Hot!Kaszeta's 2013 year in review.

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kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
2013/12/13 22:04:01
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
FriedClamFanatic
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/13 23:04:08
as to the report so far..............GREAT
 
as to the "stone"............YUCK!
ChiTownDiner
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 06:01:50
Love the sushi plate...keep it coming!
 
Greymo
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 11:08:09

 
This look wonderful!  Take the onions away and I could eat that for half the day.
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 12:47:05
Wonderful! More please.
ann peeples
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 13:22:14
You do eat well! Love your reports!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:29:39
...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):

 
agnesrob
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:44:11
Great pictures!
lleechef
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 14:51:25
I want that Reuben! 
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 15:28:08
You had me at duck fat fries.....
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/14 17:15:19
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
leethebard
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/15 09:52:56
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!!!
wanderingjew
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/15 13:32:33
kaszeta
 
Great start. Looking forward to more...
BTW....Sushi....in Vermont????!!!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 10:13:36
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
 
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 10:15:30
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)
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 12:18:48
Tea smoked duck?. Kazeta, you are definitely hitting some yummy places. Nice!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 12:58:52
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)
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/17 13:29:31
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!
MetroplexJim
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/18 08:49:13
Kaszeta, you've done it again:  beautiful pics of unusual, highly interesting food & wonderful reviews.
 
Truly, thanks!
 

wanderingjew
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/18 10:28:29
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
 
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:49:01
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:


EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:52:12
Elephant Walk looks great. I love Cambodian food----hard to find but well worth searching out!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/19 15:55:57
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.
TnTinCT
Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/20 10:59:14
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!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 00:17:03
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:

Texascajun
Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 01:02:55
Wow those look great. Excellent review.
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 14:23:03
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!
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 14:39:25
Kaszeta, best prank ever!
FriedClamFanatic
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/25 15:05:58
lol.......love the gnomes...reminds me of those "flamingo pranks!"
brisketboy
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 09:21:00
You simply HAVE to post their response when they discovered they've been pranked.
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 11:10:20
She was delighted:

 
And here's one of the better camera feeds on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-XDz8VKapk
 
In some ways, we outdid ourselves: we had planted cameras all around the house (most of which she seems to randomly avoid), but somehow didn't think to put one on the driveway.  The problem is, we had a bunch of gnomes out at the entrance, and the giant "Gnomeland" banner, and she was nearly dying from laughing well outside of camera range.
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 11:26:05
Business travel had me heading down to the DC area several times this summer, and it was a chance to a explore a few more places, and revisit a few favorites.
 
I have one client that I have to visit every June, and we've come up with a routine of visiting Ray's The Steaks in Arlington every time we visit.  Ray’s The Steaks is an interesting place. The original Ray’s was opened in 2002 by DC chef Michael Landrum, in the small strip mall that I’ve often called the gourmet ghetto (the other tenants include the famous Pho 75). The idea was quite simple: take a relatively bare-bones location (a strip mall restaurant), and sell a bunch of really good steaks and other high-end meat cuts and a good wine list, and doing so with relatively simple service approach, focusing on the meat. The result was Ray’s The Steaks, which consistently serves me up some good steaks with a particularly good quality-to-price ratio.  Here's my 40 Day Dry-Aged Delmonico Steak:

(Full review here)
 
Another client nearby used to be located next to one of my favorite Peruvian chicken joints, El Pollo Rico (which I reviewed in 2012), but they moved several blocks west to Ballston, and that gave me a reason to check out another Peruvian chicken place, Super Pollo.  Stepping into Super Pollo, you can immediately tell that it’s a more modern joint then El Pollo Rico. El Pollo is sparsely decorated. Super Pollo is decorated like a modern fast food joint. But the lines are about the same, with a noon visit having a ~15 minute wait to get your chicken, and similar effort in actually finding an open table.  But the other thing that really stands out about Super Pollo is the variety.

