The way to my heart is through my stomach - figuratively, metaphorically, and literally.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Boloco Burritos - Concord, NH

10 Fort Eddy Road
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 410-3089

Boloco is essentially your designer wrap or burrito chain with a similar concept as Subway or Quizno's.  A good menu selection of burrito combinations that work well, but the ability to custom design your own burrito from a list of ingredients.

The ingredients are good, quality, fresh ingredients that one could make a quite a healthy meal out of.  The ability to design your own burrito from scratch is great for those people that are trying to keep the ingredients to meet specific standards for diet, food requirements, or otherwise, including skipping out on the wrap to make it a salad of sorts.

It's incredibly convenient and quick, and makes for a great excursion food - a fantastic to-go food for on the road, especially one I don't feel guilty for eating all the time.

Depending on how hungry I am, I may or may not stop by here on the way home so I at least have a protein shake for on the way home, and possibly part of a burrito, depending on how quick I drive...

Just kidding.

One of the secrets at Boloco, however, is the smoothies.  They have a few smoothies on the menu that they make to order that are fantastic and fresh with no additional ingredients than what it would take to make it at home.  The option to add healthy ingredients such as whey protein, and such is available as well, which makes Boloco definitely a great place to stop by after the gym.

Amusingly, the other day, obviously coated in dirt and sweat from the gym, a pair of people in the booth next to ours had to laugh at us - they, or we, were not the only ones with this most excellent idea.

If I may say.  Boloco Burritos.  Do it.

Boloco Burritos on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Bridge Cafe - Manchester, NH

The Bridge Cafe
1117 Elm St
Manchester, NH 03101
(603) 647-9991

The Bridge Cafe is a trendy coffee shop on Elm Street in Manchester.  Pretty much on the corner of Bridge and Elm, it is a perfect brunch location for a lazy sunday morning coffee and meal.  A delicate mix of caffeinated awakenness and lounged relaxation - perfect for some time reading the paper, or studying for a little bit, or better yet, conversations amongst good friends or new or old lovers.

It is the perfect example of what makes New Hampshire what it is - and is supposed to be.  Even at it's fastest paced, there is time to sit down and chat and bring a little joy to a hungry belly.  But enough of that, onto the FOOD!

I couldn't resist a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel as soon as i saw it on the menu.  Everything looked good, but I had been craving some salmon for quite a while, and I couldn't resist.  It came out quite good, and fresh.  Of course, something that I could have just as easily made at home, but there's something about the atmosphere and ambiance of a cafe and coffee shop that make it even better than just eating at home.

The Bridge Cafe serves everything from standard breakfasts, to salads, to paninis, to soups, and some good looking desserts.  Their entire menu is on their website, and they do deliver, actually.  Prices are not bad at all for what you get.  And all I can say is...  stack of pancakes.  Hmmmm...

Food is good, prices are good, the Bridge Cafe.  Go go!

Bridge Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

China Pearl - Boston, MA

China Pearl
9 Tyler St. (bet. Beach & Kneeland Sts.)
Large Fried Anchovies
Boston, MA 02111

In honor of Chinese New Year, for the beginning of the year of the dragon --

Happy Chinese New Year!
Xin Nian Kuai Le!
あけまして おめでとう ございます
Felix sit annus novus!
Selamat tahun baru!
Gelukkig nieuwjaar!
새해 복 많이 받으세요
Kung hé fat tsoi!
Sretna nova godina!
Pork Knuckles in Sweet Soy Sauce

I think that covers all the languages of people I know and talk to on at least on a semi regular basis....

What better but to eat dim sum to honor the practically ageless tradition of Chinese New Year?  China Pearl is a traditional stainless-steel-cart-rolling-around-with-Asian-ladies-who-don't-speak-a-lick-of-English-and-stamp-your-bill-card-after-giving-you-your-delicious-treats restaurant.  This restaurant is definitely traditionally a dim sum restaurant.

