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Archive for March, 2009

Red Robin

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Patriot Place
Foxboro, MA

Banzai Burger
Marinated in teriyaki & topped with grilled pineapple, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. Dude, you’ll be like, ready to ride the pipeline on O’ahu’s North Shore after you chomp on this!
A1 Peppercorn Burger
Sizzling, hickory-smoked bacon, melted Pepper-Jack cheese, A.1.® peppercorn spread, crispy onion straws, onions and tomatoes on an onion bun. It’s a taste explosion! 

If you are a member of their eClub, you receive a coupon for a free gourmet burger on your birthday. Yesterday was my birthday, so we decided a trip to the new Patriot Place was in order. It was very quiet, being A) the off-season, B) a Wednesday night, and C) cold. DH had never been to a Red Robin and I had only been once.

We both order our burgers without tomatoes, but we have different reasons. I find that tomatoes make burgers messier and drippier, DH just doesn’t like tomatoes. I also added a thick slice of onion to mine, which added crispy crunch and strong onion flavour. The pineapple was grilled to perfection, being sweet and melt-in-your-mouth. And the mayo was a nice twist to the teriyaki & pineapple burgers you often find at other restaurants. I was highly pleased.

DH says the seasonings on his A1 Peppercorn Burger were well-mixed and well-balanced to make a burger with bite. The one small taste I had was tangy with thickened A1 steak sauce, with tender, not burnt-to-a-crisp bacon. Crispy onion straws are just delicate little onion rings, which soaked up the neighboring layer of tangy, salty sauce and counterbalanced it with their subtle sweetness.

The hamburger part of both our burgers were perfectly well done to our request, juicy, and generously sized. My usual complaint is that gourmet burgers loaded with toppings are often messy, and the waxed paper envelope my burger arrived in helped to keep the hot juices from scalding my hands. At the end of the sandwich there was a melty cheese and teriyaki sauce mixture in the bottom of my envelope just begging to be snacked on. It made me think that melted cheese and teriyaki would make an excellent topping for potato skins or cheese fries.

Speaking of which, the chain’s well-known steak fries were piping hot and ready to be seasoned to taste with the house blend of spices. DH bought a 16-ounce jar for $3, and I think it will be a particularly nice blend to accent hamburgers and baked potatoes. I found out, on the phone with my sister-in-law on the drive home, that my brother-in-law puts the spice blend on anything that holds still long enough, and they just replaced their jar last week.

It was even nice that our incredibly excellent server didn’t make a big deal about it being my birthday. He sang one line of the Happy Birthday song very quietly and with minimal gesturing, which I told him was just the right amount of celebration I required. He said he can usually tell who wants a big fuss and who doesn’t.

On a side note, on the same evening my parents also visited their local Red Robin, at the Centennial shopping center in northwest Las Vegas. My dad’s birthday is four days after mine on the calendar, so he too had a birthday coupon, so they “dined with us in spirit”. Earlier in the week he recommended the Chili Chili Cheeseburger if one were inclined toward chili, the sandwich served open-faced to acknowledge that this burger would never be neat to eat with two hands, and a knife and fork are recommended. But on this occasion he went with the Whisky River Barbeque burger. And my mum ordered her usual, the Gourmet Cheeseburger.

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Cabot’s Ice Cream & Restaurant
Newton, MA

Denver Omelette 
Green bell pepper, ham, and onions — served with breakfast potatoes and toast
Grilled Reuben
Extra lean corned beef with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese piled high on “Cabot’s” own marble rye, served with potato salad and pickles

 

One word to describe Cabot’s: cosy. We met a Newtonite friend here for lunch on a Saturday, her suggestion — and a good one! Cabot’s exudes old-fashioned, small-town charm even though the Mass Pike is just outside and across the street. Our friend said she loved it for its feeling of community, young and old and people of all types coming together to enjoy good, cheap food.

I hadn’t had a Denver omelette in so long, and I didn’t feel like I wanted anything heavy. The eggs were golden and fluffy, but I was a little disappointed in the construction of the “omelette”: it was an egg pancake on a bed of finely sliced onions, peppers, and ham. There may even have been a little cheese holding it together. It wasn’t the egg envelope embracing diced vegetables and protein I was expecting, and though the food was tasty and even the wheat toast divine, this led to a little disappointment. Oh, and what is a “breakfast potato”? It’s a thickly-sliced, not-crispily-fried potato chip. Hmm…

DH describes the Reuben as “nothing spectacular, but nothing wrong — comfort food.” He would order it again. The pickles were sweet not sour, and the potato salad was “kinda like the Reuben — if you wanted potato salad, it met the needs of a potato salad.”

