kaszeta's 2010 year-end review

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kaszeta
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2010/12/29 16:08:07 (permalink)

kaszeta's 2010 year-end review

Inspired by Buffetbuster's work, I'm doing my own (less ambitious, I'm certainly no buffetbuster or wanderingjew, but I do get around...) year-end review for 2010.
2010 was an interesting year for me.  I actually traveled a lot less than usual (I usually travel between 50 and 75 days a year for work, and around 4 weeks for personal travel), and had a 3 month stretch with no travel aside from a few short trips around VT and NH.  But that said, it was actually the busiest year ever for my blog (50+ reviews in 2010, and I'm still writing), so apparently when I was traveling, I was keeping pace with my eating.  But I spend 7 weeks in Europe this year (England and Spain, mostly), and that's not really roadfood if you can't drive it, so I'm going to focus on the places in the US and Canada.
Highlight's of 2010 fit several categories.  I'll start with Burgers...

Looking over my blog, I ate a lot of burgers this year, a mix of old favorites (Matt's Bar) and new places.  Highlights include (pics are above each entry):

1. Mad Madeline's, Temecula, CA.  Jalapeno cheeseburger.  Very nicely done California style burger, with nicly leafed lettuce and tomato, a very nicely seared but very juicy half-pound patty, and a nicely toasted bun.  A very-well executed burger, but oddly one that gave me "menu regret", since my partner's ortega chile burger looked even more delicious.

2. Libby's Diner, Colchester, VT.  Mushroom burger and fries.  This was a good diner burger, decently thick patty, nicely crisped but still medium rare, fully juicy, served with decent fries.  I'll probably come back next time I'm up around Colchester.

3. Matt's Bar, Minneapolis, MN. Jucy Lucy.  An old standby favorite of mine (I used to go there once a month when I lived in Minneapolis), despite the well-done meat, the combination of nicely seared beef and melting, oozing cheese just make for a really good combination.

4. Revolutionary Burger, Lebanon, NH.  Che Burger 2x2.  One of the odd ones, these are made in the back of the local Mexican restaurant (Gusanoz Mexican).  One of their cooks went to In-N-Out and basically had a religious experience, and they now sell these on a take-out-only basis out of the Mexican place.  Their version of the Double Double is the "Che Burger 2x2", is a surprisingly good In-N-Out knockoff that gets most everything right, and has their own twist, since their special sauce has just a hint of hot pepper spice to it.  I rather liked it, despite the odd business model.

5. Miracle of Science, Cambridge, MA.  Ronie Burger.  Another odd burger, this one has minced jalapenos mixed into the patty.  I'm not usually a great fan of items mixed into my burgers (having suffered through the 1980s craze of mixing onion soup mix into every damn thing imaginable), but this actually worked.  A minor bun upgrade and this would be a great burger.

6. Umpleby's Bakery, Hanover, NH.  Umpleburger and fries.  The owner of Umpleby's really has gotten into locally-raised beef, and decided to occasionally have a burger special.  The resulting burger?  A mixed bag.  The beef itself was flavorful, but could use a good crisp sear on the burger.  While I don't usually like brioche buns on burgers (too sweet, and usually not the right texture), it worked rather well in this burger.  However, many sins were forgotten with the fries, which are oven-cooked in bacon fat (they don't have a Frialator).  These were phenomenal.

7. Louis Lunch, New Haven, CT.  Been going there on-and-off most of my life, it was worth finally blogging about.  What works here is the juiciness of the meat and a decent sear.  To be honest, however, these burgers, while good, aren't top 10 material for me, but I do enjoy Louis Lunch's dedication to still doing burgers using their classic methods.
 
I'll spread the other posts out over the next day or so.
post edited by kaszeta - 2010/12/29 16:18:44
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    wheregreggeats.com
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/29 17:02:56 (permalink)
    Thanks.  Now I gotta go get me a burger ... (My new find in Northampton, Massachusetts is at Joe's Pizza.)
    #2
    buffetbuster
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/29 18:12:34 (permalink)
    So glad you are doing a year end review and you are off to a great start!  The photos are excellent.  That jalapeno cheeseburger from Mad Madeline's looks really good. 
     
    Looking forward to the next installment.
    #3
    DirtDude
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/29 23:54:56 (permalink)
    I like #3, mostly because of the oozing cheese.
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    ann peeples
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 06:30:04 (permalink)
    Really enjoying you end of year report.
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    wanderingjew
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 08:59:47 (permalink)
    Kaszeta,
     
    Great photos
    I've been to Libby's Diner for breakfast- they had good blueberry pancakes- but the burger looks great too.
     
