Monday, February 4, 2013

From Bad to Awesome- Culinary Adventures This Weekend

I am a huge fan of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. I have over 500 reviews on Yelp and over 200 on TripAdvisor so I like to find places to review, and the best time to do that is the weekend. I'm not a crazy foodie, and I'm not hard to impress but I like good food and good service, and I definitely like sharing my opinion about it. My friend and I drive through Rowley quite often. We pass The Bradford Tavern and always marvel at how full the parking lot is. I believe they're owned by the same people who own the Sylvan Street Grille restaurants. On Friday, we were heading toward New Hampshire and noticed the lot wasn't super full so we decided to finally stop and grab a meal. The inside of the restaurant is beautiful. Low ceilings with beams, a wonderful fire, nice tables and a great atmosphere. That's probably the only good part of our eating experience. Our waitress was, at best, disinterested and, at worst, actively trying to be as unfriendly and dense as possible. She didn't know what was on tap, and even pointed at the menu for us to look without saying a word. Rude. I ordered my main dish from the special menu. It came with soup or a salad and dessert. I pointed to it as I ordered, and she still never asked me what I wanted (soup or salad) and walked away before I could tell her. We had to wait for her to return to complete the order. I ordered the bunless burger. My friend ordered the haddock casserole with a cheese sauce. They gave us bread and a nice dip first. That was pretty good. The chowder came in a funky sloped bowl. It was way too salty. I live on the coast and have had a lot of chowders. This one was clearly not fresh and loaded with salt to disguise the old flavor. Our main dishes were no better. The bunless burger was disgusting. Charred with minimal cheese, and a totally unappetizing tower of peppers, mushrooms and onions on top. I couldn't eat it so I switched with my friend, and even he could barely get it down, and called it the worst burger he'd ever tasted. His dish was also bad. The rice was mushy and not hot enough. The veggies were burning hot and had obviously been prepared before and nuked in the microwave. Yuck. The fish was covered in a thick, chunky cheese sauce that tasted so gross that I blanched after one bite. We ended up taking it home (the waitress didn't bother to ask why we hadn't eaten any of the fish) and it was no better later in the night. Finally, the waitress (who didn't check on us once nor ask if we wanted more water or beer) came with the check and I had to remind her that dessert was included. I went with the chocolate cake since they surely couldn't screw that up. Oh- they did. Slathered in chocolate sauce it was dry, partially frozen and stale. They must have taken it out of the freezer and made it weeks ago. Yuck. Neither of us could finish it. Again, the waitress didn't even ask why we didn't eat the cake and at that point I didn't feel like pointing it out as it was clear she didn't care. The table behind us had an amazing waitress who explained soups of the day and what went into meals. I was jealous! I've never had a worse meal at a place that looked so nice and was so popular. The next day, we found ourselves in downtown Hudson. I saw a cute sign that said Rail Trail and we decided to go in as we thought it was a bakery or coffee place. We were very pleasantly surprised. It was a flatbread pizza restaurant called Rail Trail Flatbread Co. Quite busy but we were seated within five minutes. Our waitress was great. She explained the menu and even had recommendations. They had a ton of beers on tap. We decided to order a 'do it your way' flatbread. We went with crushed tomato sauce, roma tomatoes and olives. Each ingredient was $1.25 so we didn't want to go too crazy. I have to say it was the most delicious pizza I have tasted in lord knows how long. Delicious! We were good and took half home to eat later (oh, later as in the minute we did get home!). I was very impressed with the seasoning used. Our waitress was so friendly. It was a huge contrast with the experience on Friday night. So, if you're ever hungry for pizza and near downtown Hudson, MA- I recommend stopping in at the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. If you're hungry in Rowley, MA- I recommend driving on by the Bradford Tavern!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Savory Chicken Skin Recipe

