Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Taste of the Palate—New Hampshire style

The Palate is expanding to New Hampshire…

As I mentioned in my radio appearance, I like ice cream, particularly “soft serve”. For some of the best soft served ice cream in all the world, try “Coneheads” in Woodstock, NH. We discovered “Coneheads” about 6 years ago on vacation, and it has been a frequent stop for us whenever we are in that area. 30 plus flavors of soft serve, plus Gifford’s hard packed, for those of you so inclined. Heaven in your mouth. Like Michelob, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Junior Palateers love it!

Half Baked and Fully Brewed

Trying to find a Starbucks in the White Mountain Region is like trying to find a loincloth at a Nudist resort. This is the only area in America where the Starbucks are more than a block apart. A favored motto has always been “When in Crete, go where the Cretins go”. So, I found a place-“Half-Baked and Fully Brewed”. Not as potent as Starbucks, but, in a pinch, it’ll do.

Honestly, I do like the homey, neighborhood feel, which is slightly different than the forced familiarity of Starbucks. That’s not to say I’m rebelling from my home away from home, it’s just that when you go to a place that feels homey, because that’s the way it is, and not because the CEO in his ivory tower tells you it needs to be, it’s a pleasant surprise. And it actually smelled like fresh ground coffee!

Speaking of surprises, Chinese food in NH. As we know, when you think “gourmet Chinese food”, you have to think Woodstock, NH. Nothing says “Apres Skiing” like “Kung Pao Chicken.” I heard that after a long day on the slopes, Franz Klammer liked to warm up in the lodge with some Hot and Sour Soup.

In the past, eating Chinese food in the mountains of New Hampshire was like eating a cheeseburger bought at a gas station Cumberland Farms-you took your life in your hands. But, the Junior Palateers, not knowing any better, encouraged us to try the new “Imperial Gardens” in Woodstock, right across from Coneheads, and you know-it was good, and the bathrooms were cleaner than the House of Roy’s, so we give it four thumbs up.

There’s so little to say and so much time…strike that, reverse it. I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime, enjoy The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The List of Jordan...

From Saturday Night's show, Jordan complied a list of the places we talked about, along with some comments from Jordan, myself or the callers. Bon Appetite...

" 2008 Jordan Rich Restaurant Guide

Ted’s Montana Grill: Yes, it’s the TNT Atlanta Braves’ owner himself with locations around the country including Westboro, Massachusetts. Great beef and bison burgers.

Scales and Shells Restaurant and Bar: serving great fish in Newport, R.I.

Sibling Rivalry combines the simple elegance of classical cooking with the rich, bold flavors of Modern American cuisine. Chef's David and Bob Kinkead created a 'dueling' menu that showcases their talents with different interpretations of seasonal ingredients.

The Met Bar and Grill: Now at the new Natick Mall boasts a strong menu with French Fry maven Laurel highly recommending their burgers.

The Bee Hive: Located in Boston’s South End, this place features great sandwiches, burgers and entrees with live jazz, cabaret and more.

Arnold’s on the Cape: The Best Clam Shack on Cape Cod in Eastham.

Toscano Restaurant: A great destination on Beacon Hill, know for its outstanding Tuscany cuisine and atmosphere.

Sibling Rivalry: A wonderful concept in Boston’s South End...David and Bob Kinkead create a “dueling” menu showcasing their individual talents as chefs.

The Flippin’ Burger: Now in Newton, it’s a burger lover’s paradise.

Willy’s Steak House Grill and Sushi Bar: In Shrewsbury, one of the best steak houses in central Massachusetts.

The Elephant Walk: With several locations in the Boston area, check out this wonderful restaurant serving Cambodian food with a French flare.

The Anchor Bar: The original home of world-famous Buffalo Wings. Why not make it a field trip?

Viola Restaurant: Italian fare and lots of fun in Braintree at 1209 Washington Street. Call 781-848-8980.

J.J. Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Grille: Another fine establishment in Braintree at 941 Washington Street. Call 781-849-7007.

Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage: Choice hamburgers served the old-fashioned way, huge and juicy.