I think the biggest attraction at the restaurant is the restaurant itself and the atmosphere of history, community, and cosiness. It is a place where simple, filling, no-nonsense comfort foods reign supreme.

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Welsh Leek Pie

Happy St. David’s Day! Time to celebrate the heritage of our cousins the Welsh and that cousin of the onion, the leek. We also have Mr. Alexander McCall Smith and his online novel Corduroy Mansions to thank for this dish, as I might not have gone looking for a leek pie recipe if it hadn’t been for Terence Moongrove.

 

Welsh Leek Pie

8 ounces prepared leeks (about two leeks, once the roots and the coarse green leaves are removed)
2 ounces butter (half a stick)
1/2 pint single cream (or half-and-half)
2 eggs
4 ounces cooked ham, cubed
1 pastry for single-crust pie, 2 for a pie with a lid

 

Prepare the leeks by removing the roots and the coarse green leaves, rinsing, removing the outer layer, rinsing, slicing in to disks, and rinsing. I do not think you can rinse leeks enough. Cook in a skillet with all the butter until the leeks are soft. It is hard to describe a soft leek, but you’ll know. It’s okay, and probably a good thing, if the rings separate a little when you are cooking them.

We used the refrigerated pie crust from the refrigerated biscuit section of the grocery; two 9 inch crusts come in one package, so we made our pie with a bottom and with a lid. Once they came to room temperature they unrolled very easily and it was easy enough to mould them to the pie dish — we used the deeper of our two glass pie dishes so there would be plenty of room for all the filling. So one pastry goes in the bottom of a pie dish. Tip in the leeks and the cubed-up ham and make a sort-of-even layer.

Mix together the half-and-half and the two eggs, add a little salt and pepper, then strain in to the pie dish on top of the leeks and ham. Add the lid, if you are using one, and brush with milk. Bake in 350F oven for 30 minutes. Let sit about 20 minutes before serving.

The crust did not get all crusty-crusty, in our case it stayed moist and but flaky. We are thinking that next time we might add a third egg and maybe a half cup more half-and-half in order to achieve a more quiche-y texture for the filling.

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Mr. Chan's

Mr. Chan’s
Adams Street, Milton
East Milton Square

Egg Rolls
Appetizer C
Pork Strips, Chicken Fingers, Crab Rangoons
Beef Lo Mein
Chicken & Shrimp Pad Thai
General Gau’s Chicken
Crispy chunks of chicken sautéed with our master chef’s special spicy sauce garnished with broccoli

A bad day in the office is usually what drives us to order Chinese for take-home. We both had rather blah days, so we decided to buoy our spirits and commemorate the President’s first annual message to the joint session of Congress with culinary indulgence. We could have gone to our default place at the bottom of the hill, but I felt like something new was in order. A little bit of online research returned consistent good review for Mr. Chan’s in East Milton Square, not too far from where we live, and their website, www.mrchans.net, showed a wide menu with many standard, and a few non-standard, selections. We were excited to try someplace new, especially if it came with good recommendations from the people at Yelp and Chow, but the website doesn’t list prices, so we weren’t sure we wanted to order from there (we’re trying to be cash-conscious even when we’re indulging in take-away).

It looks like Mr. Chan’s has on-street parking only, but luckily we found a space only a couple of storefronts down from the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is decorated in warm colors: subdued orange on the walls, creamy tan tile flooring, warm wood accents, and fabrics in a lush plum. There is a small eat-in seating area to one side that is modest but very clean, a row of bar-style seating along the window front, a small couch for sitting on while waiting for your order, and the counter itself is large, clean, clutter free, and inviting. The staff was also friendly, polite, and well-dressed. If I could only use two words to describe the interior of Mr. Chan’s, they would be “posh” and “welcoming.” It doesn’t seem like those two words go together, but at Mr. Chan’s, they do.