El Pollo Rico has a menu I can list on one finger (basically, chicken and a choice of three sides). Super Pollo has, in addition to chicken, a wide number of other Peruvian dishes, as well as almost 20 sides, ranging from the simple rice and fries, up to the semi-fancy (cilantro rice, black beans), to the extravagant (fried plantains).  Here is an order of half a chicken (dark meat), with cilantro rice and fried plantains.  Simply delicious:

(full review here)
 
Arlington also held a surprise for me.  Every other year, we spend the weekend after Labor Day at Rehoboth Beach, DE (I lived in DE as a kid, and still love the beaches there).  There used to be a coffee place there that I really like, Oby Lee Coffee, but a few years ago they closed and got replaced by a place I don't particularly care for (The Point, which I got banned from, long story....)  I thought they were gone forever, but then taking a shortcut through Arlington I stumbled across... Oby Lee Coffee.  They didn't close, they just moved (according to the owner, "to someplace where we could make money all 12 months of the year").  I went for an iced coffee and a banana, strawberry, and Nutella crepe.
 
For starters, the iced coffee was as good and refreshing as I remember from Delaware. Oby Lee selects and roasts their own coffees, and then makes iced coffee using cold brewing (aka “Cold Process” or “Toddy”). The result is a particularly bold but smooth cup of coffee, and a great way to start my morning:

And my crepe?  It was also a rather impressive breakfast: a good, crispy crepe, served up with an entire banana, a generous portion of strawberries, and a good solid schmear of Nutella. Topped with some decent whipped cream, and this was a very tasty and well-presented breakfast:

(full review here)
 
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 12:08:58
Banned from a coffee joint?  Long story or not, if you've the time to write it we've the time to read it.  The fact that it doesn't involve Wanderingjew is alone enough to make it interesting.
 
I've yet to try Peruvian chicken and everything I've read and heard tells me I'm missing out.  I should definitely correct this oversight in 2014!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 17:21:23
I shouuld do a whole thread on the places that have banned me. Some are interesting stories.
pnwchef
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 18:50:34
Great report.when are you going to DM Portland,Oregon or Seattle,,,,,,,,,North and South in Seattle..........pnwc
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 19:20:39
Seattle did make the short list for the DM
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 20:08:10
ScreamingChicken Banned from a coffee joint?  Long story or not, if you've the time to write it we've the time to read it.  

 
What the heck, here's the rundown, for those curious.  In chronological order:

1. Big Tuna Sushi, Palmdale, CA. Had a bad service experience there where I ended up in the middle of a shouting argument between the waitstaff and the sushi chefs revolving around whether me, a single diner, could have an entire table to myself.  The table waitstaff wanted me to be seated at the sushi bar, but to sit at the sushi bar required you to buy the all-you-could-eat sushi special, which I didn't want.  Ended up leaving and going elsewhere, and wrote up a bad review on Google.  Owner contacted me demanding I remove the review. When I didn't, he banned me.

2. Farmers Diner, Quechee, VT (now defunct).  Again, had a bad service experience.  Two issues this time: my waitress told me flat out there weren't any breakfast specials, and 30 seconds later greeted another table by telling them the breakfast specials, including a special that I would have ordered.   I asked if I could change my order, and she told me I couldn't.  Then, I asked if the "10% discount for locals" applied (seeing that I lived in Lebanon, NH, which is actually an adjacent town), and discovered that they had an odd definition of "local" and was told it was "presumptuous" of me to even ask.  Again, wrote up a Google review.  Angry manager took issue with my review, and told me that if I didn't take it down, I wasn't welcome there anymore, and never to come back.

3. Bagel Basement, Lebanon, NH (also defunct).  After waiting a long time (around 10 minutes) for them to even take my order, I gave up, and decided to leave. I returned my *unopened* Odwalla fruit smoothie to the refrigerator case and started to leave, at which point they told me I couldn't leave without paying for the smoothie.  They ended up threatening to call the police about it.  I called their bluff on it, and they backed down on calling the police, but told me specifically that I was banned from ever coming back.

