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The Best Thing I Ever Ate

After watching several episodes of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network, I’ve become more aware of what I have been eating and whether I would put those items on my list.  It will take me some time to come up with an extensive list, but here are just a few items:

(1)  Pecan Bars at Petsi Pies in Somerville, MA:  I love pecans and this little bar packs them in, along with a nice buttery crust.  It is almost like eating a pecan pie without the filling … which is fine with me!

(2)  Chicken Marsala at Basta Pasta in Quincy, MA:  I have eaten many chicken marsala dishes in my life, but there is nothing that beats the chicken marsala at Basta Pasta.  Try it with its homemade fusili.  Excellent!  A friend of mine came back from the West Coast for a visit, and her first request was for 2 orders of the chicken marsala!

(3)  BBQ Ribs at Che Bob in MA:  Sorry folks.  Bob actually does not have a restaurant but he is a good friend of mine and he makes the best BBQ ribs in the WORLD!

(4) Milkshakes at J.P. Licks at any one of their locations in MA:  Recently I have had to increase my calcium intake … what better way to do that then to get ice cream into the system … and with milkshakes you get many, many scoops of ice cream!  The milkshakes at J.P. Licks is the best!  My favorite is the coffee oreo.

(5) Best Chinese Noodles at a little eatery in Guilin, China.  Sorry, I don’t even know how to get back there, but that does not diminish how good the noodles were.  You get a bowl, order your noodles and toppings, and then go over to a big vat to ladle in your own broth.

That’s it for now!

Stay-Cations Can Be So Yummy!

Lobster Roll from Belle Isle Seafood on the border of East Boston and Winthrop

Armed with the latest issue of Boston Magazine, I decided to check out a summer favorite here in New England - lobster rolls!  The order came with large chunks of lobster meat and held nicely together by the right amount of mayonaise and a toasted roll.  The price is a little high, but it was worth the trek out there.  Warning, though, while there is seating, there are no tables and parking is available on the street only.

Frappes from Toscanini’s in Central Square

Right now my diet calls for a high volume of calcium.  What better way to have calcium then in a milkshake or frappe?  So once again, I armed myself with my Boston Magazine and found Toscanini’s as this year’s winner.  While I was going to order a small frappe, the lure of Toscanini’s ice cream swayed me to change my mind at the last minute to get a large.  Hey, it’s only a few dimes more!  I was not disappointed at all.  The server packed scoops and scoops of ice cream into the cup and blended it with 1% milk.  The result was an awesome and yummy frappe!  I am just hoping that the calcium content outweighs the fat content!

Popovers at the Popover Bakery and Cafe in Portsmouth, NH

OK, so on Day 4 of my stay-cation, I decided to venture north a little further.  This time without my Boston Magazine, I revisited the Popover Bakery and Cafe in the heart of Portsmouth, NH.  A short 1 hour north, it is definitely worth a trip.  I have never been to a restaurant with so many popovers and served in so many ways.  While I had a popover dessert a few years back, this time I tried a savory dish … smoked salmon salad. It was very delicious and I am going to delude myself into thinking that just because it is a “salad” it is healthy for me.

Mainely Gourmet Chocolate Factory

While I was up in Portsmouth, I also asked around for a chocolate store.  Mainely Gourmet was suggested.  It is not a large store, nothing impressive.  There were a lot of options nonetheless. Its signature item is the “Evil Chip.”  This caught my attention and I decided that it would be the victim of my chocolate craving.  The Evil Chip is an interesting concoction - potato chips covered with caramel, dipped in chocolate, and rolled in crush nuts.  It is definitely worth trying for the experience.

Zigo to Go

For several years, there has been a small prepared food store a block from Kendall Square.  I would go there just for the exotic selection of chocolate bars, but recently, I discovered some of their more substantive options.  The item that makes me write this post is their cranberry walnut chicken salad sandwich on a three-grain bread.  The salad was the right consistency and the three-grain bread added the right amount of nuttiness to the whole package.  Give this a try the next time that you are in Kendall Square.  They also have another location on Binney Street closer towards Central Square.

Milkshakes

Growing up, I tried having milkshakes a number of times, but just never understood or appreciated them.  Recently, I have been craving milkshakes - possibly because they scream “fountain of calcium.”  For someone with a sports injury like me, that is quite attractive.  So, after repressing bad childhood memories of painfully trying to suck milkshakes up a straw, I caved and experienced my first J.P. Licks oreo cookie ice cream milkshake.  It was delicious!  The consistency and flavor were awesome!  I have since had several, and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of them!  J.P. Licks has locations throughout Boston and southwestern suburbs of Boston (Newton, Brookline, Dedham).  Definitely two thumbs up!

Locally North

The occasion was as serendipitous as the find!  There is nothing more New England than eating fried clams on a sunny afternoon by the water.  It was even better that I had not planned on the trip until just a few hours beforehand.

