Hot!Kaszeta's 2013 year in review.

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kaszeta
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2013/12/13 22:04:01 (permalink)

Kaszeta's 2013 year in review.

Since I've done these the last few years, I figured I should keep up the tradition.
 
That said, 2013 was a rough year for my Roadfooding.  Coming off of a spectacular 2012 (Mmm, Iceland!), this year was substantially more mellow, but looking back over the year, I took photos at about 150 places, and wrote up 86 of them (so far).  But I'm not finding any clear patterns, so this time I'll summarize things chronologically.  That said, it ended up being a fun year, with a rather good trip to Montreal, another European bender (England and Belgium), a side trip back to Iceland, and a few other random wanderings about the US.
 
But the year started slowly.  In most of January and February, my day job had me spending entirely too much of my life in long days working in Boxborough and Ayer MA.  I'll have to throw myself on Roadfood's mercy, but even several attempts of mine to find some interesting eats fell flat; there's just not a lot in that immediate area.  But one night, we did find a particular gem of a restaurant, Woo Jung, a Korean place just off of what used to be Fort Ayer.  And for a semi-rural area out on the far outskirts of the Boston metro area, they have some surprisingly good food.  The banchan was quite flavorful and plentiful:

And the Kimchi Chigae was particularly flavorful as well:

(full review here)
 
Similarly, one of my midweek trips up to Vermont last winter allowed me to track down a place that had been on my radar for a while: Vermont has a pop-up Sushi place, Himitsu Sushi, that operates 5 nights a week out of different restaurants scattered over the state.  I finally tracked them down in Montpelier, at Kismet (an Asian fusion place that actually warranted a review of their own later in the year).  For a state that doesn't have a lot of sushi action, the temporary products of Himitsu made me want to track them down more often.  Here's their excellent tuna and watermelon ceviche:

And here's a selection of their rolls (that's mango slices, not American cheese):

(full review here)
 
Then, there was a major derailment of all my plans when I found out during a visit to Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH that I had just come down with my second kidney stone (the first was way back in the 90s).  Unlike my previous stone, this one was big and nasty, and had me down for the count: I spent six weeks either suffering from the stone, or recovering from the stone removal.  I don't recommend the experience.
 
But then April rolled around, and it was time to get active again...
 
(Next up, the Boston Death March!)
post edited by kaszeta - 2013/12/13 22:05:20
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    FriedClamFanatic
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/13 23:04:08 (permalink)
    as to the report so far..............GREAT
     
    as to the "stone"............YUCK!
    #2
    ChiTownDiner
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 06:01:50 (permalink)
    Love the sushi plate...keep it coming!
     
    #3
    Greymo
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 11:08:09 (permalink)

     
    This look wonderful!  Take the onions away and I could eat that for half the day.
    #4
    Michael Hoffman
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 12:47:05 (permalink)
    Wonderful! More please.
    #5
    ann peeples
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 13:22:14 (permalink)
    You do eat well! Love your reports!
    #6
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:29:39 (permalink)
    ...but before the Death March, Vermont!
    Once the snow started to melt, we had a rather nice weekend trip up to Burlington.
    We started with a stop in Montpelier.  I always love Montpelier, and these days it has a lot of good food stops, including Coffee Corner (Alton Brown did a pancake episode in their kitchen), Mad Taco, and several places run by the New England Culinary Institute.
    But our stop was checking in at Kismet, the same place we had stopped by for pop-up sushi earlier in the year.  But this time, the goal was breakfast, and breakfast we had.  The dish that attracted both of us was the “wok-seared scramble”, offering up a wok-ful of either potatoes or rice, seasonal veggies, ginger, basil, either eggs, tofu or cheese, and optional chicken or tempeh.  Here are both versions:


    (Full review here)
    And we also used the trip as a chance to check out Prohibition Pig, the restaurant that replaced the well-known Alchemist Brewery after they good flooded out by Irene (Alchemist now runs in their cannery across the highway).  I found a rather lot to like about Prohibition Pig.  In addition to a great tap list (including local stars like Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead), we decided to order up some appetizers, and one items jumped out on the menu: pork cracklins (I never see them this far north):

    They also had some good duck fat fries:

    But the real star was this Reuben with house-made pastrami (and a surprisingly good potato salad, of which I had several this year):

     
    #7
    agnesrob
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:44:11 (permalink)
    Great pictures!
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    lleechef
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:51:25 (permalink)
    I want that Reuben! 
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    EdSails
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 15:28:08 (permalink)
    You had me at duck fat fries.....
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 17:15:19 (permalink)
    kaszeta

    Vermont has a pop-up Sushi place, Himitsu Sushi, that operates 5 nights a week out of different restaurants scattered over the state.  I finally tracked them down in Montpelier, at Kismet (an Asian fusion place that actually warranted a review of their own later in the year).  For a state that doesn't have a lot of sushi action, the temporary products of Himitsu made me want to track them down more often.

