Friday, August 31, 2018

New England Food (CT, VT, NH, ME, and RI)

During the same trip up north where I visited Springfield, I also ventured up to several New England states that I had never been to or had spent very little time in. This included Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island. We'll start out in Connecticut:

Jumbo Buffet (Bloomford, CT):

A friend decided that he wanted a Chinese buffet for lunch. Buffets aren't really a thing in this area like they are in Florida. The only one that was listed nearby was called Jumbo Buffet. It turned out to be a standard Chinese takeout storefront with a buffet table in the middle of the restaurant. It didn't look very appetizing to me, so I ordered fresh food off the menu. I started with a scallion pancake appetizer, mostly because these are hard to find back home.
I had the Hunan Chicken combo for the dinner. Served with fried rice and an egg roll.

The Gables Inn (Stowe, VT):

Moving on to Vermont, my first meal was breakfast in Stowe. The place I stayed overnight recommended The Gables Inn for breakfast, which was another hotel down the road. It was basically someone's house where they added a few rooms behind their home and served breakfast on their porch.
I ordered the Vermont Breakfast. This came with pancakes, local maple syrup, a slice of ham, and two poached eggs.

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour (Waterbury, VT):

Up next for food in Vermont was the Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour.
Pretty nifty tour, although no pictures were allowed of the actual factory floor. Here's the sample of ice cream they gave at the end of the tour.

Gaku Ramen (Burlington, VT):

I tried the Black Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen here. It was noodles, pork, mushrooms, scallions, bamboo shoots, with a soft boiled egg in a pork based broth. It was a pretty substantial bowl of ramen.

Boston Brothers Pizzeria (Conway, NH):

My one and only meal ever in New Hampshire. I stopped in Conway for lunch and ended up at Boston Brothers Pizzeria. The cheese slice was large and affordable. My initial choice was one of their specialty pizzas, which they were out of.

Portland Lobster Company (Portland, ME):

Moving on to Maine. While in Portland, I had the stereotypical food for the state. I had to get some Maine lobster. I ate at Portland Lobster Company and ordered a lobster roll. It was served with fries and coleslaw. The location was really nice on the water. Lobster is the most overhyped seafood there is in my opinion...

Gorgeous Gelato (Portland, ME):

Got some lemon gelato in a waffle cone from a place called Gorgeous Gelato.

The Holy Donut (Portland, ME):

Potato doughnuts are a thing. I stopped into The Holy Donut in Portland where they advertised that their doughnuts were made with mashed potatoes. I tried their Maple Bacon Donut. The consistency was different from a typical, non-potato doughnut. The inside was slightly denser and was really moist. I liked it. The maple glaze and the salty bacon balanced itself nicely. Definitely ranks as one of the best doughnuts I've had...

Tom's BaoBao (Providence, RI):

Moving on to Rhode Island. My tour of states I hadn't been to was running short on time, so my only adventure in this state was stopping in Providence for dinner. This city looked like it had seen better days and most restaurants were closed, but I did find a place open called Tom's BaoBao. I started with a pork bao.
They also had hand pulled noodles. Topped with cucumber slices, scallions, and chili powder. The noodles were really good and shadowed the bao.

And that's my food tour of Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island. It was a tasty food adventure!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Springfield, Massachusetts Food (Red Rose Pizza, Luxe Burger Bar, Cafe Du Jour, Nadim's Mediterranean Restaurant, Theodore's BBQ, Sun Kim Bop, Downtown Farmers Market, and Student Prince)

I spent a week in Springfield, Massachusetts during a convention I attended in the city. Here's some of the food I ate:

Red Rose Pizza:

They had huge pies for reasonable prices. Their medium pie fed three people with leftovers. Their biggest pie could have probably fed ten people. I ate here twice. On my first visit I split a pie topped with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, and black olives. The pizza wasn't NY style, served in square slices with a medium thickness crust. The crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings were well proportioned and I was very pleased with the pizza.
On my second visit I started with a side salad. Exactly what I expected.
We ordered a pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, and bell peppers on this visit. I don't know if it was a different cook, but this pie was disappointing. It was messy looking, had a bit of a cheese overload compared to the rest of the pie, and didn't hold itself together worst of all. Even after it cooled, the pie kept on falling apart.
So 50% good pizza depending on who's making it?

