Friday, November 25, 2011

Random Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind...

Because sometimes it's easier to rant than write...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kosher Q

I thought some of you might like to go in the "way back" machine and listen to my appearance on LA Talk Radio about kosher bbq. Sit back and enjoy. It may take a while to load, so relax.

Monday, October 3, 2011

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream

So goes our family chant (and a lot of other families’, I’m sure) when I was growing up. Given New England’s reputation as the highest consumers of ice cream in the United States, as well as my mother’s reputation as an ice scream connoisseur, I knew the latest quest, was right up my alley (and a few other places). With an ice cream truck jingle playing in my head, I embarked on Cream Quest 2011.

As I said on the radio last week, of all the quests, this one brought back some of the fondest memories, but abused my system in ways I didn’t imagine. I think I actually turned lactose-intolerant after all this consumption; my body just basically said “no mas”…Ice cream was the Sugar Ray Leonard to my Roberto Duran.

Prior to my total system collapse, I was waxing poetic and romanticizing ice cream. Ice cream is really the “food of love”. Most of us took dates out for ice cream-my first date with Mrs. Palate ended at TCBY in Brockton. What Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon movie didn’t have a scene from a malt shoppe? Everyone loves going out for ice cream. In fact, Baskin-Robbin’s 32nd flavor was called “4-play”-it had a lot of nuts in it. Wasn’t a big hit though.

Talking about ice cream brings out the Union v. Confederacy in everyone. It’s a modern-day Gettysburg. Vanilla vs. Chocolate, soft-serve vs. hard packed, rainbow vs. chocolate sprinkles, cake cone vs. sugar…the list could go on and on. I have friends that have ice cream shipped from all over the country, on dry ice, for special occasions, and I have friends that drive over two hours just to sample the wares at an ice cream joint in another state. Ice cream is important to us, and nothing says summer more than ice cream.

During the Cream Quest, I did come to realize that eating ice cream isn’t just enjoying the cone itself, but also the environment. I believe that the flavor is enhanced by the experience. Eating ice cream in a shopping plaza parking lot (from Friendly’s) is not quite as nice as having a freshly scooped cone and sitting harbor side in Rockport (Rockin’ Cupcakes). Sometimes it’s the environment, and sometime it’s the company, but without further ado, here is the list (with commentary) of most of the places whose cones I licked.

A frequent stop for me always is Dairy Queen (Everywhere). This is an after-orthodontist treat for the kids. While it’s nothing special, you know what you’re going to get. Doesn’t matter if you’re in North Conway, New Hampshire or Houston, Texas…a vanilla cone with butterscotch dip tastes the same. Good or bad? You’ll have to decide yourself.

(photo courtesy of the Boston Globe)

Friendly’s (Everywhere)-really the same as DQ. It may not be as scrumpdillyicious as DQ, but it is follows the national corporate model-make sure it’s the same no matter which location you visit. Growing up, I lived within walking distance of a Friendly’s. In fact, instead of working at my father’s diner, my parents wanted me to work at the Friendly’s…I think so my dad could walk down and grab a “Jim Dandy”. Alas, I was more suited for the diner grillwork than jerking a soda or scooping ice cream.

As you faithful readers know, I love Coneheads in Woodstock, NH. It’s the bomb! Love the 24 flavors of soft-serve, which are perfectly blended in, not swirled, and high-end homemade hard-pack. Everything there is a party in your mouth…you can’t go wrong with having your ice cream scooped by Beldar, and you don’t have to go to Remulak for it!

Leavitt’s (Atkinson NH)-This is a tiny little shop in he middle of nowhere in Atkinson, NH. We discovered it years ago at camp visiting day. Other friends really enjoy it as well. They serve Richardson’s ice cream, and have premium soft-serve.

Dairy Joy (Weston, MA)- Every year when the Boston Globe runs their own ice cream review, they always feature Dairy Joy in Weston. This stand harkens back to a simpler, agrarian time in that area, and it still has that authentic, farmland feel, especially with the Range Rovers, Volvos and Jaguars. I could look beyond all that if the ice cream was any good…it’s not. The soft-serve has a weird after-taste, their ordering system is a failure, and so I didn’t even try the hard-pack. Don’t waste your time.

Honey Pot Hill (Stow, MA)-nothing says fall in New England than the premier apple orchard selling vanilla soft-serve. A surprise, for sure. I said to Mrs. Palate that “this is what Vanilla soft-serve should taste like.” The taste was great, but it had a grainy texture, and it was a poorly formed cone. Droopy, lop-sided and messy. Otherwise, great. I suspect they’ll work out the kinks, and soon enough, it’ll be a nice addition to cider donuts.

Rockin’ Cupcakes (Rockport, MA)-ice cream is hidden in this cupcake bakery, and there are a bunch of places to choose from along Bearskin Neck, but I like this one and they sell Richie’s Slushes in a variety of sizes. It’s almost at the water’s edge, and there’s something very pleasant about grabbing a cone, and a seat at the water, and watching the tide roll in and out. Just watch out for the seagulls.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (St. Louis, MO)-your arteries will never be the same. Rich, creamy…killer! You can get custard (an entirely different sort of texture) at Abbot’s in Needham. If you like it thick, creamy and dreamy, you’ll like these custard stands.