    Fishies in a stream
    Kaszeta will eat them raw
    Sushi in Vermont
     
    (And if you haven't noticed, that's a haiku as well.)
    post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2013/12/14 17:30:52
    #11
    leethebard
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/15 09:52:56 (permalink)
    Kaszeta, enjoying your report...and I know the pain of Kidney stones....had 4 or 5 and had three blasted!!! Hang in there..oh and my second came more than a decafe later!!!
    #12
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/15 13:32:33 (permalink)
    kaszeta
     
    Great start. Looking forward to more...
    BTW....Sushi....in Vermont????!!!
    #13
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 10:13:36 (permalink)
    And next up was Burlington.  I had several trips at least passing through Burlington this year, and a lot's going on there, both old and new.
    Starting with the old... Handy's Lunch is one of the oldest breakfast joints in Burlington, and it has been on my hit list for a while, but I'm almost never in Burlington around breakfast (if I'm driving up that way for the day, usually breakfast hunger has me stopping in Montpelier).  But this time, I managed it.
    Located in a modest little building on the corner of Maple and South Champlain in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood near the waterfront. Walking in the door, it’s like walking into another era. Specifically, 1958, since that’s when Handy’s installed their current dining area, with a horseshoe shaped Formica counter.

    And a look around the room from the stools, to the menu board, to the coffee makers, show that precious little has changed in Handy’s since it opened—primarily occasional updates to the prices and the sporting paraphernalia. Otherwise, this place is still the 1950s, including the overall way they run the joint: walking in the door, one of the owners, Earl, gives you a friendly greeting, offers you a seat, and goes over his specials.  Menu-wise, it's basic diner fare, but I rather enjoyed my chicken-fried steak breakfast:

    (Full review here)
     
    Another old stalwart of Burlington (at least in the warmer months) is Beansie's Bus, which has, in one form or another, in one bus or another, been running a snack bar in Battery Park in Burlington since 1944.   The current Beansie's is a fairly common sighting from April to around November, selling hot dogs, burgers, fries, and the ever-important creemee (for non-Vermonters: regional name for soft serve) out of a converted school bus:

    One of the more intriguing things I like is when essentially the same concept, like the “Chili dog”, gets some regional variations. When I was growing up (in the Southwest), a chili dog was simply a “chili dog” (albeit with the caveat that the sort of chili that makes a good condiment isn’t the same sort that tastes good in a bowl). The “Coney Island” dog is a variant of this with “Coney sauce”, a meaty, near-chili spicy meat sauce, and can be spotted by that name ranging from Michigan all the way over to Massachusetts. However, nearly the exact same dog as a “Coney Dog”, with a slightly drier and less spicy sauce, goes by the name “Texas Hot” or a “Michigan” (likely in homage to the Coney Island variety primarily coming from Michigan) in Upstate New York and Vermont (and as far north as northern Quebec, my friend Ben has a great story about buying a “Michigan” hot dog at a food cart in Radisson, Quebec in far, far, northern Quebec). And a particularly good example of the “Michigan” hot dog is served up by Beansies:

    (Full review here)
     
    Next up was a place that's been a long-time favorite of mine in Burlington, A Single Pebble, but for years I seemed to pass them over for a review.  This year, I corrected that with another visit.  In general, New England Chinese places disappoint me, but A Single Pebble is reliably putting out some fantastic Chinese and Asian Fusion food.  Highlights of this trip include the Tea-Smoked Duck:

    The Sliced Barbecue Pork:

    And the Steal Pot Sha Cha Beef:

    (Full review here.
     
    Finally, two newer places, both by the same owners of the existing Guild and Company Steakhouse and the Farmhouse Tap and Grill.  The first is El Cortijo, which is another rarity in the Vermont food scene: a good taco shop. 