Outside of dim sum lunch hours, China Pearl does turn into an ordinary menu based Chinese restaurant, but I solely come here for the dim sum, so I cannot comment on how that food is.  But if the dim sum is an indication, eating here should a fantastic experience either way.
The Fried Anchovies were FILLED with roe.  DELISH!
What is dim sum, you ask?  If you haven't had dim sum yet, you're missing out.  Excellent dim sum is one of the most mind melting, spine shuddering, moanworthy tastegasms that one could have.  Think Asian tapas.  Think many-multi-course family style meals on the cheap.  Think tastegasm.  Ha, couldn't resist a little self advertisement.  Even though you're already here.  Dim sum is essentially small servings of bite size or chopstick friendly foods served in steamer baskets or small plates.

Har Gao
China Pearl has a plethora of different dishes that seem to continually change and be added onto.  I keep finding new dishes that I haven't seen float past me on a rickety stainless steel cloud of tastegasmic goodness before.  The two most standard dim sum dishes--a requirement for my every visit to any dim sum restaurant--are shaomai (minced pork and shrimp in a wheat flour wrapper) and har gao (steamed shrimp dumpling).  Very simple in taste, yet it is what I judge my dim sum restaurants by, similar to my miso soup in sushi restaurants.

Haam Sui Gaau
The pork knuckles were incredibly tender and fatty.  If I didn't know any better, I would have said they were mixed in with some pork bellies.  Sadly there was less tendon than I expected, but I think that's just because I'm a whore for texture, and such things as tendons and squid appeal to me.  Speaking of squid, the fried squid here is fantastic.  Simply flash fried in peanut oil and seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper, it's simply tastegasmic.

Jin Deui, also called Matuan
The very word 'tendon' in a dim sum restaurant brings up one dish that I will rarely pass up: ji jiao (chicken feet), otherwise known as feng zhao (phoenix claws), a much cooler name.  Phoenix claws are, essentially chicken feet.  Deep fried, boiled, and remarinated in a sweet soy sauce concoction, chicken feet, much like most mammal feet, are essentially lots of individual bones connected by tendons and all covered by a skin, almost no meat to consider.

Chicken feet, in my mind, are the equivalent to roasted sunflower seeds when it comes to dexterity.  So much work for so little reward, yet it is so worth it.  Like sunflower seeds, the dexterity is known either in the fingers or the mouth - those people who can put a number of seeds in their mouth and spit out only the shells moments later are much like the people that have the dexterity of tongue to pop in a good section of chicken foot, and spit out cleaned bones moments later, leaving their hands clean and tastegasm underway.

A cross section of Jin Deui - aka any excuse to take a bite
The chee cheong fun (rolled vermicelli sheets with shrimp or pigs liver inside, floating in sweet soy sauce) is a simple but delicious dish that might as well have a joke built into it - the soy sauce soaked vermicelli is very slippery to chopsticks, and failure to hold onto your piece is almost always rewarded in a far reaching fountain of soy sauce splashed up from the dish.  The taste is worth every laugh, if it happens.

The lo mai gai (sticky rice mixed with shredded pork, chicken, and mushrooms wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed) is a delicious filler item.  This is one I like grabbing near the end, easily rewrapped, and good warm or cold.

Jin deui (chewy dough filled with red bean paste, covered in sesame seeds, and deep fried) is a fantastic dessert piece.  After breaking through a fresh, crispy outer crust, the inside is nice and warm and soft.  A tastegasmic ball of joy.

Chee Cheung Fan in a diluted sweet soy sauce
Naturally, because of the fattiness of all the foods,  you'll most probably run out of hot tea, so simply leave the pot lid ajar to signal for a refill.  Exaggerated blackjack finger signals work quite well with the foods - whether to say no more, or to bring more.

I could keep going infinitesimally describing dishes at China Pearl, but like the clanging carts and their respective lady vendors, it would never end.  To get more, one would just have to visit yourself, and feed the need.

I can easily say that China Pearl is one of the best Dim Sum restaurants in the New England area, and have on more than one occasion make the one way hour long drive with the visit to China Pearl being the primary reason.

Happy Tastegasming!

