Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Lobster Roll

Alright, if for no other reason that to prove that I'm still alive, I need to make a blog post. And, I don't want to become a part of those statistics about defunct blogs. I was approaching the 6 month mark, and that is unacceptable. I will say that I have been training for a marathon for three months. This has seriously cut into my eating lifestyle.

Anyway, what has brought me back is the Lobster Roll. I have been in love with lobster since I was about 13. Prior to this point I only ate Oodles of Noodles, blue-box mac & cheese, and double-stuff Oreos. Ask my parents, they can attest to these atrocities. At some point I started to become a more adventurous eater, and lobster became a crucial part of the dinner of my dreams; something for special occasions only.

Typically, I eat my Lobster Rolls in Maine. (There's no way to say that without sounding like a snob.) I have, sort of, a problem. An addiction really. Moving to MA has been beneficial for me, if for no other reason, in that I am closer to Maine. When in Maine, I've been known to stop for Lobster Rolls as much as possible. At times, to the detriment of my ability to eat anything else. The "best Lobster Roll of my life" was consumed in July 2008 at Ebenezer's Pub in Lovell, ME. At a "world-famous" beer bar, this food find was unexpected. I also recommend the Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, ME, just outside Portland. Between trips to Maine I fill my need for Lobster Rolls at a place that shall not be named.

Almost two weeks ago I had an amazing Lobster Roll. I was in Newport, RI for a football game. Ahem, no comment. But, the day before the game my Godfather (wow that's a pretty fun term to use for real) took my parents and I to the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant. A Newport mainstay for 30 years, my Godfather has known the owners for quite sometime.

On a Friday lunch, during the off-season, this place was packed. People were on a wait for at least an hour. The inside of the place is charming; the walls are adorned with random and/or local memorabilia and antiques. And, as someone who has worked at a very, very clean restaurant in Philly, I have to say, this place was potentially cleaner. (That one's for you Johnny Tria)

But I digress. Naturally, I had the "Overstuffed Lobster Salad Roll." I was told that the crab cakes are great, but that's not for me.

Mostly, I was shocked by the quantity of lobster. The mixture itself was pretty good; claw meat was interspersed with smaller pieces of shaved lobster, and there wasn't too much mayo. The style, admittedly, varied with my Maine mainstays; this Lobster Roll was larger and there was less discernible knuckle meat.

As a gluten-freak, I adore the Lobster Roll bun, or "New England-style hot dog bun," if you will. I saw a bag of these rolls at the football game and nearly lost my mind. Maybe I've been hiding under a rock, or shopping at Whole Foods too much, but this made my day. Yeah, I love Martin's potato rolls, but there's something special about a Lobster Roll bun toasted with butter.

And so, my Lobster Roll need was satisfied. As much as restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic attempt to emulate this lobster treat, it's never the same as what you can find up here. It's just a New England thing.

Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant
140 Thames St.

Newport, RI 02840


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cogito Ergo (Ad)Sum

Last night I had a chance to get to Matt Levin's new restaurant, Adsum. While I don't like to go to restaurants in their first week, sometimes you have to take the days off and the opportunities as they come. Having heard so much buzz about the place, I had somewhat high expectations.

The menu itself is intriguing. At times the wording is reminiscent of Daniel Stern. "Green sauce." Uh, okay sure! Almost everything sounds good. So, we went with:

Grilled Rock Octopus, Black Pepper Caramel

Salt and Vinegar Chicharron

Kool-aid Pickled Watermelon

The octopus was well cooked. The sauce itself was more BBQ than black pepper caramel, but whatever. It was spicy and generally enjoyable.

The chicharrones were pretty ah-mazing! I think that they made the vinegar into a powder. They were certainly salty and delicious. I wanted to take an order home and eat them as a midnight snack.

The pickled watermelon, for 3 dollars, was also pretty good. The Kool-Aid flavor really came out in the few pieces of pickled rind that were on the plate. Additionally, the basil on the dish was really fresh and actually not overwhelming.

For our main course, we went with:

KFC Sweetbreads, Peas, Risotto, Mustard

Fried Chicken, Collards, Ham Hocks, Hot Sauce

The sweetbreads were per-fect-ly cooked. The risotto, on the other hand, was not great. It was undersalted and too watery; as if they used water instead of stock. The peas were also unevenly cooked. But hey, that can happen with a new restaurant.

The chicken, while yes, kind of a lame choice on my part, was amazing! I have never had such tender and juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, chicken before. I don't know what they do to it, but it was perfect. The collard greens with the ham hocks were also enjoyable. Oh, and the biscuit you see on the plate: the most joyous gluten treat I have ever put in my mouth. Yet, fully admitting my gluten fetish, the biscuit was on the undercooked side. That didn't bother me, it was heaven.

For dessert we went with Ricotta Doughnuts and chocolate. I have to say, it was a good try. The outside was nicely crisp. Yet the inside was too soft. I'm not sure if it was undercooked, or simply the fact that it was ricotta. The chocolate sauce was also broken and did not stick to the doughnuts as you might like. Yet, it was still a nice dessert.

Beverage-wise, there is a nice list of cocktails. I had the "Unholy Water." I love ginger beer, so it was alright. I went with a cocktail because the beer menu was annoyingly marked up for import bottles. I know how much Petrus Pale Ale costs and I'm not about to pay more than I should for it. Perhaps they will re-think their list and/or the markup.