And behind that promising façade? The prices on the extensive menu are slightly higher than your local corner Chinese restaurant, but when you factor in the ambiance, the quality of service, and the quality of the food, what you get in return for the price you pay is actually a steal.

We aren’t sure how they do it, but Mr. Chan’s food actually tastes like food. You know how after a while, Chinese take-away can become sort of homogenous? How no flavours really stand out in the egg rolls, the crab rangoons don’t taste very crabby, the lo mein noodles taste the same as all the other ingredients? Well, not at Mr. Chan’s. They worked some sort of magic back in the kitchen, because each item had a distinct flavour, and the flavours in each item worked together or pulled against each other on the palate. The egg rolls tasted like dough, cabbage, and seasoned pork, not a homogenous mixture of shredded filling. The crab rangoons tasted like seafood — !! – with a little crisp texture from the scallion surrounded by smooth creamy filling. Usually I couldn’t blind-taste-test the difference between crab rangoons and cream cheese wontons.

I had two of the smallish chicken fingers. The meat was more moist than chicken fingers tend to be, which was rewarding, but there was a slight bitterness to the fried batter that marred the experience.

I did not try any of the pork strips, that’s all DH. They aren’t strips so much as they appear to be slices from a pork roast, about the size of a man’s palm. What DH actually wanted, in his mind, was boneless spare ribs, and pork strips could conceivably be a way of describing what he was after. I do think that the pork will make a good open-faced sandwich, if I also had leftover bread stuffing and cranberry sauce on hand.

I only tried a piece of beef from the beef lo mein, lo mein noodles being DH’s special love. It was tender and lightly seasoned and in perfect, chopstick friendly, bite-size chunks (not long strips of grayish meat, which I sometimes see in other lo meins).

The chicken & shrimp pad thai was not as sweet as the pad thai that I reviewed in an earlier entry from Lucky Dragon, but it had a more subtle flavor. The small pieces of chicken and shrimp had not absorbed the full effect of the pad thai sauce, so the flavour was more subtle, and built in complexity in the mouth over time. Occasional bursts of sweet flavour would explode on the tongue, and sometimes a mouthful would be more savory than sweet. The scallions and carrots were still firm, however, and scallion- and carrot-flavoured, respectively. The noodles also did not glob together, but cohered – and yes, I am going to describe pad thai this way – elegantly. But not persistently; a little shaking freed them and made them more manageable (for me – I use chopsticks, DH uses a fork).

Usually a Chinese restaurant will have either General Gau’s chicken or orange chicken, very rarely both. Mr. Chan’s listed both on the menu, and in retrospect I realise we should have ordered a small orange chicken for comparison. Usually we can’t tell the difference between one restaurant’s orange chicken and another’s General Gau’s, except that one often has pieces of orange peel in the sauce. They are usually both a little spicy, and they are usually dished up or garnished with broccoli. Some restaurants put whole chilis in the sauce, some use only small pieces. Usually the chicken is heavily breaded and sautéed prior to saucing. Only once before our visit to Mr. Chan’s had I had General Gau’s chicken that didn’t taste the same as orange chicken, at Quincy Dynasty in North Quincy. Like the General Gau’s chicken at Quincy Dynasty, Mr. Chan’s General Gau’s has a savory, distinctly-not-orange flavour – and Mr. Chan’s General Gau does pack some heat. Not a lot, just a little, and it creeps up on you after you’ve popped a few of their tender, lightly breaded, perfectly sautéed morsels in to your mouth. DH needed a glass of milk to cut the heat, I just kept a few pad thai noodles on my plate to eat when the spice started to become too much, and kept the heat at bay that way.

The big test for take-away: How good are the reheated leftovers? DH and I buy more Chinese than we know we can eat in one sitting, and it actually lasts us three or four servings a day for a few days. The General Gau’s chicken became one solid tray of refrigerated goodness – exploratory surgery followed by a few sharp jabs with the chopsticks were required to separate the chicken pieces, so the breaded and sautéed outer layer suffered a little, but the flavours held up. The pad thai dried out a little in the refrigerator, but reheated nicely, maintaining its taste and texture. Extra crab rangoons are always eaten cold out of the refrigerator, never reheated, and the filling remained moist and flavourful (it firmed up a little, but that was expected from an overnight in the fridge).

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