4.The  Point Coffee, Rehoboth Beach, DE.  I ordered a coffee drink ("espresso macchiato with two shots").   Due to some confusion, since they had a Starbucks-like menu that included both an "Espresso Macchiato" and a "Caramel Machiato", they both made up the wrong drink, and charged me for the wrong drink.  I politely asked them to remake it, and if they could correct my bill.  For some reason, the previously nice and friendly clerk snapped and screamed at me that if "You really wanted an Espresso Macchiato, you should have F-ing ordered an Espresso Macchiato."   I countered that I had ordered correctly (and even had two non-related customers to me chime in that I had), and the guy agreed to remake my drink and refund the difference, and as he handed my drink , he told me that I needed to leave the premises immediately, and if I ever set foot on the property again, they'd call the police.

5. Pizzeria Barbarella, Vancouver, BC. I discovered using Google Image Search that about 75% of the images on their website, facebook page, and even press releases they sent to local Vancouver media were actually my photos that they had stolen from my Flickr page.  The offending images were weren't even pics of his pizzas (they couldn't be, he hadn't opened yet), they were actually pictures of mine from Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ (the pictures from this review, actually).  I asked for him to take down the photos. He responded that he was going to use the image however he wanted and there was nothing I could do about it, but his web provider was in the US, so I filed DMCA takedown notices with his ISP.  He responded to those telling me I was never,ever welcome at his restaurants, and strongly suggested that if I did so, I'd face violence. The interesting thing is that all this happened before Pizzeria Barbarella opened its doors. And I've never been there, and never will.  Fun getting a lifetime ban from a place that wasn't even open yet.  I will admit to being cheeky, and when he did open, I sent him a letter asking "So my lifetime ban begins now?"

So, the rundown is basically 2 places that took issue with bad reviews by banning the reviewer, 2 places that similarly decided that the best way to resolve a customer issue was by banning the customer, and a thieving bastard who got upset he was caught stealing my photos.

For the record, places 2 and 3 are now out of business, primarily because they treated most of their other customers like crap, too (that's not too uncommon here, there's a real "we know you don't have many other places to eat out" attitude at a lot of local joints). But maybe I shouldn't count them anymore.
 
(I'm actually not a high-maintenance customer)
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 22:21:59
kaszeta

I shouuld do a whole thread on the places that have banned me. Some are interesting stories.

 Next time you're in SoCal, I can think of a few places I'd like to take you. And I can also think of a few places to have some fun!
post edited by EdSails - 2013/12/26 22:42:40
wanderingjew
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/26 22:35:57
I remember my traumatic experience at the horrific J's Oyster in Portland ME over 5 years ago, Kaszeta, compared to mine, as bad as it was (at least I wasn't banned) your experiences take the cake....
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 00:01:20
 The next major stop was a 3-week European trip to the UK and Belgium, with a side-trip to Iceland.
The UK I'll handle in highlights, going from most posh to least posh.
 
On the high end was this most wonderful Orecchiette from Boca Di Lupo in London, one of the finest pasta meals I had all year:

 
Next up was the phenomenal 4-course dessert tasting menu at William Curley Patisserie and Chocolatier, with the highlight probably being this Gianduja Chocolate Tarte with Pistachio Ice Cream:

 
Next was this Sri Lankan Chicken Kothtu Roti (like a noodle stir fry, but the "noodles" are strips of Roti flat bread) from The Sekara:

 
Bone Daddies is a fairly new Ramen place in Soho, that has the funkiest Japanese Rockabilly Biker Club (look it up!) theme.  Despite that, they've got some most wonderful ramen noodles, including a tea smoked egg that was sublime:

 
Similarly, Shoryu, also in Soho, did almost as good a job with their ramen:

 
While in London, you've got to do Indian, and while it didn't photograph well, this Murg Jalfrezi from Mela was quite the ticket:

 
However, this pho from Song Que rounded out the Asian food quite nicely:

 
Although I can't forget the great platter of food we had at Zeret Kitchen in Camberwell:

Or the Ethiopian coffee service after dinner:

 
I also did a lot of London street food, including this nice Pad Thai from Newdlez Pad Thai:

 
Or the street market stall next to Newdlez, Veg as you Go, which had some wonderful falafel:

 
Or walking through the park and indulging in the fairly unique British summertime treat, the 99 Flake:

 
Bonus points goes to The Bridge Coffee House, which had some reasonably good Turkish coffee, but the most outlandish dining room in which to enjoy it:

 
Otherwise, it was mostly British food, ranging from Fish and Chips at Fisher's:

To Bangers and Mash at The Gipsy Moth:

Or getting the Elvis burger with banana, bacon, and peanut butter at Cask Pub and Kitchen:

 
Or one of the oddest finds of the trip:  Throughout London are several "Cab Shelters" for black cab drivers to relax and take a break:

Some of the, like the St George's Square Cab Shelter not only make food, but sell it to the public, with items like this Bacon Roll:

 
( http://offbeateats.org/category/uk/london/ if you want to read the reviews, too many to individually link)
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 00:02:50
EdSails
Next time you're in SoCal, I can think of a few places I'd like to take you. And I can also think of a few places to have some fun!

It might be worth noting that the next several days I will be in Murietta, CA and Temecula, CA...
EdSails
Filet Mignon
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 00:15:30
kaszeta

EdSails
Next time you're in SoCal, I can think of a few places I'd like to take you. And I can also think of a few places to have some fun!

It might be worth noting that the next several days I will be in Murietta, CA and Temecula, CA...

 
Make sure you go to Wien Family winery in Temecula. I've sent you contact info on a PM.
buffetbuster
Porterhouse
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 09:44:30
The combination of photography and descriptions is absolutely wonderful.  This is such a pleasure to view. 
 
That is so bizarre that you have been banned from all of these places.  Now, there are some other people in these forums (not naming names) that if you told me they were not allowed back in some restaurants, I'd go "Sure, no surprise there".  But, you certainly don't come across that way.  Bad luck?  Wrong place at the wrong time?
Glenn1234
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 14:53:44
 
Wow!   Great year-end review!   Very nice. 
 
 
 
wanderingjew
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 15:14:57
buffetbuster

Now, there are some other people in these forums (not naming names) that if you told me they were not allowed back in some restaurants, I'd go "Sure, no surprise there".    
 

 
Hey I felt that! At least restaurants don't hurry up and close shop in anticipation of my arrival.

ChrisOC
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/27 15:20:24
Are Caucasian drivers allowed at the "cab shelters"?
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/28 16:42:25
ChrisOC
Are Caucasian drivers allowed at the "cab shelters"?

Most "Black Cab" drivers are actually white.  :)
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/28 16:46:16
buffetbuster

The combination of photography and descriptions is absolutely wonderful.  This is such a pleasure to view. 

That is so bizarre that you have been banned from all of these places.  Now, there are some other people in these forums (not naming names) that if you told me they were not allowed back in some restaurants, I'd go "Sure, no surprise there".  But, you certainly don't come across that way.  Bad luck?  Wrong place at the wrong time?

 
I think it's mostly bad luck.  I'm not that that bad a guy to get along with, and I'm not that picky as a customer.
 
That said, I know another local place is really unhappy with me for a review I did (Gusanoz Mexican in Lebanon, NH, which was on Restaurant Impossible.  You can read my non-flattering review here), which gets pretty high search engine ranking (on most, higher than Gusanoz's own web site).  While I have issues with Gusanoz, and their owner did give me a lengthy email disagreeing with it, he still said I'm welcome any time and hope they do better.
leethebard
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/28 18:16:29
Great review...wow...that coffee room is something else. Enjoying this a lot!!