China Pearl on Urbanspoon

Candia Road Convenience Store - Manchester, NH

836 Candia Road   
Manchester, NH 03109
(603) 669-6565

Think of the Candia Road Convenience store as a gas station store.  On crack.  If you break it down, there are four sections to the store.  The gas station store, sub shop, the beer shop, and the cigar shop.  The Candia Road Convenience store is not a gas station.  You will not be able to find any fuel to power your vehicle here.  However, there are plenty of good eats to power yourself.

The store is essentially setup like a gas station.  Refrigerated drinks in glass front coolers on the perimeter.  Scratch and lottery tickets on the counter.  Slow to perish snacks and such on the shelves.  But this is where Candia Road stops being like a standard convenience store.

To the right when you walk in, is a whole section of cigars.  Cigars like nobody's business.  Local brands, imported brands, brands I've never heard before.  This is probably where I'll go if I ever need a cigar.

Straight ahead from when you walk in is beer.  Lots and lots of beer.  Shelves loaded with beer.  Wall fridges filled with beer.  Different kinds of beer, imported beer, local beer, microbrew.  The prices on the beer is a little higher than grocery store, but about equivalent to gas station prices.  Naturally.  A great place to stop and pick up a bottle or a case on the way home or to a party and have a brew worth talking about, or that no one has ever seen before.

Of course, since this is a food blog, the sub shop.  A very simple shop with only a few kinds of breads and a few kind of fillings for the sub, it's good quality, it's fresh, it's cooked to order, and it's cheap.  In fact, the only and entire menu is the size of a large post it note, as can be seen below.

Some combination of the parts and ingredients below will be your sandwich.  Call or walk in, name off your ingredients, type and size of bread, toasted or not, and condiments - 10 minutes later, and voila, food's done.  Don't fear wandering around aimlessly in the store - there is much to look at in terms of beer and cigars and such.

The subs from Candia Road that I favor the most are the steak tip, seafood salad, and chicken salad.  Of course, toast the bread, and load on the hots, tomatoes, mayo, and pepper for me, and I'm happy as a clam.

For those watching carbs, the convenience store will also take the ingredients and create salads out of them, which are also quite good.

All in all, the Candia Road Convenience store is extremely convenient, cheap, and tasty.  Being just down the road from my office, and conveniently right off of exit 6 of I-93, it has been the place that I go to when I forget my lunch.  Which is more often than not, unfortunately, yet fortunately.

Candia Road Convenience Store on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Barley House - Concord, NH

The Barley House
132 North Main St.
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 228-6363

The Barley House is what I consider a reasonably cheap semi trendy burger joint in Concord.  When I arrived, I didn't realize how many other things besides burgers they had.  Because I had my mind set on burgers, we definitely ordered one--the hangover.  Other reviews and reports tell me that the specials here are rather hit or miss, however, I will definitely have to come back without a preformed opinion and expectation for a burger to come try Barley House's specials.

We had the French Dip Panini, The Blackened Cajun Burger, and the Hangover Burger.  All three were quite delicious, with the burgers being a slight novelty, at least for the north in terms of taste.  The Cajun burger was seasoned with a sort of Cajun Mayonaise - Mayo mixed in with what appeared to be a little ketchup and mustard, and a cajun season, such as Tony Chachere's.  It fit the burgers and fries quite well.

The Hangover burger was my choice, and naturally, being me I ordered it rare.  Three bites in, and I realized that there was no pink center.  The burger was about medium well done.  Our waitress, Lisa, took it off my hands quite quickly and had it remade in about five minutes.  While I waited, she brought a complementary dish of french fries with Cajun Mayo to keep me occupied.  The Hangover burger consisted of a seasoned beef patty, a fried egg, your choice of cheese, two slices of bacon, and some wild salad.  Upon the arrival of my burger, take two, it was definitely rare.  However, being the food snob that I was, I noticed that the burger had been seasoned before being formed into patties, and that the beef was about a day older than I would have liked it for rare.  I usually like rare burgers because they are not seasoned on the inside, giving one the raw beef taste that I so much like.  Had I known this, I would have stuck with the burger that came out originally.