    El Cortijo took over the old Oasis Diner in Burlington after Sadie Katz (a well-regarded NY-style Jewish Diner that unfortunately I never made it to) closed up, but they've got a good thing going: Mexican food made with local meats and produce.   And a nice cozy interior:

    As far as my tacos?  They were excellent:

    (Full review here)
     
    The other new venture from the Farmhouse Group is Guild Fine Meats, a deli outlet for their in-house butcher and charcuterie operations:

    In addition to the splendid looking meats and sausages in their cold case, the real attraction here is the sandwich counter:

    Here I ordered up a most excellent pastrami sandwich.  This was a classic example of a good sandwich firing on all cylinders: Every component worked, and worked well. The foundation of the sandwich was a nice thick layer of a particularly flavorful, tender, flaky, and spicy pastrami, some of the best I’ve had in recent history. Add on a layer of locally-made fresh sauerkraut, a layer of nice Swiss cheese, and a tangy aioli on a nice soft wheat bun, and I’d love to have another of these. As an added advantage, they potato salad was really good as well, a potato-rich (I hate mayo-heavy potato salad) with rich chunks of soft golden potato, and lots of onion and celery in a light mayo sauce, and this was the perfect side as well. About my only disappointment is that they didn’t have any extra pastrami in their deli case that I could get sliced to-go:

    (Full Review here)
     
    So that's what's up in Burlington these days...
    The
     
    #14
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 10:15:30 (permalink)
    wanderingjew
    Great start. Looking forward to more...
    BTW....Sushi....in Vermont????!!!

    Yeah, I know.  Usually the sushi scene around here is pretty dismal.  But Himitsu did a good job bringing in good, fresh fish, and preparing it well.  (Still trying to track them down again, probably at the Lareau Farm in Waitsfield, which is also the home of American Flatbread Pizza)
    #15
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 12:18:48 (permalink)
    Tea smoked duck?. Kazeta, you are definitely hitting some yummy places. Nice!
    #16
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 12:58:52 (permalink)
    The next major destination was Boston, which was the destination of this year's "Death March".  You can read the whole summary in that thread, but there were a few highlights from both the walk and before/after activities, particularly:
     
    Roast beef sandwiches at Liberty Bell Roast Beef:

    (Full review here)
     
    Next was Pupusas at El Triunfo:

    (Full review here)
     
    After that, Banh Mi from Pho Viet's at the Super 88 Market:

    (Full review here)
     
    The walk basically ended with Durgin-Park, where we soothed our pains with beer and ate giant slabs of meat:

    (Full review here)
     
    And then saved room for both Mike's Pasty and Modern Pastry:


    (Full reviews here and here)
     
    Not bad for one day, huh?
     
    (Next year's Death March is DC, by the way)
    #17
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 13:29:31 (permalink)
    I took a gander at the website for Guild Fine Meats and it's definitely a place I'd visit if I was in the area!
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    MetroplexJim
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/18 08:49:13 (permalink)
    Kaszeta, you've done it again:  beautiful pics of unusual, highly interesting food & wonderful reviews.
     
    Truly, thanks!
     

    #19
    wanderingjew
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/18 10:28:29 (permalink)
    Wonderfully done so far, Kaszeta
    I totally agree with you about Durgin Park, just like Katz's Deli in NYC or Philippe's in Los Angeles, a true icon and representative of  a city's traditional  culinary past
     
    It was great to finally meet you and join you for part of the death march....Wish we could join you in DC next year but we're heading to DC a month early in April due to a wedding we are attending in Charlotte
     
    #20
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:49:01 (permalink)
    Boston also had a number of places that I visited either on separate trips, or as part of the greater Death March planning (I went down and pre-walked the route a few weeks before the real Death March to scout out places).
     
    Some of the highlights included:
    Shangri-La, in Belmont, where an exhausted Carol and myself retired to dinner after our pre-walk (the pre-release version of the Death March ended up being almost 5 miles longer than the real one, since we walked faster).  Shangri-La is one of those restaurant names that make me think of bad Americanized Chinese (primarily since growing up in Arizona, our town had a "Shangri-La" that was particularly bad), but I knew Belmont's Shangri-La was worth checking out, since on previous trips to the neighborhood (mostly to the most-excellent Sofra down the street), the place always has a large number of Chinese people hanging around outside.  This year, I learned why: Shangri-La is really good.   Highlights included this excellent Chinese broccoli:

    This very flavorful beef and turnip hot pot:

    And one of the most delicious pork dishes this year, this most wonderful pork belly with preserved mustard:

    (full review here)
     
    There were also some peripheral events associated with the Death March itself.  The night before, most of the out-of-town Marchers went to The Elephant Walk (where, interestingly, two of the semi-local people I know turned down going out to dinner with us since they had other dinner plans... which turned out also to be Elephant Walk, so we ran into them there...).   The Elephant Walk is one of my favorite Boston-area restaurants, serving up some delicious Cambodian food, like these fried spring rolls:

    Or these delicious beef Loc Lac:

    Or this pleasant Somlah Machou:

    (Full review here)
     
    Or after the Death March, a few of us still had energy and stomach capacity to take on Craigie on Main (which I had reviewed for brunch last year).  I had heard that their burger was excellent, and, indeed, it was one of the best burgers I had in 2013 (so far ;) ):

    The pork sandwich Carol had was no slouch, either:

    And the carrot cake for dessert was divine;

     
    And as luck had it, a week after the Death March had me coming back down to down to meet up with another friend, and that trip ended up taking us to breakfast at Cafe Luna in Cambridge for some excellent berry waffles:

    (full review here)
     
    Followed by dinner at Sandrine's in Cambridge, where I had this most wonderful batch of mussels:

    And this splendid Choucroute Garnis:

    (full review here)
     
    Follow by cocktails at Brick and Mortar, a speakeasy (really, it's completely unlabeled) upstairs from Cambridge's Central Kitchen:


    #21
    EdSails
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:52:12 (permalink)
    Elephant Walk looks great. I love Cambodian food----hard to find but well worth searching out!
    #22
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:55:57 (permalink)
    EdSails
    Elephant Walk looks great. I love Cambodian food----hard to find but well worth searching out!

    Eastern MA has a few good Cambodian places.  Sometime later I'll review Tepthida Khmer in Lowell, where I had a wonderful dinner yesterday.
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    TnTinCT
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/20 10:59:14 (permalink)
    Really excellent photos and making me VERY hungry!! I'd enjoy any of the pastrami selections, and the simple roast beef on the onion roll would hit the spot for lunch!
    #24
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 00:17:03 (permalink)
    Next up was a road trip to Montreal for Mondial de la Biere, Montreal's annual beer festival, which is quite a show, bringing in beers from as far away as Argentina.  It was also a chance to check in on several of my Montreal favorites:
     
    One of the things I like about Montreal is that it has a rather good assortment of brewpubs. Dieu du Ciel, Le Cheval Blanc, and Reservoir being amongst my favorites. The last of these also has a rather fine pub menu, including items such as steak tartare, fish and chips, and the like.  But that’s not why I’m writing about them (indeed, I’ve not actually sampled their dinner menu, although it always looks phenomenal). I’m actually writing about their brownie:

    That’s right, their brownie. I’ll be honest, while I like brownies, I’m generally not wowed by them at restaurants. For every good brownie I get at a restaurant, I am equally likely to get some sort of chocolate cake masquerading as a brownie, or some leaden chocolate-flavored lump. But every once in a while, I actually do find a brownie that’s actually a great brownie (in this case, my friends Rick and Sarah found it for me). Reservoir’s brownie is a stout brownie, served up with whipped cream and stout syrup.
    And let me tell you, it’s one of the best brownies I’ve ever had: the top and bottom of the brownie were nicely crisped up. The interior was soft and chewy, without being gooey. It had a rich, thick, chocolate flavor complemented with a bit of malt, and the result is the perfect combination of brownie goodness. The stout syrup served with it was a bonus: this was a perfect brownie without it, but the light, malty, and even slightly hoppy sweet syrup combined nicely with the brownie and whip cream to make a near perfect dessert.
     
    Next up was a trip to Nouveau Palais, , up in the Mile-End neighborhood. Nouveau Palais is one of those sorts of places you can easily walk by a dozen times, since from the outside it’s one of those older 1940s-style diners that are still somewhat present in Montreal, and quite frankly the look of Nouveau Palais from the outside is “seedy” (er, I think the French term is “miteux”). It’s a little grimey. The sign is two pieces that aren’t perfectly aligned, meaning that that the sign advertises that they sell “Biere Vn Liqueurs”[sic]. And the facade used to be surrounded by hundreds of little lights, of which approximately four are still in existence. Inside, it’s vintage 1940s diner with dark lighting and booths. In fact, until approximately 2011, Nouveau Palais basically was a dive diner. But that’s when the current chef, Gita Seaton, took over the place, and has been redoing the menu.  Two things stood out there, the first being a wedge salad.  One of my guilty pleasures, I adore a proper wedge salad, brimming with bleu cheese and bacon.  And the Palais did not disappoint:

    But the real star was the fried chicken:

    (full review here)
     