The Sugar Bakery: Look out, this is cupcake heaven…amazing bakery in West Roxbury serving up wonderful Raspberry Lime Rickeys as well.

Moe’s Deli : One has to go to Montreal for a great deli with some of the world’s finest fries!

The Stockyard Restaurant: A great place to watch a ballgame and enjoy delicious lunches and dinners in Brighton.

The Jewel of India: Located in Biddeford, Maine for the finest in exotic Indian cuisine.

On the Marsh: Indulge in fine cuisine in the picturesque town of Kennebunk, Maine at this classic restaurant.

Ron’s Landing at Rocky Bend: Spectacular dining in a casual atmosphere at beautiful Hampton Beach, N.H.

Z Square: Creative American Home Cooking in Cambridge.

R.F. O’Sullivan’s: A hidden gem in Somerville known for great burgers and taters, superb saloon fare.

The Wok: You’ll find superb gourmet Chinese food at the intersection of Routes 128 and 9 in Wellesley.

The Royal East: For authentic Cantonese and Szechwan food you cannot beat this spot right by M.I.T.

The Sunny Day Diner: If it’s road food you want and you find yourself in N.H., head for the White Mountains and this famous diner.

Radio Free Palate...

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea...

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me on his show on WBZ 1030 this past Saturday night. I hope that you listeners enjoyed it as much as Jordan and I did; it was a lot of fun. Look for more updates about future appearances.

For those of you that couldn't tune in, a CD of all 3 1/2 hours may be available in the future. Watch for details...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kiss My Grits...

I love diners…almost as much as I love fire (read the post below). It’s a real taste of Americana…but not for my kids.

My kids like diners as much as they like tetanus shots and I can’t figure out why. Most diners have an extensive menu of things that I would think kids would like, but my kids run from diners like the Japanese from Godzilla…

Eric’s rant-I think chain restaurants have had the same impact on small local restaurants as Wal-Mart has had on small local shops. Locals just can’t compete, and kids are bombarded with images of food from Unos, Outback, Betucci’s, etc…when’s the last time B.J.’s Diner advertised? Kids become familiar with the mass-produced food, and in the process, don’t learn to appreciate or enjoy a mom and pop style place.

When asked why he doesn’t like diners, my son frequently complains about the smell. The smell???!!! That’s part of the charm-bacon and sausage grease (though I don’t eat either anymore) and potatoes sizzling on the grill. Heap on top of that some pancake batter, eggs and maybe some corned beef hash, and wow, that’s an olfactory orgy! Not an odor easily forgotten.

I really like diners and come from a diner family, since my father owned one while I was in high school. Not Tom Stahl’s diner in “A History of Violence (though my dad probably wanted to beat some customers with a coffee pot), but a small 19 seat joint, just like you would imagine. $1.99-2 eggs, homefries, bacon/sausage, toast and coffee. Can’t beat it. That was back in the 80s; now, the same thing costs $5.99.

There is one particular diner I like-the Sunny Day Diner in Lincoln-Woodstock, New Hampshire. It’s been featured on The Food Network and some other shows, and it lives up to its billing. You can always tell the diner by the quality of their homefries, and these did not disappoint. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, with a nice set of spices.

My father is partial to Lloyd’s Diner here in Framingham. The problem with Lloyd’s is that its only open about 4 hours a week, and not consecutive. When you drive by, you have to look at the board outside that has the hours posted, because it seems that they change weekly. Last week, I think it was Mon. 11:15-11:48AM, Fri. 6:02-8:25AM, and Sunday from “Open to close”. Actually, they are currently open 3 days a week, but you have to make sure. I will admit that their food is good and plentiful, and you won’t need to eat lunch if you have breakfast there, if they’re open.

Actually, my favorite was B.J.’s Diner, gone, but not forgotten. The surly old bastard working the grill could drive you nuts, and no Flo, Vera or Alice, but at least the food was good.

You’ve been great…Enjoy Arlo Guthrie…

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Forget...

I'll be ranting live with Jordan on "The Jordan Rich Show" on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston. Saturday night at midnight, until 4:00 a.m. Tune in, or listen to it live streaming across the internet...The Critical Palate goes live, spanning the globe!