    I deliberately had a very "light" burger year in 2010, since I believe I went overboard in 2009. I certainly couldn't scrape up a top 10 or even a top 5 on my list, perhaps a "best burger" but that's about it....
     
    #6
    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 09:13:36 (permalink)
    The next theme I noticed going through the year's blogs and photos is that of revisiting old haunts, those places that I used to regularly visit in years past, but don't frequent any more (primarily since I don't live near them).  In some cases, these revisits even let me discover new things about old favorites.
     

    1. Al's Breakfast, Minneapolis.  Eggs Benedict.  For the better part of a decade, I was a multi-visit-a-week regular at Al's Breakfast in Minneapolis, and still go out of my way to visit there when I'm in town.  I've been there probably a thousand times (seriously), yet somehow never tried their Eggs Benedict, always opting for my other favorites (their pancakes, usually).  Which is really sad, since Al's makes a seriously good Benedict. The eggs are perfectly cooked, the ham slices perfectly seared, and the Hollandaise perfectly rich and creamy without outshining the eggs and ham. If there's a better execution of a classic Benedict, I'd like to know so I can try it.

    2. Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix.  Wiseguy Pizza.   One of my favorite pizza places every, one of the news items of 2009 was that Chris Bianco, the pizzaiolo there, was stepping down from daily operation of the pizza oven due to health issues.  I made it a point to go there when one of his assistant was running the oven to see if quality suffered.  It didn't. 

    3. Kramarczuk Sausage Co, Minneapolis.  Ukrainian Sausage Platter.  I had enough travel to Minneapolis in 2009-10 for work that I could work a little further down on my "places to revisit" list.  One of these was Kramarczuk, which is right down the street from my old apartment.  So I went with my old coworkers and lived it up on this platter with 3 varenyky, one holubets, a sausage (I chose Ukrainian), sauerkraut, sour cream, and a pickle.  Not bad for $7.

    4. Blackie's, Cheshire, CT.  Four hot dogs.  Most of my family is from the New Haven area, and I was raised primarily on Connecticut hot dogs (which generally meant many a frozen box of Hummel Bros hot dogs being schlepped around after a visit), and they are still amongst my favorite dogs.  Blackie's doubly so, since they combine a good CT dog with a tried-and-true cooking method (the cooking in a pool of oil to make them rip, like Rutt's Hutt).  Add in the nostalgia of going there many times as a kid with my late grandfather, and it was a pleasure going back.

    5. Izzy's Ice Cream, St Paul, MN.  Izzy's opened in 2001, a few months before I left Minnesota.  Which was just enough time to get me hooked, since it's seriously some of the best ice cream ever.  Really.   Here we have a scoop of salted caramel on the bottom (I hate to tell all you MIT folks, but this beats the pants off of the also-excellent burnt caramel ice cream from Tosci's in Cambridge, MA), Summit Oatmeal Stout on top of that, and a small "Izzy scoop" of Jamaican Blue Mountain Spice Ice Cream atop that. A perfect little ice cream treat.

    6. Gray's Papaya, New York.  I'm always compeled by Gray's Papaya, since there really isn't anything fancy here.  Sabretts dog and some slightly sweet and tangy sauce.  But it works.  And for the price, they are damn good. 

    7. Beard Papa, New York.  Cream Puff.  I actually discovered Beard Papa in the Bay Area, and really, really, like their fresh to-order cream puffs.  My walking tour of NYC this last spring gave me a good opportunity to indulge.
    #7
    MiamiDon
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 09:39:39 (permalink)
    Nice photos - now you're making me want to go to Blackie's next year!
     
    The best eggs benedict I've had was at Brennan's in New Orleans.
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    buffetbuster
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 09:48:25 (permalink)
    Now I know what I am going to order the next time we are at Al's Breakfast.  So, what is the secret to avoiding the long lines at Pizzeria Bianco?  Or is there no avoiding the long lines? 
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 09:55:38 (permalink)
    buffetbuster

    Now I know what I am going to order the next time we are at Al's Breakfast.  So, what is the secret to avoiding the long lines at Pizzeria Bianco?  Or is there no avoiding the long lines? 