Luxe Burger Bar:

I had a build your own burger, topped with an egg, guacamole, onions, lettuce, and pickles. Can't say I was impressed. Toppings were very inconsistently spread (guacamole only made it to a quarter of the burger) and came served with much of the lettuce on the plate. I ordered Cheddar Tater Tots as my side which were initially forgotten, then were lukewarm when finally delivered to the table.
Some restaurants I ate at during this trip had multiple visits. Luxe Burger Bar did not earn that honor.

Café Du Jour:

This was a coffee shop across from my hotel. Came here for breakfast one morning and had a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant. I also noticed they served Lahmajoun (I believe - I initially learned this food as Turkish Pizza). I ordered one of those as well topped with sesame paste.
Came back and had spinach and feta another day. The sesame was better.

Nadim's Mediterranean Restaurant & Grill:

I had the Lebanese Stew. Big chunks of lamb, beans, and other veggies were cooked until tender in a tomato based broth. The stew was served with rice. It was delicious. A little on the expensive side, but still delicious.

Theodore's BBQ:

 This was another restaurant I visited twice. I had the brisket on my first meal here. The brisket was served over a slice of bread, topped with barbecue sauce. Beans, collards, coleslaw, and cornbread was served as sides.
I had the Texas Sausage on my second visit, served with the same sides.

Sun Kim Bop:

This was a fast food Korean restaurant. I had the Bibimbop. This rice bowl was topped with an egg, spicy pork, and various vegetables. It was a good portion, affordable, and delicious.

Springfield Central Downtown Farmers Market:

This was a small Friday morning farmers market. I bought a loaf of bread and blueberries.

Student Prince:

This was a German restaurant that looks like it's been around forever in a good way. I had the Wurstplatte, which came with a bratwurst, knackwurst, and a boar & cranberry sausage. The sausages were served over spatzle and sauerkraut. Of the three sausages, the boar & cranberry was the highlight.

This concludes my visit to Springfield. My overall impression was that the city has seen better days and seems to be in transition right now (MGM Casino is taking over several blocks of downtown). While the food options were a bit slim, there definitely were some highlight restaurants!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Chicago Food (Twin Anchors, Pequod's Pizza, Ann Sather Restaurant, Futatsuki Ramen, Lickety Split Frozen Custard, Dao Thai Restaurant, Star Grill, The Weiner's Circle, Venice Cafe, and Pierogi Crib)

I recently went on a trip to visit Chicago. I had never been to the city and while there I tasted some of Chicago's food.

Twin Anchors:

Apparently Chicago is known for their barbecue. I wasn't aware of this before visiting the city, but smoked meat was added to the list of Chicago foods to try. I ended up at a restaurant called Twin Anchors. They have been open since 1932 and boast that Frank Sinatra was one of their regular customers.
I ordered a half slab of ribs with a side of onion rings and cole-slaw. The ribs were good enough. I found the meat to be a little on the dry side. Not the best I've ever had but good enough to keep the restaurant open since the 1930s.

Pequod's Pizza:

This restaurant was recommended as one of the best places to get Chicago-style pizza in the city. I'm still a bit confused on the different nomenclature of Chicago-style pizza, and the explanation that I got here didn't help. There is apparently pan pizza, deep dish pizza, and stuffed pizza. I think I understand that stuffed pizza is what Giordano's serves (seems like nobody in Chicago actually likes Giordano's). Haven't really figured out the difference between pan and deep dish though, and I don't know which version of the pizza I ate here.
Started out with a side salad.
The pizza, topped with Italian sausage and spinach. I enjoyed this pie. It wasn't the complete overload of cheese like you get a Giordano's and was much better proportioned. I did really enjoy the crust which got nice and crispy around the outer, vertical edge of the pie.

