Archive for January, 2009

TGI Friday's

TGI Friday’s
Braintree, MA

Crispy Green Bean Fries
Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
Dragonfire Chicken
A fire-grilled chicken breast glazed with Chinese Kung Pao sauce, served over stir–fried brown rice with pineapple pico de gallo, Mandarin oranges and broccoli.
Brownie Obsession
A warm brownie covered in Ghirardelli® chocolate–fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and pecans.
Spiced Up Cupcakes
All of the sweetness and spice of pumpkin pie is wrapped up in these pumpkin applesauce spice cupcakes which are topped with cream cheese frosting and garnished with chopped pecans. Served with a side of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Sangria
Tropical juices, fresh fruit and Jacob’s Creek Shiraz combine for a fruity flavor that’s all grown up. 

A busy Saturday night, but not so busy that two girls couldn’t find a table at the local chain restaurant — even one embedded in a hotel. We decided that we liked being grown-ups, even though it had its downsides a lot of the time, because we could order things like Meghan’s Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Sangria.

Crispy green bean fries are wonderful things. They are lightly breaded and lightly fried, but truly crispy and vibrant, fresh green on the inside. They are an indulgence that does not really feel like an indulgence, and the cucumber-wasabi dipping sauce is a perfect counterbalance, not too overpowering or cloying. And the wasabi is not really noticeable.

Lots of things on the menu looked good, and by the end of our meal we’d decided that TGI Friday’s sure does like to put crushed pecans on things. For some reason we both settled on chicken.  The bruschetta chicken pasta looked good, but complicated. The dragonfire chicken was not as spicy as the name might imply — any kung pao heat was easily quenched by a nearby Blue Moon. The Right Portion menu gave us the chance to definitely have enough room for dessert…

…Which brings us back to the conclusion that crushed pecans are on every at TGI Friday’s. All the desserts looked really good and decadent without being really heavy. Two pumpkin spice cupcakes came with a double-shot-glass of vanilla ice cream. I was a little disappointed in what could have been a spectacular twist on an autumnal treat; the cupcakes were refrigerated, which was good for the cream cheese icing, but the cake itself was too dry to be heavenly delicious. The death-by-chocolate brownie obsession with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce — that was the dealmaker for Meghan. And yes, she had her brownie obsession with pecans on top, why do you ask?

All in all, an enjoyable, tasty, and fairly inexpensive girls’ night out.


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Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon
Quincy, MA

Tidbit #2
Egg roll, crab rangoon, chicken fingers, fried shrimp
Pad Thai Noodle
Rice pasta stir fried with shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, scallions and egg with crushed peanuts
Orange Flavored Chicken
Wonton soup 

When DH and I order Chinese food, we always order some variation of the same thing: chicken (either Orange or General Gao/Tso/Tsu), a noodle (usually lo mein, either beef or shrimp), and egg rolls. If I have been very good, I can have crab rangoon too.

Tidbit #2 has all the things we like; it is basically a pu pu platter without chicken wings, which we never ever eat, except only one egg roll — so you also have to order a small (= one piece) egg roll if each of two people wants an egg roll.*

The orange chicken was not the best orange chicken we’ve ever had, but if you like orange chicken that is a little bit spicier than usual, then it may be to your taste. The orange peel is usually particularly potent, and whole chilies as well as chili seeds are used in the sauce. And yet when DH is asked to describe the flavour, his first word is “bland.”

However, I was surprised and delighted to see pad thai on the menu. DH loves lo mein, but in almost every single instance, I find lo mein too slippery, too greasy feeling, to be very delectable. I had been wanting for months to take DH to a nearby Thai restaurant just to have their pad thai, so I leapt at the opportunity to satisfy my cravings for Chinese and pad thai simultaneously. The pad thai was fantastic, excellent of texture and taste, just enough crushed peanut, lots of chicken infused with the pad thai flavour but, unfortunately in my opinion, not enough shrimp. The shrimp were big and plump and firm, so they were definitely not skimping on the shrimp-quality front — so maybe that was why there weren’t more shrimp in the pad thai. DH can pass on a shrimp if he has to, so I think that I actually got most of the shrimp.

Lucky Dragon also sells their excellent duck sauce by the pint. DH judges Chinese restaurants by how much he likes their duck sauce and how generous they are with it, so that fact that a pint of excellent duck sauce can be for $3 at this establishment makes him very happy to be their customer every now and then.

Maybe next time we visit Lucky Dragon, we should go completely outside the box and not order orange chicken at all, but branch out.


*NB: Some Chinese restaurants have been willing to not include the chicken wings in their pu pu platters, and throw in a few extra pieces of whatever component is most plentiful at the moment: a few extra fried shrimp, a few extra chicken fingers, an extra half dozen crab rangoon. Lucky Dragon, because of the computer system linking their counter and kitchen, will not make this sort of substitution.

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Cornerstone Cafe

Cornerstone Cafe
Plymouth, MA

Roasted Garlic Asiago Chicken Caesar Salad

 A chance find in downtown Plymouth — I decided to see if I could find a new work time lunch place. The lunch special “Roasted Garlic Asiago Chicken Caesar Salad” on their sidewalk board drew my rumbling tummy in.

