Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Quest for Lobster Rolls

Since Memorial Day (the unofficial start of summer), I’ve been reading about lobster rolls. I never had one before, but after I kept seeing it get mentioned. I was intrigued, than nearly obsessed with finding a good lobster roll. Especially after fishing almost every weekend with 
The Fisherman, being on the beach, you start to get into the groove of the sand, the water, and naturally, sea food.

Driving up North wouldn’t be quite as fun as a day trip, we did decide to take a day trip to Montauk. I found one place that had lobster, The Lobster Roll, and The Fisherman knew of another place, TheClam Bar, not too far off from The Lobster Roll. I never visited Montauk, but he did for fishing, so I was extra excited. 

I would get my lobster roll, and he’d get some fishing in, sounds like a plan.
So after driving, and driving, and driving through Long Island, seeing the sights, we find The Lobster Roll.

I think the place just opened, because it wasn’t super crowded just yet, but as we were leaving, we saw it beginning to pick up speed. 

We got to eat outside, which was pretty cool. Then we decided our lunch: we’d check out the hot and cold lobster rolls, do a taste comparison.

First up, the hot one, luxuriating in a clam shell plate of butter. I can see why this wasn’t pre-assembled. As we were eating it, the toasted bun was starting to soften into gooshy buttery lobstery bread deliciousness. I can see this as something to have for dinner, it’s a little much for lunch, but still good.


Next, the cold one, chopped lobster, some mayo, some celery, keep it simple. This was more of a lunch item, lighter (despite the mayo), and less fussy. I hate to say it, but thank goodness for the fries and cole slaw, because a filling lunch these rolls did not make. But then again, you shouldn’t go overkill on the good stuff. I’m just not used to prices for something like lobster, and then being hungry still. The Fisherman enjoyed the fries, I thought they were okay. They were good dipped in the butter.

Even better was the pie, made by the owner. This is strawberry rhubarb, so now I also get to check off having rhubarb on list of “Summer Foods to Eat Before Summer’s Over,” all those great things that make summer summer (although technically rhubarb’s more of a spring vegetable). The crust was wonderful, as was the filling. I think so many people are anti-pie crust, so pie makers slack on the crust, since no one likes the crust. I was also of the anti-crust camp, but The Fisherman made a valid point about a good crust. It is true, a good crust elevates a good pie.

After we were filled with lobstery goodness, off we went to Montauk State Park for some fishing. But after seeing the water was full of sea weed, and the rocks were really slippery, we decided to head back to The Clam Bar, where they also had lobster rolls.

Now this was more of a lunch place, it was more laid back, and I liked the lobster roll here more. We also got some New England clam chowder, the first time I ever tasted it. I will have to try it when the weather gets cooler. 

We got a fried clam as well, and that first bite was one of nostalgia. It reminded me of my grandparents schlepping us to Long Island so my grandmother could go shopping, and then we’d go eat at Nathan’s. For some reason my grandparents felt the need to tell me fried clams were shrimp, which made things interesting when I’d request shrimp and get, shrimp. Regardless of the odd memories, it was delicious.

Then to top it off we tried a slice of key lime pie. For what we paid, I wasn’t thrilled, I think mine was better. 

All in all, it was a fun trip to Montauk, and I liked both The Lobster Roll and the Clam Bar, but I don’t know if I would get lobster rolls again. Both were good, and it was a great experience, but these rolls are not exactly kind on the wallet. I’d probably be just as happy with chicken or tuna salad, to be honest. I also wouldn’t mind trying other things at both restaurants.

Now that we conquered lobster rolls, it was time to head home, and enjoy some of the beautiful scenery and buildings of Long Island.

...and a random Mister Softee sighting

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sweet Treat! A Visit to Doughnut Plant

One week, way back in March, the Fisherman and I took off from work to go on "staycation." Sure, traveling is fun and all, but who has $$ like that now? Besides, we live in one of the greatest cities in the world, so why not explore it?

So anyway, we took a trip into NYC one day for some fun times. I work in Manhattan, but I don't exactly explore it very much, since I'm here usually going to or coming from work. The Fisherman works in Jersey, so he literally passes through Manhattan, but not much else.

After seeing something on either Food Network or Travel Channel about Doughnut Plant, the Fisherman was very excited about checking it out. Seems he's quite the fan of fried doughnutty goodness. I am also not one to turn down a doughnut, and I always like to explore something new and exciting.

Problem is, the only time we could go would be the weekend, and the lines would be insane. We'd have to go during the week when everyone else was at work. Genius!!

Then I found out one opened in Chelsea, a somewhat easier trip than the Lower East Side, and we knew then that we had to check it out.

We got down there, and it was glorious!

It wasn't quite as crowded yet, but we were a little overwhelmed at the selections, and not wanting to go into a sugar induced coma, much. The flavors, the styles, (raised versus cake), it was like the doughnut Shangra-La.