Ann Sather Restaurant:

This was a Swedish diner, which was a new concept to me. I visited them for breakfast and ordered one of the specials, which was a Swedish breakfast sampler. It started with two very large cinnamon rolls. I was pretty much full after both of these. 
This was followed with a plate filled with a Swedish pancake with lingonberry jam, a Swedish meatball with gravy, a Swedish sausage, scrambled eggs, and a fruit salad. I liked it all with the exception of the sausage. I believe it was a pork and potato sausage that lacked flavor.

Futatsuki Ramen:

A friend in Chicago said the ramen in this restaurant is amazing. He was right. Futatsuki was a very efficient restaurant with only a few things on the menu. There was tonkotsu ramen, curry pork, and some appetizers. 
The large bowl of ramen had a milky white broth with was delicious. From what I understand, the broth takes a while to cook, getting its color from pork fat and bone marrow slowly seeping into the soup. Ramen noodles were hidden underneath the broth. Two slices of pork, scallions, pickled vegetables, an egg, and nori finished off the bowl. I don't like making bold statements when it comes to food, but this just might be some of the best ramen I've ever had!

Lickety Split Frozen Custard:

Frozen custard, desserts, and candies was what Lickety Split sold.
I had the Bing Crosberry Concrete. This was cherries and raspberries mixed together with cheesecake, graham cracker crust, and vanilla custard. It was tasty, but I thought it was a bit on the expensive side for the small size of the cup which it was served in.

Dao Thai Restaurant:

Had Thai food in Downtown Chicago here.
Chicken Satay:
Wonton and BBQ Pork soup. The menu made this sound more exiting in my head then it was. This was basically a huge bowl of wonton soup that you can find in any Chinese restaurant.

Star Grill: 

This was my first attempt at having a Chicago style hot dog. I got caught in a nasty rain storm so I hid in a restaurant called Star Grill to wait out the rain. I was told by a Chicago local that these weren't authentic Chicago dogs because of the toppings. The two hot dogs came topped with mustard, pickle spear, peppers, and tomatoes in the form of salsa. Apparently the salsa was the offender. Tomatoes on an authentic Chicago dog need to be sliced...

The Weiner's Circle:

My second attempt at finding an authentic Chicago Dog was at The Weiner's Circle. Besides the hot dogs, this restaurant's gimmick is being nasty to the customers. Unfortunately, there's a difference between being clever about insults and just coming across as bigoted. Using the gimmick to ignore the people complaining about food/wrong orders is an interesting way to do customer service. I guess there's a reason that there were only tourists in here...
The hot dog was very adequate. The toppings were on in the right form, unlike my previous experience with a Chicago dog. The bun had poppy seeds on it. I've had better Chicago style dogs with more generous toppings in Florida. We won't mention the cheese fries. They were cold and soggy topped with something that didn't really resemble cheese besides color. The majority of these were thrown out.

Venice Cafe:

Got a quick slice of pizza for a snack from this restaurant near the Willis Tower. I decided to try a NY style slice in Chicago. In my head, it was what I would expect NY style pizza to be like in the midwest. Way too much cheese and a bit doughy.

Pierogi Crib:

I visited a food hall in Chicago called the French Market. After wandering around a bit, I decided to try a booth called Pierogi Crib.
I had a Pierogi Bowl. This was an assortment of six pierogi served over a spinach salad, topped with bacon, grilled onions, red cabbage, and sour cream. I very much enjoyed this meal.

And that was my trip to Chicago. I tried most of the stereotypical Chicago foods on my list, along with foods I wasn't expecting to try. Never got around to trying an Italian Beef Sandwich though. Guess I have to go back...

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tijuana Flats Cheeseburger Tacos

Tijuana Flats invited me to one of their Orlando locations to sample some of their new menu items, specifically the new Cheeseburger Tacos and fries.
Tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, and queso are always on the menu at Tijuana Flats.
The seasoned fries were good. They were crispy with a peppery flavor. Once they were dipped in queso, I'm sure the fries became healthier...
The Cheeseburger Taco was a tortilla filled with ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes plus pickles, ketchup and mustard. You get two tacos with seasoned fries for $7.89.
The Cheeseburger Tacos and fries are available at Tijuana Flats through the end of August. Go try them while you can!


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