Ooooooooooooh, Fire

I am not a “Pyromaniac”, but I love fire. I love everything about fire. The smell, the look, the way it cooks…(there’s got to be a song in here somewhere.) I don’t love fire in the Tom Cruise-“Endless Love” way (Cruise’s first role was in “Endless Love” as a soccer buddy of Martin Hewitt who suggests the fatal idea of lighting wet newspaper on fire outside the Butterfield’s home and then putting it out, to appear to be a hero to the Butterfield family. I think a giving them a pamphlet on Scientology might have been a better idea), but I love to cook over open flame, or smoke something over low heat and a slow fire. So when I travel, I always hope to find a BBQ joint, and I do mean “joint” in the best possible sense of the word.

Back in August 2002, Elayne and I were traveling through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Staying in Jackson, NH, we ventured down past “Storyland” into North Conway. On the way to the shops, we drove past a house that had a giant offset smoker in front, next to a half dozen Harley Davidsons. The sign said "Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company" and I said to Elayne “we should eat here” to which she responded “no (unable to print) way!” I think something about the bikes, the leather, the smoke wafting from the building was a put-off for her. So I pulled in.

Boy, was she glad I did. Now, whenever we go up that way, we go out of our way to grab a bite there. The BBQ Salmon is sublime-so much so, that I requested their recipe (and they were more than happy to offer it up), and the brisket is excellent. The prices and quality make this a good value. We strongly recommend Moat Mountain.

Getting back to Jackson, NH for a minute. A beautiful, picturesque New England town. Elayne I have stayed at a few places, but The Wentworth is one of the nicest. If you stay in the Arden House, there are beautiful rooms, along with modern amenities. The dining is superb, and we strongly recommend staying here when in the White Mountain region.

Speaking of fire…a friend of mine just got back from the mid-west, and at my insistence, dined at the Weber Grill restaurant. The Weber-Stephen Products Company, the same company that manufactures the grills, owns this place. This is my personal Mecca, calling me with its siren song of the snap, crackle and pop of open fire. They cook, indoors, over open charcoal flame!!! I’ve got to get there soon, and the report from my friend was a big “fork up” for the steak. Tell me, how can you beat the “flavah” of a steak cooked over open fire? My mouth is watering just writing this. Add in décor that is focused on Weber grill products, lampshades made from kettle grill covers, and you have a winning concept in my book. I am starting to plan my next road trip by the places I need to eat and this is Number 1.

Apropos of nothing-if the girls on the Chinese women gymnastics team are 16 or older, I’m beating Michael Phelps in the 400m individual medley! The twelve year olds on the Dominican little league teams are older.

Speaking of Olympics, I actually would prefer a little play for the archers, riflemen and ultimate Frisbee heads…frankly, I’d like to see more of the unsung sports, along with beer pong and Maypole dancing.

Anyone else creeped out by the old guys coaching the young girls in gymnastics? For a great treatise on this sport, and the abusing of these young girls, read “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters” by Joan Ryan. You will never let your daughters near a gym again.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Chuck Mangione…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the air!

Don't forget that once again, I will be the in-studio guest on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston, midnight to 4:00 a.m. this coming Saturday/Sunday on the Jordan Rich show. We'll be talking food, and I encrouage you all to tune in, and even call in.

If you're out of radio-wave distance, tune in live on the internet, at WBZ1030.Com.


Emptying out the foot locker of my brain…

Clark Rockefeller-the guy looks like a sociopathic Danny Bonaduce. Oh wait, that’s what Danny Bonaduce looks like.

I love the Olympics…I could watch Synchronized Diving and Rhythmic Gymnastics all day…but what is up with the Mens’ Swimming Unitard??? They look like the women, except with more curves…

Chewing gum was invented in 1870 by Thomas Adams. How’d you like to be his tester? “Here, chew on this and let me know what you think?” How many times did someone have to chew some garbage before they hit a winner. It’s like the guy that tested Preparations A-G!

My Starbucks has reopened and proper balance has been restored to the coffee universe in Framingham. They made some nice improvements, and now that I’m back on the Starbucks bandwagon, I can tell you it’s not just about the feng shui of their stores, but the coffee is good!