After calming down a bit, we settle on our choices:

From left: vanilla bean yeast doughnut, pistachio cake, tres leches cake, valrohna chocolate yeast, and vanilla with blackberry jelly yeast doughnut, washed down with some house coffee.

Now, these are not your chain-store doughnuts, but any stretch. But these are definitely a treat, which doughnuts really should be, anyway. The yeast ones were good, but by nature, very airy. I think we were overall happier with the cakey consistency ones.

Here's the Fisherman enjoying one, he almost could fit that whole thing in his mouth. He would easily fit in among a family of Italians.

Then there's me, wearing this shirt for this very special occasion for a semi-hardcore Simpsons fan. Mmmmm, doughnuts...

And at the end of our coffee...

Ha, looks like a nipple. Because the Fisherman and I are nothing if not mature, serious adults, sometimes.

Doughnut Plant does make amazing doughnuts, I hope they keep up the good work, definitely a great experience. I am sure we will back.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Betty Crocker, Try Betti Roxxor!

It’s amazing how powerful pictures can be.  As I was looking at some of my pictures from throwbacks, and the memories just flood back. Of times, places, people, feelings, how you are, and who you are at that moment. After all that I get hungry :)

Two pictures in particular really stood out: when I was tasked by my mom to make not one, but TWO cakes for her co-workers.
 One person LOVES citrus, so for him I made a key lime cake.

 The other loved carrot cake, but not with the nuts or raisins.

Now, I’m not a baker, but I thought I’d give it a try. And these two guys in particular were nice, so I figured what the hell. Since I was new to baking, I’ll hang my head in shame as I say that the key lime cake was made using a mix that I doctored up. Not real baking, but hey, those mixes exist for a reason, and people do buy them. Not as good as homemade, but good. 

After being acquainted with key lime, I fell in love with key lime pie. Everytime I can get my mitts on those tiny, tarty limes, I know pie’s in my future. So from one gussied up cake from a mix comes real key lime pie. Not the green goo kind you see in the supermarket. Lemon meringue does not get the lemon switched with lime to make key lime pie! Ew.

As for the carrot cake, when The Fisherman and I started dating, he mentioned loving carrot cake. Nearly six months later, I haven’t made it for him, I feel terrible (he doesn’t care but I do), so I decide I’ll make it for him, before it gets crazy hot outside and I melt before I turn on the stove. 

Another recipe that I tried, which is really baking for non-bakers, is a muffin-based recipe that I simply pour into a pan, because the thought of muffin tins and those paper cups…not gonna happen.

As I’m looking at those pictures, I asked myself, “Why don’t I bake more often?” The answer of course being, I’m not good at measuring, and I can’t leave well enough alone and have to fiddle with things. This does not bode well for baking. But, once in awhile, I’ll try to bake. Sometimes I create something good, and sometimes I make something TERRIBLE! 

I try to console myself (preferably with something delicious that I didn’t just bake), and know I have to try again. 

So on today’s menu, we have key lime pie, carrot cake, and banana nut muffins.  Let’s get cooking!

So the recipe I used is from the bag of limes. If you get the limes, it’s there. If not, this one is very similar.  

 Then, a primer on key limes: 

 Regular, or Persian lime, versus Key Limes.

 All cut up, and nowhere to go, but the JUICER!

But of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. I decided instead of buying or making a graham cracker crust, I should try making a vanilla wafer based crust. I figured it’s lighter than the graham, the vanilla smoothness would play nicely with the citrus, and I really, really believed it would work.

 Here it's blind baking so it's nice and crunchy.

I can’t complain, I thought it was good. Maybe next time I’d incorporate some coconut, a nice lime-coco pie.


Next is the carrot cake, where I mess with it A LOT! However, due to some strange occurrence in the universe, it actually came out pretty good. And of course, anything covered in cream cheese icing is going to be good.  This is the recipe, and here’s what I changed :)

    * Unsalted butter, for the pan
    * 12 ounces, approximately 2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan (whole wheat was replaced for white, it creates less of a spike in blood sugar, has more fiber)
    * 12 ounces grated carrots, medium grate, approximately 6 medium
    * 1 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (1tsp) (I like things with a kicked so I doubled the 
    * 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon(1tsp)
    * 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg(1/2 tsp)
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * 10 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/3 cups (3/4 c agave) (it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as badly as white sugar)
    * 2 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup firmly packed
    * 3 large eggs
    * 6 ounces plain yogurt
    * 6 ounces vegetable oil(4 oz apple sauce, 2 oz oil) (thought cutting the fat was not a  bad idea, given the FROSTING, which should not be left out!!)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, approximately 2 cups
I wish I were able to find not crazy expensive walnuts (The Fisherman likes nuts in stuff), but to no avail, next time I will try to procure walnuts.
 I tried to be all slick and slice the cake into two halves, so I can frost the middle. I don't know if I'll do that next time...
 And I tried to do a cool pattern on the cake. Not a good idea...