However, this isn't a black mark.  The burger was incredibly good, and really activated my tastebuds, with all the different layers of flavors that were in the burger.  The combination of the cheese, bacon (yes, everything is better with bacon, I do agree!), and seasoned beef accompanied with the occasional bittersweet taste of the wild salad was fantastic.  I will definitely come back to Barley House for some more burgers.  But only after I've had a chance to attack some of their specials and more of their beer selection.

All in all, for a semi trendy burger joint, the Barley House is a great place to go to.  Part bar, the beer selection is above par, with some interesting selections to choose from.  The service is fantastic, and if you're there, definitely try to grab Lisa as a waitress - she took care of all my food problems with no issues whatsoever, and kept right on top of our requests and needs.

Stay tuned for episode 2, so I can give an accurate look into the Barley House's nonburger selection!

The Barley House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Asian Breeze - Hooksett, NH

1328 Hooksett Rd   
Hooksett, NH 03106
(603) 621-9298

Asian Breeze is my local sushi place.  It is nestled perfectly between my home and my office, which allows me to get delivery to either with their smallish delivery range of about 6 miles.  Which is very dangerous.  So far, I've managed to stay away for about 2-3 weeks at a time, which, I guess I will have to be satisfied with.  Both my delivery addresses are on file, and when I give my phone number, they automatically ask me where they're going.  Most of the time, based on time of day, they can figure it out all on their own.  Something tells me I order way too much sushi from here.  In fact, hold on one second while I call in an order that will arrive about the same time as I will at home.
Where was I?  Oh yes, sushi.  SUSHI.  Asian Breeze at first appearance seems like a cheap Chinese restaurant, complete with row of cheap booths, gambling machines, karaoke platform and bar.  However, what comes out of the kitchen, to most people's surprise is amazingly fresh and plentiful.  With someone who cares about atmosphere and environment of the restaurant, Asian Breeze is not it.  For someone who can focus only on the food, Asian Breeze is definitely it.

The fish here is incredibly fresh and tasteful.  The fresh salmon is case in point.  In the pictures here, the fatty tissue patterning is rich, and has been taken advantage of to produce the best look in the sushi.

Asian Breeze's special rolls are very excellent, and I wouldn't hesitate to order any of them.  Each one is specifically distinct from the other, and all of them are fantastic.

One of the things of note is that even the regular rolls that are usually small and insignificant (and that I usually avoid in most sushi restaurants) are of decent size and contain a decent amount of fish.  For those looking for regular type rolls, these are quite good and fulfilling.  Amusingly, even vetted sushi eaters aren't immune to oops moments, such as dropping a roll into the soy sauce.

Price wise, Asian Breeze is approximately the same as most average sushi restaurants, however, the rolls across the board are significantly larger and contain more fish.  It is definitely a sushi restaurant where one could arrive hungry and end up full without breaking the bank.

While I'm thinking about it, wasabi and soy sauce.  Most people mix wasabi into their soy sauce and quite liberally apply the mixture to their sushi rolls by means of dipping.  Personally, depending on the roll, of course, I apply a small amount of wasabi directly to the roll, and just enough soy sauce by dipping the chopstick into the soy sauce and transferring a drop or two to the roll before providing my mouth with the delectable concoction.  I'm not one for hiding the taste of what I'm eating in salt, but I have no issue with a little heat.

All in all, Asian Breeze, fresh quality in quantity at a reasonable cost.  And that's a tastegasm right there.

Asian Breeze on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 20, 2012

Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery - Manhattan, New York

Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery
114 10th Ave. (17th St.)
Manhattan, NY 10011

Artichoke Basille is one of those hole in the wall places that looks more like a delivery only joint that anything at all.  The waiting area is a grungy area only 6 ft by 10 ft, and although there is some counter space, I feel that it is not encouraged to stay and eat.  No matter.  The Crocodile Lounge is right across the street, and despite peddling their own pizza, had no issue with me bringing in Artichoke Basille's.

My review of Artichoke Basille's may be a little biased, and missing, but supposedly the thing to get here is the artichoke pie.  $30 for the whole pie, it is a behemoth of a pie covered in cheese after cheese after cheese.  The slices are easily an inch thick at the thinnest, and thoroughly mixed with artichoke pieces.