mlm
Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/28 18:59:20
Oh, dear, about Gusanoz. One problem after another, it seems. I thought your review was actually diplomatic. I agree that the owners seem well-intentioned and, perhaps, got over their heads with extensions and sub-par ingredients. I can see where if they needed more revenue, both could easily happen. HOWEVER, as you suggested, shoddy service and indifferent staff could really knock them out. I have stated before that my standards are relatively low (I will eat a good deal of mediocre food as long as it's well-prepared and service is good) but poor service is a deal breaker for me. I simply will not go where I feel ill-treated, no matter how good the food. Being too few cannot be blamed on the staff, being undertrained is not their fault but civility costs nothing and in really plain terms, Get Off The D***  phone already! I didn't even know staff members do that.  Thank heavens, I have never been subjected to that or the stuff would really have hit the fan. And I wouldn't be back.
 
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/29 00:50:37
The next country up was Belgium.  We decided to take the Eurostar train through the Chunnel, which worked really well: 4 hours after waking up in London, we were in Brussels.
 
And the stereotype is true, since while in Brussels we had an awful lot of these.  I adore a good Belgian waffle:

(Yes, I adore a proper Belgian Gaufre de Liege)
 
Similarly, like my other experiences in Benelux countries, the Belgians love their frites, from places like Maison Antoine:

Nothing like a good cone of frites and a Belgian blonde ale to wash it down, at least according to Bruder Valkis:

(full review here)
 
Speaking of beer and bar snacks, the Belgians have a lot of great bar snacks.  On of my favorite watering holes was A la Mort Subite ("Sudden Death):

The classic sides to go with your beer are cheese, simple sandwiches like a croque monsieur,

omelets (served up with possibly the largest slices of bread on the planet):

and the infamous "kip kap" (pickled pigs cheeks, which are a perfect counterpoint to Belgian beer):

(full review here)
 
Another common bar and cafe food in Belgian is a dish known by a number of names, including "cannibal" and "filet americain".  But we know it as "steak tartare".  And with the quality of Belgian beef, it's a great dish.  Here are two examples, from Carpe Diem and Kwint, respectively:


Similarly, Carpe Diem had a great Flemish Stew (Carbonnade a la Flamande):

(review of Kwint here, and Carpe Diem here)
 
Similarly, another classic Belgian dish is mussels, and we didn't find any finer than those from La Maree:

(Full review here)
 
You can see a nice full set of Belgian reviews at http://offbeateats.org/category/be/
 
mlm
Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/29 01:41:12
Great trip report, I'm really enjoying it. Pickled pigs' cheeks, tho,... I must say, there's nothing like travel to acquaint you with animal parts you had never considered. Part of me says "Why not?", another part says "Hmm, tell me more", and another part says "I'm not so sure.... Really, how was it? I trust the 'cheeks' come from the north end of the animal. It was in a German tourist book that I came across beef udder as a meat source. I asked several German friends and they all claimed never to have had it.
Foodbme
Porterhouse
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 00:15:38
ChrisOC
Are Caucasian drivers allowed at the "cab shelters"?

I think "Black Cab" refers to the color of the vehicle, not the driver. Most Cabs in England are painted black.
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 08:27:26
kaszeta

And the stereotype is true, since while in Brussels we had an awful lot of these. I adore a good Belgian waffle:
Thank you for not calling it a "Belgium waffle".
 
mlm

I must say, there's nothing like travel to acquaint you with animal parts you had never considered.
And when actual travel isn't possible there's Roadfood to take up the slack!
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 14:35:43
Foodbme
I think "Black Cab" refers to the color of the vehicle, not the driver. Most Cabs in England are painted black.

 
Yeah, "Black Cab" is shorthand for a hackney cab (cab for call/hire), as opposed to a Mini-cab or Livery-cab (where you call and make reservations).  Like a "Yellow Cab" in New York, although a "Black Cab" driving has very demanding licensing requirements (like having "The Knowledge", basically knowing every street in London and how to get from point A to B without maps)
FriedClamFanatic
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 14:37:43
mlm

Great trip report, I'm really enjoying it. Pickled pigs' cheeks, tho,... I must say, there's nothing like travel to acquaint you with animal parts you had never considered. Part of me says "Why not?", another part says "Hmm, tell me more", and another part says "I'm not so sure.... Really, how was it? I trust the 'cheeks' come from the north end of the animal. It was in a German tourist book that I came across beef udder as a meat source. I asked several German friends and they all claimed never to have had it.