Finally, we have my quasi-muffin recipe  I’ve switched it up and made apple cinnamon muffins, pumpkin muffins, this time I made banana nut. This I did make The Fisherman when we were first dating, because he mentioned liking banana nut muffins. The only switch I do here is the applesauce vs. oil trick, where you replace the oil with applesauce. Some recipes this works, some it won’t, so be careful. 

And, I usually don’t have buttermilk on hand, so I use either milk mixed with some lemon juice (maybe ¼ tsp), allowed to sit for five minutes, or I use yogurt if I have it. A very versatile recipe, healthy, and sweet without being too sweet. One caveat, this does not freeze well, I learned this the hard way, unfortunately *sad face*

And that wraps up The FBA’s baking post. Perhaps there will be more. Only problem with baking is, you need people to eat it, otherwise you wind up having to wear sweatpants from eating all of your delicious creations!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Around the World, Burgers, Philly Cheesesteak and Roasted Pork, and Chicken and Waffles (with a Jersey Bonus)

 Actually, I'm afraid of even looking up to see if "Jersey Bonus" meets something else. Anyway, onto beefy cheesiness!! In a good way.

First is a fairly local place, in Forest Hills, called Cheeburger Cheeburger. It's a good place to go to if you want a lot of customizing: burger size, toppings, sauces for fries and onion rings, and milkshakes. I like it because it's a quick drive or train trip, and there's other stuff around so if you're in the neighborhood, it's a good place to go.

 Yes, Big is Better. God Bless 'Merica! (lol)

 My "normal" burger (I think I got a half pound) the one with a single olive), The Fisherman's is the 20oz-er, the one with olive-eyes.

And the onion rings. Quite tasty.

Next, a road trip in search of the best cheese steak sandwich in Philly. During our "staycation," we traveled to PA, for cheese steak. We saw on Man v. Food on the Travel Channel that the current competition was between two cheese steak places that were across from each other, Pat's and Genos. We went to investigate.
 The showdown: Pat's v. Genos...

First Pat's. Here's how to order. This is very important.

 Mmmmm meaty! Nice steak, good amount of Cheez Whiz, perfect onions, and bread.

 Ready for it's close up...
The Fisherman enjoying a bite. Did I mention we got there at 9:30 in the morning??

Then, onto Geno's. Honestly, we don't know how this is competition. To us, Pat's was way superior to Geno's.
Good onions, chewy bread (not in a good way), meat not as good. Booo Genos!

We hoped they would redeem themselves with their pork sandwich...they didn't. And sorry for no picture, it was that sad, I couldn't do that to you.

So, three sandwiches among two people for breakfast, we are ready to explore!!

We convert to teenage boys sometimes, heheheheh, doggie style, hehehehehehe

After some wandering we took a trip to the famous Reading Terminal Market, for, what else, food. The other shops were cool, but we were there for DiNic's' roasted pork sandwiches. 

It's a sign! *rim shot*

 Da' sandwich: roast pork, broccoli rabe, and exceptional provolone. Maybe not as good as it could have been, but maybe also because we OD'd on sandwiches for the day...

 But doesn't that look good?

Then, to round out our meatiliciousness, we have a dish that I love, that's semi-homemade: I made the waffles, a corn-based waffle, while The Fisherman got his favorite fried poultry purveyor, KFC. With our powers combined, we made:

 The beer, an IPA, definitely helped cut the richness, the sweetness, the overall delicousness. Now that's what I call celebrating Friday!

Then, to round out the fun, while heading back from Philly we took a venture to Mitsuwa in New Jersey, the largest Japanese supermarket in the US.

After much wandering, inspiring and such, we realized we were a bit peckish (it's astonishing after 2.5 sandwiches eaten per person), but then I saw it, and had to have it:

Pancakey treats with a custard center. A "hot like napalm" custard center. Soooo good, and cute pictures of animals on each one.

I wonder what other things I have to share? Perhaps some modern revisions to things I've made in the past? Maybe an attempt at trying my hand at baking...

Around the World, Northern Chinese Style Dumplings, Korean Gamjatang and Hotpots, and Ramendeux

UPDATE 7/26/2011: The Fisherman and I returned for gamtajang, so I have more pictures to share!

Well, I promised more, and more you shall receive. This will be a span of different Asian dishes, but worry not, this is only the tip of the iceberg...Full disclosure, my memory escaped me for the names of the gamtajang place, and one of the ramen spots. After consulting with The Fisherman, the puzzle is solved. I try to get all the info on the places where I go so hopefully you'll check it out. I hope you do.