The crust is just crispy enough to keep from completely collapsing underneath the weight of the cheese, but as you lift your one slice (that is just about enough to feed the ordinary man, unless you're me), the gooey cheese starts melting and sliding off the edges, creating an oh-so-glorious mess only solved by the creative use of the fingers and tongue.

The artichoke pizza may be a little too much for those not used to the richness of hot, melting cheese--but growing up in the Netherlands, in the land of cheese, it was a foodgasm in my mouth.

Get a whole pie.  Share it, love it.  It's damn good for the soul.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Hoolihans - Weehawken, NJ

1200 Harbor Blvd
Weehawken, NJ 07086

Hoolihan's is a pretty decent chain restaurant that has excellent service and surprisingly good food.  Their menu is about a quarter tapas based, which allows for pretty good family style sharing of food, allowing everyone to try a large number of dishes.  The rest of their menu is most typically American, but of decently high quality and with some flair.

The service--that we received, at least--was superb, and was that rivaling individual restaurants.  At the time, I actually didn't know that Hoolihan's was a chain, I had not paid attention to the planning until afterwards.  Chains usually get some a bad rap, for good reason, usually, but this one broke free of the stereotype and provided well above average service and food quality.  I was happily surprised.

We ended up essentially getting a bunch of tapas for the four of us.  From (in order of the pictures) seared salmon to pickle fries, ahi tuna salad to disco fries, eggrolls to mini burgers to Aztec shrimp--it was quite a feast.  This particular chef had a liking to a mild horseradish mayonnaise sauce - it was on a number of the dishes, and on the side of another.  It was good - a little too mild for my wild tongue, but just far enough away that I didn't dive into the bay craving for some raw oysters.  All the dishes were fantastic, except for the burgers, I'd say.  But restaurant burgers have a particularly strong handicap with me - I like my burgers rare, I can grill a pretty mean burger myself, and the burger is one of those foods that restaurants don't often focus on. Like chicken fingers.  A cop out food for the non foodies.

Before I go any further, yes, I have stereotypes, can't you tell?  But that's what makes me who I am, and what my tastes are looking for.  Eccentricities of personality, if I may say, and some foods just have certain priorities and handicaps over others.  However, I am always willing to try everything twice, and am liberal with second chances.  Iterum eundem ad lapidem offendere.  Which, unfortunately, sometimes has led me to stumble over the same stone twice, or thrice.  But all's part of being a good foodie.  Eat, or be eaten.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the mini burgers.  The burgers had promise, but were essentially ruined by the dryness of the meat.  It was definitely well done, if not a bit past that, and had lost a good amount of the moisture and juiciness that a burger is supposed to have.  The bread seemed a bit dry as well, but it seemed purposefully done.  I almost wonder if it was missing a thin brown or white gravy dip.  Now that would turn the entire thing around.

Of the entire meal, my most favorite was the ahi tuna.  Seared ever so lightly, and seasoned with drops of the horseradish mayonnaise and a sort of light bbq honey cocktail sauce, it was simple, yet brought out that what makes ahi tuna what it is.  The shrimp was similarly done and had the same affect on me.

Tastegasm achieved.  I'll be back, Hoolihan's.  To you or one of your sisters.

St. Charles Tavern - NOLA

St. Charles Tavern
1433 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130

New Orleans is famous, or rather infamous, for being a city that is 24/7.  Most locations that consider themselves restaurants first take a normal restaurant schedule, closing after dinner at around 11pm.  Even bar and lounges close their kitchens close to midnight.  For a city that is known to party around the clock, where does one--a foodie accustomed to delicious fare--get a bite to eat after a rowdy party night, then?  St. Charles Tavern, of course!

Definitely several large steps above bar and diner food, St. Charles Tavern definitely puts out some delicious dishes available around the clock, 24/7.  Blessed be.  If you think IHOP is great at 4 in the morning after a night out, be ready to have a shuddering tastegasm when you have St. Charles Tavern at 4 in the morning!