On a recent trip up to Rockport, MA (for the non-Bostonians, that’s just about 1 hour North of the city), a friend of mine introduced me to Top Dog.  Although Top Dog is known for its hot dogs, I have to say that the fried clam strips won me over.  The batter was seasoned, was not too greasy, and dutifully stayed on the clam strips.  As the cook commented, “You know the clams are done in the fryer when they make a different noise … it’s almost as if they speak to you.”  And speak to me they did!

Dessert GPS

After giving up desserts in observance of Lent, I’ve gone on the deep end of consuming desserts.  Desserts are always on my mind now and I look for any excuse to indulge myself in a sweet treat.  With that said, there is still only so much that one can take in at a time, so consuming wisely is the key to happiness.  My approach?  Figure out where you are at any given time your desire for desserts arise and then determine the best path to the closest purveyor of desserts.  Here are a few suggestions that should do the trick without breaking the bank, i.e., under $2 each (in no particular order):

Au Bon Pain (multiple locations throughout the city): Chocolate-dipped shortbread

Cafe Vanille (Charles Street and The Mall at Chestnut Hill locations): butter cookies

Flour Bakery (Washington Street in the South End and Farnsworth Street at Fort Point Channel): coconut macaroons

Whole Foods Supermarket (multiple locations): cookies

Bread and Chocolate Bakery (Newtonville): cookies

Starbucks (I can’t believe I am supporting them): toffee bar

Crown Royal Bakery (Quincy and Chinatown locations): egg custard tarts

Enjoy!

Water Street Cafe

Vancouver is an extremely beautiful city with great water and mountain views. I’ve been told however that the weather is pretty nasty throughout the year until you get to June and July. Well, both times that I’ve been in Vancouver, have been June, so I can’t vouch either way.

If you do find yourself in the downtown area of Vancouver and are looking for a great place to eat at a reasonable price (I’ve found Vancouver pricing to be quite high), I would recommend the Water Street Café in the Gastown District. My colleague and I ate there al fresco and it was a wonderful experience. The staff was friendly and the food was really delicious. She had a seafood salad and I had a pasta dish with fish and sesame alfredo sauce. Entrees were under $20. The restaurant is located at 300 Water Street, across from the “clock” landmark in Gastown.

BBQ Korean-Style

Korean BBQ is one of my favorite ways of eating meat, and outside of Korea, there’s no better way of experiencing Korean BBQ then having it in Koreatown in LA.  The recommendations below are from friends of mine who know their BBQ …

Chung KI Wa
3545 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 737-0809
Chung Ki Wa has good quality meat, and their banchan (side dishes)
are very good.   Their cold noodles are good too.

Park’s Barbeque also has excellent meat, but their banchan and
overall ambience (if that’s what you want to call it) aren’t as good:
Park’s BBQ (www.parksbbq.com)
955 S. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 380-1717

If you want old school Korean barbeque where you might as well throw
your clothes away afterwards (they use charcoal here):
Soot Bull Jeep
3136 W. 8th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 387-3865

Over a Cup

Sometimes you just want something short of a meal … check out these cafes and dessert offerings:

Rancatore’s
This is an ice cream shop with locations on the West Cambridge/Belmont line and one in Lexington Center. There’s great homemade ice cream with a decent tea selection. Exposed brick walls with scattered tables make this a fun casual place. My favorite is their coffee ice cream.

Finale’s
This is mainly a dessert place where the chefs show you how the desserts are assembled. It may be a little fancier than normal, but it’s a great place to finish off a good meal. There are locations in Harvard Square, on Columbus Avenue in the theatre district, and on Beacon Street in Coolidge Corner.

Tealuxe
You asked for tea? This is the Starbuck’s response to tea lovers with a number of locations.

Dado Tea
This place puts an Asian/Zen spin on the tea experience. There are two locations in Cambridge: Harvard Square and on Mass Ave on the edge of Central Square.

Peet’s Coffee
Alternative to Starbuck’s. Multiple locations, including Harvard Square and Lexington Center. They have a very good selection of teas – loose teas.

Flour Bakery
There’s a good selection of coffee drinks here. Try either of their locations – Fort Point Channel (more space) and South End.

Book Ends

Some of my favorite “meals” are actually breakfast/brunch and dessert. Here are some options that I enjoy:

Brunch Places
Paramount Restaurant on Charles Street (open kitchen for great pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, and even dinner)
Garden of Eden on Tremont Street in the South End (try their French dip sandwich and rosemary fries)
Flour Bakery on Washington Street on the edge of the South End or on Farnsworth Street at Fort Point Channel
Zaftigs on Beacon Street at Coolidge Corner

Dessert Places for Ambiance and Quality
Top of the Hub for Dessert (traditional Boston favorite - great view of the city)
Hyatt Harborside at Logan (great location and walks by the water)
Finale’s (Beacon Street, Harvard Square, Columbus Avenue – great presentation)
Four Season’s Bristol Lounge (top on my list for ambiance and quality)