First is a local spot that I found, and The Fisherman approved, Lao Kou Wei, Formerly Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House, on Whitney Ave. Then onto my first experience in Korean cuisine, gamtajang, or pork bone soup at Jeun Ku Korean restaurant. Apparently it's so underground, I can't find any info on it (40-11 150th St in Flushing, ZIP 11354) Next is our first experience at Sik Gaek, also in Flushing, for octopus (and seafood extravaganza!!) hot pot. The last two are ramen spots Ramen Setagaya in the East Village, and the fairly well known Ippudo.

So, about Lao Kou Wei, it's along Whitney Ave in Elmhurst, and I've always walked past it. Before meeting The Fisherman, my knowledge of Asian cuisine was very rudimentary. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive walking into a place with very little in English, being out of my element, to say the least. But after reading about it, I decided to take the plunge and order. It's becoming more popular, so I do see more non-Chinese and non-Asians in there, but I'm glad I went to check it out.

At $1.25 for 5 dumplings (pork and scallion), you can get very full for very little money, which The Fisherman and I do more often than I care to admit. When we're hungry, low on cash and don't want to whip something up, it's one the local contenders (there's also the halal cart guy, but that's another post).

This time we really splurged and got scallion pancakes too. They are one of those things I've tried and loved! Also, a word of advice for the dumplings, always get fried, and get both the vinegar sauce and the chili oil. The vinegar cuts the richness of eating porky, crispy fried goodness (a generally good rule when dealing with fried foods), and the hot chili oil is just damn good! Now I've mentioned it's newer relative in the restaurant world, Lao Bei Fang, which has pretty good dumplings, but not the same caliber as Lao Kou Wei. Go to Lao Bei Fang for noodle soup, Lao Kou Wei for dumplings. Heck, you could go to both if you'd like.

Next is Jeun Ku Korean restaurant, and their pork bone soup. I'm not gonna lie, the accoutrement to Korean food always intrigues me, especially kimchi! What can I say except, this was my first time eating something like this, it was spicy, and delicious!

Next, another pretty happenin' spot, Sik Gaek. Apparently the stuff to get is the octopus hotpot. And got it we did.

 Are you ready to eat? It's like a battle cry!

We get to play with frying eggs as we wait. I don't quite get it, but okay. I managed to flip it using a plate since I didn't want anyone with egg on their face *rim shot*

 Live octopus with lettuce, jalapeño, raw garlic, hot sauce, and sesame oil (OMG I LOVE sesame oil). Can't be trusted around it.

 Rice cakes (I was thinking those styrofoam coasters), chewy, almost Play-D'oh-y. An interesting texture. I liked the hot sauce, it was a bit ketchupy, which I didn't love.

The pièce de résistance, the hot pot. I feel like we ate the ocean.

Me being a 13 year old. Haha see food!

Next we head next door to Japan, and specifically, ramen. A slight caveat: we've tried going to Ippudo THREE times: New Years Eve Day, the weekend before Valentine's Day, and finally we got in on a random Tuesday afternoon. Valentine's Day weekend, after being slighted by Ippudo, we wandered the East Village determined to get ramen, come hell or high water. Then we came across another ramen place, Ramen Setagaya.

 We started off with raw octopus in a wasabi sauce. Really good.

Then got some fried oysters. I didn't love these, waaay too greasy.

 Cute sushi people. If they had those in a kid's meal I'd be all over that.

 The Fisherman happy about getting his ramen on. Or, maybe the noodles are hot...

 The Fisherman's tonkotsu ramen.

My spicy miso ramen. I always like a kick.

Next, the infamous Ippudo.

 That's how many bowls they needed when we ordered!! Kidding, kidding...

 Table at the bar made of instant ramen noodle slabs (I wonder if it would work as a natural insulation)

 Cod roe on rice. Nice, but not as nice as...

The eel, it was really good! I liked this too.

 My miso ramen (Soy bean paste flavored noodle in the original "Tonkotus" based soup with pork chashu, cabbage, spinach, menma, ginger, and scallions).

The Fisherman’s Shiromaru Hakata Classic (The original "Tonkotsu" noodle soup topped with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, red pickeled ginger, sesame, and scallions)

I will say, the pork piece was soooo good. Melt in your mouth porkilicious.

 The Fisherman enjoying his noodle party!

Me too. We determined that, for what we paid ($17 each because we got the rice bowl), it wasn't worth it. It was good, but not $34 good. And for lunch no less!

I think that covers our mini tour of Asian tasties. Next we shall go on a trip that highlights Americana, in the form of burgers in Forest Hills (Cheeburgers, in fact), a day trip to Philly for cheesesteak and roast pork sandwiches, a soul fool smashup known as chicken and waffles, and perhaps a surprise...