    There's very little avoiding the line.  My approach is showing up ridiculously early and reading a book until the hostess comes out and takes the names for the first seating.  Then retiring to their bar next door and drinking beer until my table is ready.
    Going as a single person helps, too, since they can often fit you in at the bar. But you have to make sure the hostess knows that you are there and alone.
    Another trick that works if you are a group of two is to combine forces with another group of two to make a table of four, since those get seated more quickly.  I use this trick at Frank Pepe a lot as well, and you get to meet other people.  :)
     
    Regarding Al's, before I had the benedict, my standard orders would rotate between "Short-short wally-blue and CBH" and "One Egg Jose, extra Salsa".  Both of which are also excellent meals.  The CBH there is relatively unique.
    post edited by kaszeta - 2010/12/30 09:58:31
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/30 16:45:47 (permalink)
    The next pattern I noticed is that while I've mostly exhausted the local places (seriously, there aren't many places to eat within 30 miles of my house), I do occasionally still get to find a gem in NH, or over in VT.  These included:

    1. Latitudes Restaurant, New Castle, NH.  Lobster Roll.  While slightly pricey ($19), this was a seriously good lobster roll.  Fresh chunks of lobster meat, not skimping on the claw meat, lightly mayonnaised, on a toasted roll with some arugula lettuce, served with some rather nice potato salad and apple slaw.  Pricey ($19),  but way more than 2x as good as all the $10 ones around the area.

    2. Skinny Pancake, Montpelier, VT.  Johnny Crepe: a Pulled Pork and a "Root Beer BBQ" sauce, Cabot Cheddar, and caramelized onions in a crepe.  Very good dish, and rather neat to see a place that used to be just a little cart on Church Street in Burlington become multiple brick-and-mortar stores.

    3. German John's, Hillsborough, NH.  I've had plenty of trips to Bavaria, and miss real Bavarian pretzels.  The ones here are pretty dang close.  And they have sugar cones so I can restock my Feuerzangenbowle.

    4. Umpleby's Bakery, Hanover, NH.  The abovementioned Umpleby's also helped sponsor a Beefsteak event: a celebratory dinner featuring endless piles of beef, copious amounts of beer, and little else (especially no silverware). You can read up more on the tradition here. Our rendition was 100 lbs of local beef, a half barrel of Victory Prima Pils, and 15 people to see how much of a dent we could make in all the meat and beer.  More pics here.
     
     
    post edited by kaszeta - 2010/12/30 16:57:58
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    kland01s
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 09:04:27 (permalink)
    Truly great photos! Thank you for posting and for your links.
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 09:42:03 (permalink)
    The final category was Foreign Travel.  As I mentioned above, most of that isn't really road food (you can't drive there!) but I will include Montreal, since that's no further from my house than Boston is.
     
    The highlights of Montreal were:

    1. Restaurant Pied de Cochon, Montreal.  Foie Gras poutine (sorry about the pic, the lighting was really, really dim).  One of the most excessive single menu items I've ever had: Poutine made with duck-fat fries and foie gras.  Quebecois cuisine in it's most extreme form.

    2. Schwartz's Charcuterie Hebraique de Montreal.  Viande Fumee sandwich.  Tender, slightly spicy, beefy, and delicious, this is what viande fumée should be like. In many ways I prefer this to it's more spicy cousin, the pastrami sandwich.  And it's much cheaper than a pastrami in NYC...

    3. Mikasa Sushi, Montreal.  Printanier Sushi special.   A spicy tuna or salmon salad (the front two are tuna, the rear two salmon), rolled in rice paper with mango, strawberry, and papaya, served with a sweeter dipping sauce. This worked surprisingly well.
     
    And since I did spend a lot of time in England and Spain, I figured I might as well show you some of the highlights of the more road-foodish stuff from those trips:
     

    1. Szechuan Dan-Dan La-Mian from a street food cart in Greenwich Market, Greenwich UK.  One of the best noodle soups I've ever had, the noodles were pulled to order in front of us.

    2. No. 1 Liquid Salted Caramel Chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat in London.   :ittle dusted dark chocolate pearls filled with salty caramel liquid.  These pretty much explode in your mouth in a salty, caramely explosion.

    3. Jamon Iberico de Bellato, from a beachside bar (39º27n) in Valencia, Spain.   Some of the finest ham I've ever had.

    4. "Carribean Fusion Tapas" from Babalu in Valencia, Spain.  A perfect mix of various Latin American cuisines.

    5. Horchata de Chufa from Horchateria Daniel in Alboraya, Spain.  Made from only chufa (tigernuts), water, and sugar, these were splendid, and so much more enjoyable than the Mexican horchatas I've had.

    6. Gundel Palacsinta (Walnut Pancakes with Bitter Chocolate Sauce) from The Gay Hussar, Soho, London.

    7. Full English Breakfast.  Regency Cafe, London.  'nuff said.

    8. West African Lunch from World Food Cafe, Seven Dials, London.  Sweet Potatoes in a spicy ginger peanut sauce with beets and bananas. Interesting combination, but very tasty.