What’s up with Olympic Beach Volleyball? This qualifies as an Olympic sport? Every March, thousands of people are playing this in Fort Lauderdale or Daytona. Does that mean they could qualify for the Olympics? At least their cheerleaders are likely have come over from a wet t-shirt contest…I think that’s what’s missing in Beijing.

If beach volleyball can qualify, I’d like to petition the USOC for “television watching” to become an Olympic sport. I can hear the announcer now: “Here comes Weinstein. He’s been working his wrist and flexing his fingers; they call him “The Intimidator”. Just look at the muscular hands. When asked how he trains, he said “Bela Karolyi trains me like those little girls. He says in order to be a champion, he must break me. He took away my Cheetos.” Here it is…He picks up the remote, and Oh My G-d he’s clinched it! He changed the channels without even looking at the remote. Weinstein is a man among boys here. No one had a chance! I don’t think we will ever see skills like this again.”

Actually I do love the Olympics, but only the amateur sports, and I miss Jim McKay, the voice of the Olympics. On this 36th (double-chai) anniversary of the Munich Massacre, let’s not forget those Israeli athletes that gave their lives in the name of their country and in the name of amateur sports.

Now, if we could only go back to the real tradition of playing all Olympic games in the nude.


Now that Paparazzi and British Beer Works are opened, it means one thing: Framingham has even more restaurants and nowhere to eat. While I haven’t been to either yet, I’m not rushing because deep down inside me, in places we don’t talk about at parties, I know it’ll just be more of the same.

One of the more pleasant surprises in Framingham is The Aegean. This place has been around since Homer’s Odyssey, which may have even led him here for traditional Greek food.

The Aegean used to be a place for the “blue hairs”; people who ate here probably voted for John Adams. The menu had a decent selection of both Greek and American specialties (if you call a cheeseburger an “American Specialty”) and the prices were reasonable. Whenever we were sick growing up, my mother would always bring home some “chicken, egg, lemon soup” to make us feel better. Greek, not Jewish, penicillin.

A few years ago, The Aegean embarked on a move from the small crappy plaza to the former site of Chi-Chi’s. You know, nothing says “Baklava” like early Aztec kitsch décor. The Aegean gutted the place, rebuilt it, and re-opened their restaurant about 5 times the size of their previous location. With a beautiful bar and dining room, it became the place to go for the slightly younger than blue hair generation.

We don’t go often because they do not have a kid’s menu, and it is now a little pricey (someone has to pay for the HDTVs and Grecian urns). We did go there last week, and as always, the food was excellent and the service prompt and professional.

This time, I ordered “Mousaka”, which is like Greek lasagna. It’s ground beef, on top of potatoes, covered with a layer of eggplant and béchamel sauce. Served with rice or veggies, and with a Greek salad (with or without “fetid” cheese), it was a party in my mouth. Much better than “Christo’s” in Brockton. There is nothing “Stepford” about this place. With abundant, fresh and flavorful food, The Critical Palate gives The Aegean dyo anticheiros pano!

You’ve been great…enjoy Nana Mouskouri!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goin' Live

Once again, I will be the in-studio guest on WBZ 1030 AM here in Boston, midnight to 4:00 a.m. this coming Saturday/Sunday on the Jordan Rich show. We'll be talking food, and I encrouage you all to tune in, and even call in.

If you're out of radio-wave distance, tune in live on the internet, at WBZ1030.Com.

Come on "Palateers", you know you're out there. Now's your chance to hear me rant live!


Up, Up and Away...

Little do you people know that I am a huge Fifth Dimension fan. It goes further back than “Solid Gold” with Marilyn McCoo; it actually goes back to growing up in Hyannisport and hearing their greatest hits play on my parents radio.

Forever tattooed on my brain (everybody sing along…):

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly…

So, it was with that song in mind as I awoke on Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. and drove to Hudson for a sunrise ascension and flight on the RE/MAX hot air balloon.

I admit, at first, I was a little nervous about going, and even turned down the invitation, but I came to my senses, with some urging from my wife.