Just about on the border of uptown and downtown on St. Charles, it is a most ideal pit stop for those making their way home on the trolley line.  Living uptown on the trolley line myself - it was practically a required stop for going back home after a exciting evening and night.  I've had practically everything worth getting on the menu, and it's all fantastically good.  Definitely give their gumbo a try, as well as all other classically New Orleanian foods on the menu.  I highly recommend the boudin balls.  Deep fried Cajun flavored concoctions of boudin sausage, eggs, flour, and seasonings, all covered with remoulade sauce--boudin balls are definitely a fantastic party in your mouth.

It could just be me, but I typically skip "regular" foods from restaurants that are known to be good for specialty foods.  So don't ask me how good the burger or chicken fingers are here, essentially, because like it or not, it's simply a waste of caloric intake.  In my sincerest humble opinion, of course.

The prices are reasonable, but naturally a waste of calories and dollars if you're coming here with drunken taste buds.  The food is incredibly tasteful and rich, but should definitely not come with a nutritional facts label.  No calorie or fat percentage is spared, but not to excess, of course.

All in all, St. Charles Tavern may not be on the list of places to visit for lunch, but is definitely great for a late dinner, and the place to go to for a late night or early morning tastegasmic meal.

St. Charles Tavern on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Marea - Manhattan, NY

240 Central Park S.
Manhattan, NY 10019

Marea has all the makings of a trendy restaurant, and doesn't slaughter the portion size that drastically in becoming trendy.  Yes, quantity is not necessary in experiencing proper taste, but sometimes, I want to experience that taste a few times, especially in what happens to the taste as my tongue gets accustomed to the flavor.  One thing I've noticed, however, is that trendy has more and more doubled in definition to the word snobby.  Like the wealth class division, the foodie trendy class division has been as nose turn uppish as it has ever been.  If you don't understand the culture, you have to ask and be treated as a foodie child, hand held.

I consider Marea a blending of Italian and seafood, with a Japanese twist.  Having a rather purist background, I wanted to separate the two and experience the flavors separately, making it two separate experiences, rather than blending the tastes in fusion.

For $185 worth of food, and approximately $100 for roughly 2 rounds of drinks, four people were reasonably filled for people who were expecting calories.  For what I was expecting, not bad, but I also held back.The sashimi here is delicious, and I could definitely do some serious damage here. Each four pieces sashimi plate, priced at $12 to $20, was every bit delicious and tastegasmiccally savory.  Given a chance, I would have grabbed each one of them.  I grabbed the pappagallo (parrotfish) and Panna.

The meals consisted of the swordfish, cuttlefish, cheese pasta, clam risotto.  Naturally, being me, I stole food from each dish to try it.  Growing up in NOLA, my tongue is still used to a lot more flavor and zest in each layer than most other cuisine areas.  However, I've noticed that mild flavors are only used because bold statements can quickly overwhelm more subtle flavors.  Multilayer tastes and flavors should complement each other in their boldness - not complement each other in it's closeness in taste, in some of these cases, blandness.

I paired my cuttlefish with occhi 68, 2009.  A rather more bland than expected, but it came with recommendation for the cuttlefish.

Now, mind you, the food was good.  It was perfectly made, and tasteful, and for the menu item, it was fantastic.  I just expect more zing, more pow, more bam, to quote Emeril, even though I don't like his ways.  Trendy fusion is not about following the standard.  It's about amazing your clientelle.  It's about generating fans with your art that you can call your own, not providing the customer what he expects.  It's about wow factor.

Side note to self, eat more caviar.  Caviar has zing factor, all by itself.

The more and more I go out to eat, and boy, have I gone out to eat, I've noticed that the company you're with is incredibly relevant.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere of the restaurant is incredibly valuable.  I think I finally made a hard distinction this time around due to the different characters with me.  As I was enjoying my meal, beyond the flavors shifting on my palate, I noticed that my heart felt and showed who I was talking to shifted my palate.  Neither good nor bad.  Just interesting observation.

The bill shock chocolates, as I call them, are fantastic, and the ladies left with chocolate gifts that they promptly gifted away again outside the restaurant.   Must have been all those rich butter laden dishes creating tastegasmic guilt trips.

Marea on Urbanspoon