I have been experimenting with crispier (but not too crispy) and tasty chicken and turkey skin recipes for awhile now. I finally created one with somewhat random ingredients that really work well together, and I always use it on chicken now. Depending on whether you use butter or margarine, and how much you use of either, it can be very smooth and savory or crispy and yet still have a very savory and flavorful taste. Here is a photo of the chicken before cooking so you get a sense of what it should look like:
  • Here is my recipe:
  • Half stick butter OR 1 cup margarine
  • 1 tablespoon Cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon Nutmeg OR Cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • (If you want a kick) 1 Tablespoon Curry
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives
  • Simmer the butter or margarine and add in the ingredients. Stir until everything looks blended in. Note- the chives won't completely blend in. Make sure you don't overcook the butter or margarine. It should be smooth and easy to spread on the meat. Total prep time should be less than ten minutes. It's easy!
  • Take a basting brush (I use an old fashioned whisk one as the plastic ones aren't as good) and generously slather the meat (both sides). If you want crispier skin, use less. I like to use it all up so it's very flavorful. I recommend poking a few holes in the meat and letting it sit for about 20 minutes before you cook it. If you want really crispy skin, don't poke holes or let it sit and be sure to cook it for about ten minutes at a slightly higher temperate toward the end of your cooking time. You can also use this recipe for pork, venison and steak. I tend to change the ingredients slightly if I'm using it on a red meat as nutmeg and cinnamon really don't taste that great to me on red meats.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Unexpected Cupcakes!

On a snowy day, after a long day of work, who doesn't love to receive a box of unexpected gooey cupcakes? Answer- no one! I was the very lucky recipient, and those cupcakes did not go to waste (or last more than an hour between the two of us). I've seen Cakes for Occasions in Danvers before but never had a reason to stop in. After the cupcakes, of course, I will find a reason to pop in! Spiffy box with only 1 cupcake left (where did the others go?!)
Look at that delicious, real cream topping. Nothing pre-packaged about these cupcakes! (You can also admire my Polish pottery dish)
One more just to make sure you're hungry now:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Stroopwafels

Last October, I visited Amsterdam and fell in love with the stroopwafel. Usually, it's a caramel waffle treat but when I was at the airport trying to use up my remaining Euros, I found the tastiest and gooiest version: Chocolate Stroopwafels! I was thinking about them the other day and searched Amazon and voila! found them sold by a business called Diabetic Friendly (note- this treat has tons and tons of sugar and they make sure you know that when you read the product description thus avoiding lawsuits, I am sure). I ordered a box, reasonably priced, and it came in less than a week. Here is the nice package:
Top of the box:
Packaging of the individual stroopwafels:
And more yum:
Don't be crazy and eat the box all at once. Savor! And, Amsterdam was great if you're ever thinking of going. I might post some reviews.

New Bread Maker!

I'm so sick of stale bread. You buy it at the store, and within a day it tastes stale. A lot of places actually sell about to expire bread at great prices, so that's something I always check before purchasing. I don't eat bread fast enough to purchase one that expires in a day or two! I finally decided to get another bread maker and make my own bread. Plus, it gives me a chance to try out some cool recipes. Would you believe it took three stores for me to find one? Checked Walmart- nada. Went to Sears- nothing. Popped over to JC Penney- nil. Finally, I got smart and checked my smarter than me phone and it said they had bread makers in stock at Target. Drove over there, and got the last one. It was on sale too- score!
It looked nice in the package, and even nicer once I got it out (tricky!) and set up
The first bread I made was a simple multi grain recipe. I totally forgot to take photos, oops. The next day, I decided to search online for some recipes and found one for cinnamon bread. I decided to modify it to include my favorite spice, cardamom, and use cherries and dried fruit instead of raisins: 1 cup water 2 tablespoons margarine 3 cups flour 3 tablespoons sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon cardamon 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast 3/4 cup cherries and mixed fruit (dried) After about 3.5 hours, voila!
Delicious, and it smells so good while it cooks. In fact, the final hour it smelled so delicious that I wanted to open the machine (a no no) and just eat it. I can't wait to try my next bread recipe!