The pilot, Chris Mooney, was a terrific pilot and great company, as were my flying companions. The beauty and grandeur of the blue sky, dotted with balloons, and the smooth, silent sailing cannot be adequately described on this page.
The ground crew was extraordinarily friendly, and I very much enjoyed our celebratory champagne, cheese and crackers…at 8:00 a.m.

The picture above was a view from our balloon.

While I am a little young to have a “bucket list”, I am glad I had the opportunity, and encourage you all to “sing a song and sail along the silver sky…” if you have the chance.

You’ve been great. Enjoy Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Boffo! Bam! Pow!

What kid didn’t love those words? Plastered across the canted screen, Batman and Robin opened up a can of whoop-ass on a villain “du jour”. You would think these guys would watch the other episodes, where the henchmen always get their asses kicked. Oftentimes funny, in a tongue in cheek way.

Not so for “The Dark Night.” This movie is dead serious, and I mean “dead”. Really high body count, and a beautiful makeup job by Max Factor. There’s nothing subtly funny about this movie, except maybe the way Hollywood has embraced the ghost of Heath Ledger as the second coming of John Cazale.

Aside-of the six films John Cazale appeared in (the three “Godfather” movies (last one in flashback), “The Conversation”, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “The Deer Hunter”), all 6 were nominated for “Best Picture” Oscars. This is a guy who could a) choose a great movie, and b) act (and couldn’t choose his women-he was engaged to Meryl Streep, the most overrated actress in Hollywood, at the time of his death). The fact that many of these movies also starred DeNiro, Pacino, Duvall and were directed by such esteemed directors as Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola probably helped, but when you reflect back on actors lost before their prime, think about John Cazale, who tragically died from bone cancer when he was 43, not Heath Ledger, some depressed prescription drug hound who was apparently “filling” one of the Olsen twins’ “house.”

Back to Gotham City-I guess I give the movie 3 stars, because if I don’t, I’ll hear it from you, and the Hollywood Establishment (big readers of “TCP”-The Critical Palate). Honestly, I like action movies, and I was really looking forward to this one, but there were a lot of aspects of this movie that didn’t resonate with me. First, Aaron Eckhart-am I supposed to think he can act? He is the least compelling actor in this movie. I was actually glad when the Joker did his number on him. And what’s up with Maggie Gyllenhaal? In a “Dick York-Dick Sargent” swap, she’s now Rachel Dawes, not Katie Holmes. I bring more to this movie than she does. And what’s up with Christian Bale’s voice when he puts the rubber suit on? You can barely understand him-it’s a low snarl, with some words thrown in, but hard to understand. Linda Lovelace was easier to understand…while she was “working”.

Nonetheless, I don’t regret giving the movie my 2 hours and 40 minutes. Lots of explosions and ass whooping, filmed in a bleak, colorless style. A real pick-me-up. The hell with Aruba…I’m taking my next vacation in Gotham!

Hollywood seems to be locked in on the “blockbuster” type movie, equating big-budgets with quality. I’m sure Batman was a lot of money, and since Heath Ledger killed himself before it was released, he must be great in it, right? Frankly, I don’t buy into the whole “tortured soul” thing, but most critics seem to be.

There are great movies out there, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money to make, or make a lot of money at the box office to be great movies (don’t get me started on the “Titanic” vs. “Good Will Hunting” debate. Let’s just agree that “…Will…” got screwed by the Academy because they felt they needed to reward James Cameron, the wife abuser, for his fine work on the “Terminator” movies). Just last week, I watched an extremely underrated “Eastern Promises.”

The combination of Actor Viggo Mortensen and Director David Cronenberg is similar to Scorcese and his muse DeNiro, or the relationship between Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen. First together in “A History of Violence” and now back together in “Eastern Promises”, I could watch this combination for years.

This movie was released last fall to critical acclaim, but alas, without the big car chases and explosions of a “Bourne” or “Batman” movie, it was destined to fade in the box office. I assure you, it is well worth your time to find this on cable or satellite. The Russian bathhouse scene alone is worth the price of admission. Don’t miss “Eastern Promises.”

You’ve been great. Enjoy the Flying Karamazov Brothers…