The Chow Down

Quincy Market arrWhere there are good shops, too, follows good eats. Located in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, I came across a local oyster bar amicable in name and service – The Salty Dog. Dine-in or retreat under a patio umbrella, either way the only association to man’s best friend is the undivided attention given to you, the patron, and loyal adherence to traditional recipes.

Boston Fun Sign arrOysters Rockefeller to start, this seafood bar and grill continued to fulfill my desire to unwind with the very best offerings from the east coast. Worthy of a mug shot, creamy seafood stew – a.k.a. New England clam chowder – is stick to your ribs divine. Intensely compatible in flavour, the companionship of freshly cooked clams married with potato chunks in a rich dairy-based broth left me feeling satisfied – happy ‘tales’ indeed. If each savoury spoonful wasn’t hearty enough, mixing in accompanying Westminster Baker’s Co. oysters crackers – the classic thickening agent – makes this wholesome soup all the more enjoyable.

Salty Dog Chowder arrComfortably ‘clammed up’ – busy eating chowder – I don’t think it was a part of my imagination when I noticed another home-grown sighting. Call me Scully – I spotted a UFO! There’s no mystery when it comes to an episode of “been there, tasted that!” Forever a part of my DISH-files, I present the pleasant landing of a ‘friendly’ on the counter – UFO White. Spiced and bottled by Harpoon Brewery, this concoction of unfiltered wheat beer sides on a lighter ale with high notes of orange and coriander. Wide-mouth drinking glasses abound, many take a liking to the crisp and clean taste of this refreshing beverage – a ‘crop’ circle to be revered, not feared. Heart and stomach happily full, rounding out a New England summer’s afternoon is undeniably best when it’s done your way – for me, a Bostonian Party of wicked delicious quality food/drink.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

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Beefcakes “R” Us

Prospector Exterior arrSave the date! Looking forward to the most important day of the year – my birthday – I could not leave annual dinner plans in another’s hands. Rightfully so, I wanted a special meal deserving of a song – “Happy Birthday!” Asking around, I heard of a T. Bay venue where the dinner roll – by word of mouth – is to die for. If freshly baked bread is that good, I conceived, The Prospector Steakhouse must equally serve mouth-watering cuts of prime meat.Prospector Menu arr

Sporting my adventurous side, I casually made my way to the great outdoors – in-house. Upon entry to this steakhouse, the dimly-lit wooded lodge atmosphere was foretelling of the warm and toasty comfort to be expected. Hot uncrossed buns anyone? For all ‘star’ gazers and grazers alike, the glowing indoor campfire – commercial oven – remained pre-heated, delivering an infinite baking spectacle of this sought-after treat. Fearing no scary story – shortage of rolls – I displaced myself from my comfy circle, and set on foot to a nature trail of hot vegetable soup and refreshing salad starters. Gravitational forces – of hunger –at work, you’re immediately pulled to the restaurant’s core where clients find a constellation of food, all conveniently arranged at eye level – telescope not required!

Prospector Steak arrWhat’s on for supper? For a rare annual outgoing to the Prospector, what else than exceptional prime rib served with medium-sized potatoes, both done right! Already sighting the ‘northern lights,’ in a colourful array of appetizers, my dinner was made complete with a satisfying steak-frites selection, straight off the menu. Robust in meaty flavour, my gorgeous cake was juicy, tender and trimmed. Also topped with a surplus of edible candles, though misrepresentative of my age, the massive quantity of delicious hand-cut golden fries was more than welcome. With a celestial sphere of slow-roasted meat and Yorkshire pudding, close in orbit, I wonder what Nostradamus would prophesize of this plated meal – a very good prospect!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

Cheer Up, Buttercup!

Capellanes Exterior arr“We love our bread, we love our butter” and, I believe Madeline would agree, yeast-leavened dough can be made better – with chocolate! Typical of ‘viennoiseries’ (baked goods), folded layers of butter and flour produce light, flaky, and versatile goodness, known as ‘croissant.’ Adopting an affinity for sweet rolls, variations don’t stop at ‘pain au chocolat’ or in France.

Capellanes Pastries arrAt Viena Capellanes, one learns Spaniards also enjoy finding a Kinder-like surprise in the center of their wheat treats. Taking a dynamic approach to the stuff/roll technique, this madrileño artisan bakery replaces solid cocoa shavings with one of three irresistible fillings: ‘nata,’ ‘crema,’ and ‘trufa.’ Highly luxurious – inside and out – take your pick of amplified hand-sized crescents that are sliced, then liberally coated with freshly whipped natural cream, custard or truffle.