For years I have been extolling the virtues of Hog Jowls.  Guess this takes it one step further!  Does it taste "bacony" at all?  Your other review says salty and you won't need any Spam soon.but cold Spam is not exactly something that gets my tastebuds salivating...even when served with that fine Belgian Beer.
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 14:39:18
mlm
Great trip report, I'm really enjoying it. Pickled pigs' cheeks, tho,... I must say, there's nothing like travel to acquaint you with animal parts you had never considered. Part of me says "Why not?", another part says "Hmm, tell me more", and another part says "I'm not so sure.... Really, how was it?

I liked it, but I've also had a lot of pig's cheeks and ears over the years.   Tasty.
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 16:20:19
2013 also had quite a few trips to NYC for me.  Most were repeat visits to old favorites like Katz's deli, or my indulgence for a simple dirty water dog:

But one place that was new to me that was worth discussing was Cafe Sabarsky.  Located across the street from the Met, Cafe Sabarsky does their best to imitate a classic Viennese cafe, including classic Viennese coffee:

Some excellent sausages:

And some great desserts:

(Full review here)
lleechef
Sirloin
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/30 17:33:44
You really made me homesick for Belgium!  The first 4 years I lived in France I was 2 km. from the Belgian border and I also lived in Brussels.  Love the Belgians and their cuisine.  What I wouldn't give to have a steaming bowl of moulesfrites and a Trappist ale! 
kaszeta
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Kaszeta's 2013 year in review. 2013/12/31 00:31:33
The other thing that 2013 was notable for was several restaurant openings in our area, which is usually pretty static, especially for ethnic food.  But not only did several places open, but two of them were outstanding: Candela Tapas Lounge in Hanover, NH, and Worthy Kitchen in Woodstock, VT.
 
Candela opened up in a converted coffee shop, and they added a completely new ethnicity to the local dining scene: Spanish tapas.  And they hit the ground running, with several notable dishes like this great charcuterie plate:

or this great tuna tartare:

or these wonderful albondigas:

But these didn't steal the show.  The highlight was dessert, with some of the best churros I've had outside of Valencia, Spain, served up crisp and flaky with a wonderful housemade chocolate sauce, all for only $6:

(full review here)
 
The other outstanding addition was Worthy Kitchen, the sister restaurant to Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT (which I talked about last year).  Worthy Kitchen is the same basic concept of a great microbeer tap list, but instead of the (great) burgers of Worthy Burgers, they have a broader kitchen and a woodfired stove.  Which puts out such amazing items as the best fried chicken I had in 2013 (which was, shockingly, boneless, and the picture doesn't do justice to it):

Or this great duck confit sandwich:

But that wasn't the true greatness.  That came when they started doing brunch, which resulted in two remarkable accomplishments.  The first was the Bloody Mary, with a nice house-made vegetable blend, particularly strong in horseradish, which delighted me (to me, a proper Bloody Mary is almost a more liquid and alcoholic version of a good shrimp cocktail sauce). It had all the notes: a nice tomato base, some fiery heat from peppers, and more than a little bit of bite from the horseradish. Add in a good helping of their house-pickled vegetables as garnish, and this was the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in a long time:

And that was followed by the single best breakfast item of 2013, the Worthy Hash.  A beef hash with poached eggs and hollandaise was very good as well. First, it was a good hash, made of some rich and savory shredded beef that was almost pot-roasty in goodness, mixed up with some potatoes and fried up to a nice crisp. Add on some perfectly poached eggs, and that took it up another notch. Then putting a perfectly-done Hollandaise with just the amount of creaminess and tanginess I like, and the result was splendid:

(Full reviews here (dinner) and here (brunch))
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