For starters, I definitely felt like an outsider. The minute I walked in, what few heads were in the cafe swiveled sharply in my direction. The single waitress was kind enough, and as soon as I pulled a paperback mystery out of my bag, I think she knew I wasn’t up for being pestered.

FANTASTIC chicken breast on a bed of romaine. Moist through and through, with a shell of crispy melted Asiago. Slices of roasted garlic were a good idea, delicate of taste and texture. The Caesar dressing had a citrusy tang that went well with the Asiago chicken, but with just the lettuce it was a little overpowering.

The salad came with two slices of Texas toast, which were nicely crispy but, in my opinion, too salty — like they had been seasoned with a little too much garlic salt.

NOTE: When you eat at the Cornerstone Cafe, your UPromise account may benefit. Ours did!

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Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse
Everett, MA

Sirloin Beef Tips
Tender pieces of sirloin with sauteed mushrooms and onions in a made-from-scratch brown gravy, served with seasoned rice or mashed potatoes and your choice of one other side 
All-American Cheddar Burger 
½ lb. burger topped with cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and onions. Served on a toasted Texas-sized bun with steak fries and a pickle spear.

DH won’t say no to a plate of steak tips that looks at him alluringly. The only flaw here was actually his own fault — he didn’t read the menu well enough. He missed the part where it said, “mushrooms and onions in a made-from-scratch brown gravy.” DH does not like gravy, but said yes to the mushrooms and onions. His two scoops of mashed potatoes came with no extra gravy, just as he asked, though, but in his opinion his Caesar salad was lacking. I think the Caesar dressing wasn’t big enough on the anchovy for him, as I found the dressing creamy and delightful without being overpowering. I don’t think it had enough salt taste for him. He ordered the steak tips medium, which Texas Roadhouse describes as “hot pink center.” They looked more medium rare to me, and my well done hamburger had a little pink in the center, so my advice to you is, Consider ordering your meat cooked a little more than you’d like, and it will probably come just the way you want it.

Warning: Texas Roadhouse also likes to put cheese and bacon on stuff. This is not something I frown upon in the everyday, but I just wasn’t in a “let’s smother everything with cheese and bacon” mood today. So when our charming waitress asked if I’d like bacon and mushrooms on my burger, I said no-thank-you, and when she asked if I wanted cheese and bacon on my fries, I said no-thank-you, but could you bring some malt vinegar (what? I’ve been in a fries-with-vinegar mood lately). To be completely honest, the tie-breaker between ordering a cheeseburger with fries and a grilled chicken salad had been the thought of having my fries with malt vinegar, so I made sure the waitress knew to bring vinegar — it would save her the trip later. She came out five minutes later to say, “We actually don’t have any malt vinegar. Is that OK?” Sure, I said, there’s ketchup on the table. I said it cheerfully enough, but apparently when she left the table my face fell so noticeably that DH moaned in sympathy and pity.

How can a place which serves fries — especially in New England! — not have a single bottle of malt vinegar on the premises? Or an industrial bottle for the kitchen, from which they can spoon some in to a little cup for me? Seriously. I ended up bringing half the burger and almost all the fries home, where I shall reheat the fries and lovingly smother them with a good drizzling of Sarson’s from the bottle stashed in the back of my cabinet.

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Snappy Sushi 2

Snappy Sushi (formerly Shino Express)
Newbury St., Boston

Miso soup
Cucumber roll
Tuna roll
Tuna Gone Wild
Crispy Eel roll
eel, avocado, cucumber, flying fish roe rolled together, topped with crunchy tempura bits and eel sauce 
Mamemaki roll
tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber, green leaf,  wrapped in soy sheet sprinkled with sesame seeds,  dressed with edamame-yuzu sauce 

A few stand-bys — cucumber (mine), tuna (DH’s), Tuna Gone Wild (which I have decided I really like) — and a couple new experiments. Here’s what we decided.

The 4-piece mamemaki roll was all DH, as it has a large quantity of raw fish involved, and I just don’t like the texture of raw fish. I did try one piece, an end piece that was light on the fish. If it hadn’t been for the edamame-yuzu sauce, which had the texture of either thinned down unspicy guacamole or a very thick pea soup, I might have thought it was okay. DH recommends it with a dab of wasabi and a dash of soy sauce.

The 4-piece crispy eel roll was an exercise in eating messy food in a ladylike fashion. The crispy eel roll is basically two rolls, parallel, encased in tempura bits, then cut the short way — yielding, essentially, 4 double rolls. They break in half fairly easily, creating 8 completely manageable pieces of sushi. I liked the way the eel sauce on the top of the roll glued together the top layer of tempura bits. I love tempura and tempura bits. The big chunk of cucumber in the roll gave it some good tooth, which helped the roll stand up to the melt-in-your-mouth eel and slippery avocado (me and avocado don’t always like each other). It was the first time I’d had eel, which was once described to me as “somewhat BBQ in flavour,” and I have to positively agree with that assessment. I could definitely give eel another go. The only downside: TEMPURA BITS EVERYWHERE!

Accompanied by three cups each of surprisingly excellent green tea that we suspect came out of an automatic dispenser hidden behind the register at the bottom of the stairs.

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