All in all though, this place has enormous potential. The menu is interesting, the proteins were solidly prepared, and the service was friendly. All of these small missteps can be attributed to the fact that Adsum just opened a week ago. I know that I will be back for a second go around. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

Adsum Restaurant

700 South 5th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19147

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zavino - Pizza in Philly!

Allllllright. So the Femme is back in town! (And back to blogging, my apologies for the lengthy interlude) Yes, I have returned to my fair city for the summer. This also means that I'm back working at Tria. (Say hello if you ever stop in)

And, of course, I'm also back in time for PBW 2010. Even though I wasn't a fan of moving beer week to June, it happens to work out for me personally.

While not my first dinner back in Philly, I recently went to Zavino wine bar pizzeria. And I have to say, it was awesome. I wasn't expecting much, as I hadn't heard (just read) a ton about the place.

We started out with a Yellowtail Crudo with radish, orange and basil oil. It was a solid dish. It all worked together, and I can't argue with that.

Next we had the Greens and Radish with Bagna Càuda. Naturally, the anchovy flavor was prominent. But in a very good way. Greens and radishes aren't exactly exciting, but the bagna càuda really made it an enjoyable salad.

For pizza we went with the Sausage with tomato, homemade sausage, roasted fennel and sweet peppers. As pizza far as pizza goes, I have learned that my pizza preferences don't really fall with the general public. But, since it's a divisive topic anyway, I'm okay with that.

So essentially, I love dough of all kinds. I don't want crispy crust, I want doughy crust that I can savor and chew easily. While the bottom of the pizza was perfectly firm, the crust was also enjoyable and soft enough for me. The sauce, well, there could have been more of it. The toppings were a naturally nice combination and perfectly distributed.

In fact, the pizza was so good that we decided to order another one to go. The pizza is a good size to share if you get three appetizers. But after two smaller appetizers, for some healthy eaters, one pizza just wasn't enough. For the second pizza, to be enjoyed later at home, we chose the Polpettini with tomato sauce, provolone, and mini veal meatballs. It was also delicious.

And dessert, as many restaurants in Philly know, is a useless enterprise with Capogiro directly across the street. Sorry Zavino, that's just how it goes.

But all in all, I'd go back very soon. I have no complaints (except the service, but I'll overlook it for now). I'm generally very psyched to have this pizza option in Philly.

1125 S. 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Craigie on Main: Cambridge, MA

A few weeks ago I went to Boston (oh so far away from Western Mass, seriously, it's 2 hours) for Beer Advocate's Extreme Beer Fest, Night of the Barrels. While the beer event brought me to Boston, I parlayed it into a foodie weekend.

The highlight was a 10-course tasting menu at Craigie on Main in Cambridge. I had been told about this restaurant by the only person I know who is, perhaps, more picky about restaurants than I am. A restaurateur himself, he told me this food was so good it made him want to cry. Obviously, I had to go.

I did my research and made my reservation about a month in advance. The chef is Tony Maws, 2010 James Beard Semi-finalist (Northeast) and 2009 James Beard Best Chef Finalist (Northeast), amongst many other awards. All about the seasonal and the local, the menu is printed daily with a time stamp based upon their last delivery.

So I'll let the 10-course menu begin, with descriptions as best as I can remember.

Seafood trio

Salad of Hiramasa Sashimi: red onion-shiso salsa, avocado, harissa-rose vinaigrette

Seared Scallop with Maine Sweet Shrimp and some crazy broth...juniper is all I remember

Grilled Spanish Octopus: grilled cipollini onions, fresh hearts of palm and lemon salad, garbanzo bean purée

Ridiculous Pasta with Lamb Ragoût

Grilled Pork Belly with Pomegranate Seeds and Chestnuts with a Green Apple Purée

House-made Venison Sausage Crépinette and Venison Leg

Sour Milk Panna Cotta

Peanut Butter Parfait: house-made hobnob cookie, cocoa nibs, banana foam

Hot Chocolate Cardamom

Overall, the meal was incredible. It was by far, the best meal I've had since I went to Alinea last March. This is saying quite a bit. I did not want this dinner to end. The meal was nearly perfectly executed, and the flavors were creative and delicious. The homemade pasta was some of the best I've ever had, and the venison crépinette, I want to eat forever and ever. While the seafood was perfect, I felt the kitchen really hit its stride with the meat courses.

The service was also incredibly attentive. That's not exactly hard to do for a solo diner, but still they were lovely. When they realized that I had been drinking my first glass of wine too quickly, they gave me a few more ounces of white wine to carry me through the seafood dishes. This was a nice touch. Most restaurants don't care, don't pay attention, or are so corporate that they couldn't even give you a few extra ounces of wine.

That being said, the one let down was the lack of a beverage pairing option. When I go to a restaurant for a lengthy tasting menu, I don't want to think about anything. Bring me whatever you like, I trust you. This goes for beverages too. I don't want to pick glasses of wine. I want something selected to pair with each dish. Call me snobbish, but this meal really could have been taken to the next level (and it was very close to the top anyway), with beverage pairings.

Regardless, if you are ever in Boston, this restaurant is a must. The food was so incredible that I did want to cry. It reminded me of the place that food can take you when it's just indescribably good. I haven't been there for a while.

And for that, I thank you, Craigie on Main.

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139-3512
(617) 497-5511