Capellanes Croissant arrA taste on the lips, and it became evident that my plump ‘trufa’ croissant lives up to the common cook’s ideology – richness evokes flavour. Agreeably so, I wouldn’t want my dessert to skimp on authenticity. Visibly loaded, this heavily piped truffle spread is velvety smooth in consistency and overwhelmingly full of chocolate essence. Clearly using quality ingredients, the only guessing game is one’s manner of consumption. Whether you choose to tear, strip or break into this pastry, it will be devoured – down to the last buttery flake!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

“Whatever Floats Your Boat”

Puerta del Sol arrMadrid has got me hook, line and sinker – for sumptuous seafood! Gone fishing, in Puerta del Sol, La Mallorquina caught my attention. Established in 1894, this ‘pastelería-cafetería’ (pastry-cafeteria) skillfully prepares hand-made edible bites of history. Amid a sea of pastries, I found two main encased rows dividing the sweet from the savoury. East Side-West Side? A flavour battle had begun! Standing in the middle of an open aisle, I had to determine which direction to coast. In the mood for something hearty, my decision was clear. The right display case, decidedly, was the right choice for a delectable lunch treat – ‘empanada de atún’ (tuna turnover). Generally speaking, ‘empanada’ refers to a fried or baked filled bread/pastry.

Mallorquina Sweets arrIt’s all in the way it’s made! Justly seasoned and using fresh ingredients – over the sea – you can taste the degree of excellence in a quality ‘empanada.’ Consisting of succulent chunks of tuna fish, and sautéed aromatic vegetables – onions, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers – the prepared mixture was enveloped into a puff pastry shell, and baked to flaky perfection. Indisputably delightful, this appetizing fish pocket is a meaty snack that will leave all Ariels – at heart – attempting to sing a few octaves.

Empanadilla arrNavigating for more seafood, I didn’t have to travel far – or many nautical miles – to find my second catch. Modern elegance, by design, the best in tradition and Mediterranean cuisine permeates through the restaurant space, at La Finca de Susana. No reservation? No problem – their “casa es su casa!” Treated like family, surprise guests are openly welcome to join the dinner party of clients, seated among one of the many white linen covered tables.

Equally crisp and clean is the fish-list selection on the menu. To be tried and ordered, ‘bacalao’ (cod fish). Transformed to a state of moist deliciousness, adequately rehydrated cod is unlike its preservation method of drying and salting. Naturally mild-tasting, my cod fish plate was tender, delicate, and dressed with a light foam sauce. ‘Bacalao’ – resurrected – wows! Luckily, there’s plenty of fish to be reeled in and shared – so long as the ocean doesn’t call!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

Mellow Yellow…

Granizado de limón arrAll kids are flavourists – in training! Remember those days, when you were excited for a trip to the corner 7-Eleven? How about when tasting an explosion of red and blue could only mean one thing – ICEE? I do! Most of all, I recall leaving ample room in my cup to pour equal amounts of both blue raspberry and cherry slush. Best of all, years of overfilling my cup and gulping the mound of syrupy shaven ice – to finally fit the lid – resulted in self-directed training to handle brain-freeze.

Developing a taste for sweets, children embrace desserts and feel they’re championing against rule enforcers when opportunity strikes to consume ‘afters,’ first. Similarly thrilling is hearing an enchanting musical tune – the clue – announcing the arrival of summer’s
beloved freezer box on wheels. In absence of the “Good Humor Man” truck, distance is no match for a curious traveller’s pursuit of local refreshers, even overseas.

Outside MNAC arrSpace oddity! Location: outside Barcelona’s art museum, known as M.N.A.C. (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). Weather: humidex alert. Of my own accord and discretion: a cold treat. Spinning wheels at work, I sighted a strangely familiar machine – a slush-maker. Covering two of the three primary colours of slushie, earlier in life, I noticed a zesty flavour twist to complete the trio. When life gives Spaniards lemons, they make semi-frozen lemonade – ‘granizado de limón’ (iced lemon drink). Accurately representative of this yellow citrus, lemon ‘granizado’ is balanced in tart and sweet flavour compounds.

Top MNAC arrPolar bear dip, in Barcelona? On a hot day, it would be a shame not to take the plunge – into this lip-smacking beverage. Straw provided, of reasonably proportionate circumference – not bubble-tea variety – I steadily appeased my thirst with sips of congealed ‘limón.’ Also available in ‘naranja’ (orange) and ‘lima’ (lime), seasonal hot-heads can welcome Mr. Golden Sun with a cooling cup of tangy ‘granizado.’ Who knew multi-tasking can be so relaxing? ‘Granizado’ in hand, anyone can extinguish the heat by taking a chill-‘fill’ – of vitamin C!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

No Hoity-Toity Business!

