flaky and buttery. Combined with the honey, it's even better. I knew I had a big dinner ahead of me, but I couldn't stop eating it.

Jeff Mahin's burrata dish has always been one of my favorites at Stella Barra, where it is served with roasted grapes. The one at Summer House is served differently but still uses fresh and creamy local burrata. Here it's served with tomato jam, arugula, grilled bread ($13.95)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Five Sweet Stops in Phoenix, AZ

When you live in a city that gets a hot as Phoenix and Scottsdale do, great dessert places are a must. Ice creams, soft serves, donuts ... I was quite impressed at the desserts I ate while I was in Phoenix on my last trip! Some of the flavors are very adventurous, some more than what I'm finding in Boston. Here are the five top spots for sweets and desserts in the Phoenix area:

1. Churn
The list of great ice cream shops in Phoenix goes on and on, but you must stop at Churn. Churn is known for their ice cream sandwiches, with deliciously gooey cookies and creamy, freshly churned ice creams. You can also get a scoop of ice cream and a half cookie as a topping. I had the Vietnamese coffee and Hangover Helper (a whiskey ice cream) topped with half a salted chocolate chip cookie. You can get two different cookies for your ice cream sandwiches, too!

5223 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Churn on Urbanspoon

2. Rollover Donuts (also at Short Leash Hot Dogs)
The Bear donut

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Jolly Oyster Market, Bringing Fresh Shellfish to Torrance

The Jolly Oyster is a beloved oyster shack in Ventura, where many Angelenos have taken a day trip to get fresh oysters and have a picnic in the park where the shack is located. They have all natural oyster farms based in Baja in Mexico. If Ventura seems too far for you, though, don't worry, since The Jolly Oyster just opened a market in Torrance! As with everything in Torrance, it's in a strip mall. Hanging on the walls are photos of their oyster farms in Baja. I really enjoyed listening to the story of how they got started and what they do. If you're interested, you should check out the documentary video.

Jolly Oyster
Now, since the space is small they can't have seating for you to eat oysters there, but they will shuck them and sell them to you to take home (or to a park nearby or whatever). It does cost more to buy shucked oysters than unshucked ones, obviously, but it's still cheaper than getting them at a restaurant. A half-dozen shucked oysters go for $10, while unshucked oysters are $1.25 each (or $1 if you buy more than $40).

Jolly Oyster has three different sauces you can put on your shellfish, but there's no cocktail sauce because that overpowers the oysters! There's a vinaigrette made with beets, a spicy one with garlic and thai chili, and a brown rice vinegar with cucumber.
Jolly Oyster

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Upgrade Your Office Lunch with Farmavore, Delivered

Cambridge has many great restaurants, but there's not much on MIT campus. I tried my share of Anna's Taqueria, the food trucks (which are too far to be my daily lunch), and the food court at the student center. Nothing worth seeking out.
Enter Farmavore.
Farmavore delivers homemade lunches made with local, sustainable ingredients to your office. The founders actually started out as farmers, so they're committed to supporting local farms.


They delivered a couple of lunches for me to try (OK, to my home because sometimes I go to work really late ....). The lunch boxes are labeled with the menu and how to reheat them (and the calorie count, if that's important to you).
The first was a Moroccan chicken tajine with rice.

As promised, the meal tastes homemade, with fresh asparagus and tender chicken. The chicken had a lot of flavors but not overly salty, I thought it was quite healthy. The portion was just right, as well, not too big, but enough to maintain your energy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Southern Fare at Kendall Square's State Park (Cambridge, MA)

I'm pretty lucky to live within walking distance to Hungry Mother and its sister restaurant, State Park. State Park has more of a sports bar vibe with more casual food and beers, but you can still look for great Southern food here from the James Beard Award winning chef Barry Maiden. Instead of the refined dishes at Hungry Mother, think sandwiches, fried chicken, and the likes.

Try the Snappy's Famous Pork Chop Sandwich (chili, cole slaw, tomato, mustard, $12)

State Park

For those who are not familiar, this refers to Snappy Lunch in Mt Airy, North Carolina. The diner is famous for their pork chop sandwich where the boneless pork chop is covered in a sweet milk batter - yes, very much reminiscent of french toast. Think french toast stuffed with pork chop, then made into a sandwich with chili and cole slaw... The pork chop itself is ridiculously tender! A wondrously messy sandwich worth digging into.

Another surprise for me was the Memphis BBQ Spaghetti (pork shoulder, sarvecchio cheese, garlic bread, $12)
State Park

Who knew spaghetti would work so well with BBQ sauce? It's just a bit saltier than bolognese, with a subtle kick. Bold and sweet, served with fluffy, buttery garlic bread. This has become another favorite of mine.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Brunch and Cocktails at Virtu (Scottsdale, AZ)

As I'm heading back to Phoenix and Scottsdale this weekend, I'm looking back to my last trip there. On my last day, I had a lovely brunch at Virtu in Scottsdale. It was a beautiful day, perfect for sitting outdoors and enjoying some good food and drinks.


I had to order this dish, you'll see why: Duck confit benedict, duck fat potato, poached eggs, foie gras hollandaise ($15)
Duck confit! Foie gras hollandaise! I just wished they had put more foie gras hollandaise ...

Virtu is known not just for their food, but also their cocktails. They're at the forefront of the Scottsdale's craft cocktail scene, serving up adventurous and unique cocktails like this Chili infused aquavit, with salted beet syrup, lime, and mezcal

Friday, May 1, 2015

Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ

Rollover Donuts
Short Leash Hot Dogs
Welcome Chicken + Donuts

Sweet Republic

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