    9. Steak and Stilton Pasty.  West Cornwall Pasty Co, Paddington Station, London.  Not quite up to par with the best pasties I've had in Cornwall and Michigan's UP, but dang good for a train station snack.
    So my top goal for 2011.... More places in the US.  I love my international travel, but I want to make sure I'm not missing equally good food near home.  :)
    #13
    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 09:59:37 (permalink)
    That plate of jamon looks awesome.  I've seen it used on a few cooking shows and would love to get ahold of some (which probably wouldn't be any more difficult than finding the right market).
     
    Brad
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 10:02:36 (permalink)
    Find proper Jamon Iberico in the US used to be almost impossible between FDA rules and Spanish export controls, but you can find it here in the US now if you search around (I know I've bought it at the Bi Rite Market in San Francisco, for example, although it's $100/lb.  Most of the good stuff I had in Spain was still pricey, but only about $50/lb).  It is splendid.
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    mr chips
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 10:40:22 (permalink)
    Wow! You had a really interesting food year. Thanks for sharing your adventures and photos from such a  wide array of places. Most West African places have not lasted long in Portland but the foods I've eaten have been quite tasty.
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2010/12/31 11:15:40 (permalink)
    Thanks.  2011 should be a good year.  I've got another San Francisco trip planned already, and will likely go to Dublin as well.  May do London again (my brother lives there), either as it's own trip, or attached to the Dublin trip.
     
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    Nancypalooza
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/02 11:41:08 (permalink)
    Wow--absolutely gorgeous photos kaszeta!  I would like to follow you around some, but I'm especially bitter I didn't know about Izzy's, particularly since I was in St. Paul a few days ago.  Dammit!  Well I guess I'm gonna have to go back. :)
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    buffetbuster
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/03 11:27:26 (permalink)
    kaszeta-
    The problem with putting together such a beautifully photographed year end review is now we will be expecting one every year!  Believe it or not, with all of those gorgeous photos, the one that really gets to me is the hot dogs at Blackie's.  Those just jump right off of the screen.  Thanks for the great thread!
    #19
    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/03 13:08:32 (permalink)
    Interestingly, th Blackie's photo is probably the one I went the most out of my way to grab. I hadn't really intended of taking that roe through CT.

    Working on 2011 already, but today's likely to be a repeat (Pepe's)
    #20
    rumaki
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/03 13:25:01 (permalink)
    Just got back from London, myself, and concur that the liquid salted caramels at L'Artisan du Chocolat are superb.  We always stay at a hotel not far from the shop on Lower Sloane Street, and love all their confections.   Wonderful marzipan, praline, rose, violet and lavender creams, as well as a variety of more exotic flavors, including a wonderful assortment of different types of dark chocolate from all over the world.  Plus the staff couldn't be nicer.  Yum!
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    TnTinCT
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/03 14:37:06 (permalink)
    Really excellent photos, thanks for sharing!!
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/05 17:22:20 (permalink)
    So this is a good place to ask... Where next? I've got a rather good number of free Southwest tickets that start to expire in March... Any good recommendatioons for 3 day weekends of roadfooding?
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    ScreamingChicken
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 09:09:13 (permalink)
    Certainly Milwaukee and its lesser neighbor to the south have plenty to offer in terms of quantity and variety.
     
    Brad
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    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 09:28:29 (permalink)
    I like Milwaukee.  Haven't done it in about 10 years.  That's on the short list now.  :)
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    brisketboy
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 09:47:32 (permalink)
    Truely awesome post. Thank you. That last bit makes me yearn for some cornish pastys I had in Looe and Polpero just outside of Torpoint in Cornwall.
    #26
    BillyB
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 09:52:40 (permalink)
     Great pictures and report, thanks for the tour.
    #27
    buffetbuster
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 09:54:55 (permalink)
    How about the Austin/San Antonio area?  Specifically, the Hill Country, which has to be one of the great food regions of the country.  And it is probably warmer than New England right now!
    #28
    kaszeta
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 11:28:31 (permalink)
    Someplace in TX is definitely on the list, I've only barely touched that state in my blog and photos.
    Austin is a strong possibility as well, since I have friends willing to go on a bbq bender...
    #29
    buffetbuster
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    Re:kaszeta's 2010 year-end review 2011/01/06 12:21:59 (permalink)
    kaszeta
    since I have friends willing to go on a bbq bender...
    Every Roadfooder needs friends like this!

    #30
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