Hoito Bldg. arrIn dire need for some comfort food, where does one go in Thunder Bay? Young and old, students and professionals alike find themselves gathered at the Finlandia Club and cozy restaurant known as “The Hoito.” Serving residents since 1918, this landmark breakfast, lunch and supper hangout for traditional Finnish fare became my meeting place with friends. Given its popularity, waiting in line is to be expected. But, as tables clear up, don’t hesitate to seat yourself – “first come, first serve!”

Once you find and keep your destined eating spot, friendly staff are quick to greet you and as upbeat to take note of your order. What is Finnish cuisine like? Not formerly acquainted, myself, the answer soon becomes as clear as a summer’s day, in T.Bay. Lo and behold, right before your very eyes, the paper place mat/menu. Find traditional specialities like ‘Karjalan Piirakka’ (filled pasty) or stick to familiar club sandwich or hamburger choices.

Hoito Menu arrSpecializing in all-day breakfast items, the omelette and egg options are as extensive as is the side serving of toast – white, whole-wheat or rye. In keeping with momentum, once you describe how you like your eggs – sunny-side, over-easy, scrambled or fried – order’s up! Coffee cup refilled, and served side-to-side plate coverage of a piping hot meal, don’t fret if your plate appears M.I.A. It’s there, just covert – under food.

Adding to great company and conversation is Hoito’s relaxed atmosphere, and humbly-priced offerings to soothe your soul. While you won’t find Aunt Jemima-style fluffy and cakey pancakes, Finnish ‘pannukakku,’ is a staple, and to be tried. Hoito Pancake arrDespite the absence of a leavening agent, such as baking soda or baking powder, this batter – made from scratch – produces flat, dense and highly fulfilling griddled full moons – certainly a crowd pleaser. Fresh off the flat top, I was presented with multiple layers of my own thinly crisp-edged hotcakes. Topped with a couple of eggs, I sweetened the deal with a drizzle of maple syrup – my preference – though fruit preserve is available. Looking for variety or your other missed favourites, the Hoito also caters to French toast and Canadian bacon loyalists. Early bird or night owl, days are made nicer with a trip to the Hoito. As they say in Finnish, ‘kiitos’ (thank you) for a taste of home, away from home.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

R.S.V.P.

Ever wanted to dine like an “A-lister”? Here’s your chance. The fabulous city of Las Vegas is the mecca of upscale restaurants. ‘Dish city’ – ‘gone wild-ly gourmet – offers fans of celebrity chefs, like Todd English or Emeril, a multitude of haute cuisine venues along the strip.

Spago Table arrAdmiring several masters of the trade, a few names came to mind. In the heart of Caesar’s Palace, however, I read two tempting syllables: spa-go. In recognition of Wolfgang Puck, an internationally-acclaimed restaurateur, I could only anticipate a first class meal from his famed restaurant – Spago.

“First impressions count!” Courteously greeted by the hostess, advance booking ensured a seemingly non-existent wait time. Similarly well-executed – of ‘grande échelon’ – had been the prompt and efficient transition into the dimly lit restaurant, where modern elegance notably reigned supreme. Soon after being escorted to my table and receiving formal introduction, the astute waiter took notice of my attire – a black evening dress. Without cue, and much to my elation, he graciously offered to replace my white napkin in exchange for a dark one. Napkin colour matters? When it comes to avoiding possible lint remittances, yes they do! Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with a proactive and client-oriented gentleman who cared to go the extra mile. Already receiving star treatment, dinner service was off to a great start – Ramsay would be proud!Spago Starter arr

As a member of ‘The Wolf Pack,’ your presence is acknowledged and needs met – you’re never forgotten nor ignored. Immediately offered teasers of pleasantry, in a teacup, the complimentary chilled creamed soup matched the top-rate service. Obvious in taste and presentation, this amuse-bouche heeded the streamlined American-fusion menu. Equally appetizing, the hearty meal I had requested – red wine braised beef short-ribs. Bountiful in description, this ‘fancy beast’ was generous in portion as well. Beef Ribs arrHow much is too much? Towering a bed of ricotta-filled raviolini, the succulently rich and tender meat was plated with a vegetable medley of grilled eggplant, leeks, tomatoes and squash. Agreeably luxurious in flavour, this banquet feast – intended for single consumption – beckons a gluttonous appetite. Comfortably full, midway, I still left satisfied.

Never settling for less than the best is what separates the elite from the mediocre. Spago, clearly, maintains the same line of thought. Organization at its prime, culinary excellence and optimum hospitality is apparent in both the preparation of elevated cuisine, and delivery of impeccable service; a truly irreplaceable pairing. Living to expectation, my fine dining experience was memorable from beginning to end thanks to the initiative taken on behalf of many persons – frontline and kitchen staff – to make every moment count. All in all, my occasion was made special by star plating and stellar service. An autograph worth signing – on the cheque!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.