    We also hit up two places for seriously righteous breakfasts.  The first was an old favorite, L'avenue.  It’s a really funky place on Ave Du Mont-Royal Est, and several online resources and word of mouth have mentioned that it’s one of the best brunch places in Montreal. Well, our first visit to L’Avenue confirmed two things: they had a seriously good brunch, and that the word had gotten out, since the place had legendarily long lines (over an hour long on a Saturday morning). The long lines have led to us only returning once in the last few years, but my many visits to Montreal the last few years taught me another lesson: Les Quebecois tend not to be early risers. And noting that L’Avenue opens at 8am, we decided that when we were in town for Mondial, we’d simply rise early and head over to L’Avenue around opening time.  The strategy worked.
    Highlights of the meal were both variations of a Benedict.  Here is my My Sucre et sel "Benedict" with French Toast, Black Forest Hom, and Hollandaise.  And some maple syrup.  Interesting and odd combination, but it worked:

    And here's Carol's "Tout le monde à poêle", basically a fancy mushroom Benedict:

    The pancakes (err, "Crepes Americaines") were also a sight to behold:

    (Full review here)
     
    Next up was a new one to me: Lawrence in Montreal's Mile End neighborhood.  Lawrence is basically a British restaurant. Okay, you can stop your snickering. No really, don’t make me come over there! You should know by now from my various UK reviews that the tired old jokes about British cooking should be retired. And Lawrence is a good place demonstrating why, since they are putting out some seriously good British-inspired brunch dishes, made well, and using local in-season ingredients.  Such as this most-wonderful Full English breakfast:

    Or these beignets:

    Or even the great iced coffee:

    (Full review here)
     
    And rounding out the breakfast experience was bagels from Fairmount Bagel, one of the stalwarts of the Montreal bagel scene:

     
    Two other places were notable as well, the first being Restaurant Nu-Do.  For me, one of the great enjoyments I have with Asian cooking is when I can find a place with hand-pulled noodles. Unfortunately, these aren’t terribly common, especially in the hinterlands of Northern New England (indeed, I’m not sure we have any places that do this, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong). A good bowl of hand-pulled noodles, especially in a rich, flavorful soup, is a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. Luckily, Montreal has more than a few noodle shops, and one of the newer ones in Chinatown, Nu-do, is another branch of the already well-regarded Nu-do of Eaton Center, and the related Yuki Ramen in Faubourg Ste-Catherine (is there anything decent but Yuki still left in the Faubourg, now that Faubourg Bagels has departed?).  The attraction here is hand-pulled noodles:

    And they make for a great soup (here with pork and preserved mustard):

    I'll have to say that the potstickers were great as well:

    (full review here)
     
    Finally, a surprising one.  For various reasons, one meal was dedicated to vegetarian dining, and Yuan Vegeterian delivered, with a particularly pleasant mock eel dinner bento:

    As well as this somewhat bland-looking but actually delicious mock beef with Broccoli:

    #25
    Texascajun
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 01:02:55 (permalink)
    Wow those look great. Excellent review.
    #26
    kaszeta
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 14:23:03 (permalink)
    After Montreal, I had another break from the food tourism, primarily since I got involved in a rather elaborate prank on a coworker.  She had done a somewhat elaborate prank involving making a large, fake, papier-mache alpaca (long backstory there), and proclaimed it to be the "best prank ever!".
     
    With my group of coworkers, that sort of boast is very, very dangerous.  After some research, we discovered that my coworker thought that lawn gnomes were "rather creepy", so we decided to carpet-bomb her house with lawn gnomes.  So from May to July, one of our main spare time activities was making lawn gnomes.
     
    We cast them from concrete:

    And kept casting:

    And painting:

    And painting:

     
    How many gnomes?   501:

     
    We got them distracted with a trip to Bromley Mountain in Vermont, and installed the gnomes while they were gone.  We started in the yard:

    Hung a banner (make sure to check out the website):

    And then started putting them inside the house:

    Including specialty gnomes:

    And several hidden gnomes:


     
    Full set of pictures here.
     
    Great fun, but by July I was ready to get back to my food travels!
    #27
    EdSails
    Filet Mignon
    • Total Posts : 3967
    • Joined: 2003/05/09 18:39:00
    • Location: Mission Viejo, CA
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 14:39:25 (permalink)
    Kaszeta, best prank ever!
    #28
    FriedClamFanatic
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1650
    • Joined: 2008/07/14 19:56:00
    • Location: west chester, PA
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 15:05:58 (permalink)
    lol.......love the gnomes...reminds me of those "flamingo pranks!"
    #29
    brisketboy
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
    • Total Posts : 1102
    • Joined: 2007/06/11 08:48:00
    • Location: Austin, TX
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    Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 09:21:00 (permalink)
    You simply HAVE to post their response when they discovered they've been pranked.
    #30
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