Truly Yogurt (Wellesley, MA)-one of my favorite places. High quality frozen yogurt up the street from the Dana Hall school and Wellesley College. Great price to value ratio in a town not known for low prices.

JP Licks (Newton)-over-priced and unimpressive. Built on a reputation that is not all that well deserved. I like the Brookline location well enough, but Newton and Wellesley…feh!

Trombetta’s Creamery (Marlboro , MA): nice selection of home-made flavors, Richie’s slushes and soft-serve, though the soft-serve uses a flavor syrup that swirls around the edges of the ice cream, as opposed to being mixed in like at Conehead’s. While I prefer the thoroughly mixed-in, I just enjoy my soft-serve fix at Trombetta’s. My mother hires them to bring their ice cream truck to her offices throughout the summer, and they know she loves her “purple cow” frozen yogurt. They’ve been around a long time, and have a solid reputation and well-deserved following.

Amy’s (Austin, TX)-as I wrote back in April, nothing finishes a bbq meal, or Chinese food, like ice cream. Amy’s is the “Steve’s” of Austin. Sure, they too have a variety of pretenders, but for icy, creamy goodness, run, don’t walk, to Amy’s, even if it is in Austin. Also, my vote for coolest website animation.

Lizzy’s (Waltham, MA)-I like Lizzy’s. It’s not a place that you’ll drive 20 miles for, but if you’re in Waltham, it’s a good place to stop. They make their own “tofutti” style ice cream, good for the lactose intolerant, and they do a great off-site sundae party. Full disclosure-we’ve used them twice for parties, and they have been fantastically easy to work with, and always perform as promised. Each party was a big hit, and their ice cream is pretty, pretty good too.

Uhlman’s-weird after-taste. I tried several flavors an each one had a strange taste left behind. I know some people who love this place (hi Mom!), but as for me, I’d rather get a cone at MacDonald’s.

Kimball’s (Westford, and other locations)-This is the Disney World of ice cream. They have a million flavors, the scoopers pile on the ice cream, a phenomenal price to value ratio (my kiddie size was bigger than most places “large” and it was $2.49!!!). They have a pitch and putt golf course, mini-golf, bumper boats, a country store, a sandwich stand…ice cream as a destination. And by the way, the chocolate-peanut butter ice cream was the best I ever had, and all the family palates agree!

Until next time America…lick well, lick often!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dot Dot Dot...Dash Dash Dash...Dot Dot Dot

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea...someone should have sent some Morse Code warning me about Morse Tavern in Natick.

My mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. I never listened.

On my journey getting back to local joints, I heard that “The Nicholas” had closed and re-opened under a new name. To that I say, “about time”. The Nicholas’ time had passed the minute “Nick’s” closed years earlier and opened as “The Nicholas”. These places keep opening and closing, all owned by the same family, and while they keep trying, I say three strikes and you’re out.

A year ago, we went to The Nicholas. My mother warned us that she had been a few times, and there was never anyone else here. Not a good sign, by anyone’s estimation. She wasn’t wrong, and after eating there, I could see why. A feeble, and frankly, impotent attempt at Greek cuisine. Now a year later, The Nicholas is gone, and in its place, “Morse Tavern”, a feeble and impotent attempt to create an uninteresting sports bar.

I went there on a Thursday night with the Junior Pallette and a friend and his daughter. I don’t think one of us left impressed or even satisfied. First, we had to deal with an waiter who was working his first solo shift (as he admitted when he came to take our order.) He was clearly overwhelmed, though we were his only table (and one of three in the entire restaurant that actually had people dining). Puzzling, because the parking lot was full, but I came to realize that was due to “Curves” located upstairs. Second, for the second time within a week, the description of the food didn’t match the actual food that hit the plate and our table. This is becoming an epidemic!

First, my friend ordered an appetizer of calamari. That night, they were offering a special; it was calamari in a spicy sauce. When we asked the difference between the special and the one on the menu (“Golden Fried Calamari”), we were told “just the sauce”. So my friend ordered the calamari special, with the sauce on the side. Before they delivered the order, another waitress came to confirm we wanted the “special” with the sauce on the side. That was confirmed. When they delivered the order, these were sautéed calamari, in all their naked, unbreaded, non-fried glory! I wasn’t gonna eat these things no matter what, but if I was, I wouldn’t! Just nasty little buggers. When we called the waiter over, the prison-warden waitress came with him, and with a “what’s your problem” attitude, she said “I confirmed with you that you wanted the special. This is the special-they’re sautéed.” When my friend reminded her that we asked if they were the same as the menu item, she said “whatever…I’ll get you new ones”. She’s the one who’s special! Nice, real nice.

Second, I ordered “Mustard Crusted Chicken”, which is delightfully described as “Pan seared mustard crusted chicken breast served with mashed potato and vegetable of the day”. When I ordered this, I imagined a chicken breast, perhaps coated in bread crumbs that had some mustard mixed into it, pan-seared (because that’s what it said on the menu). Imagine my surprise when it arrived and it bore absolutely no resemblance to what I expected. First, it was a very thin, flat piece of chicken; second, it was breaded and deep-fried beyond all recognition. I was so convinced that it wasn’t what I ordered, that I asked our waiter what it was. His response-“I think it’s what you ordered.” When a different server brought some more things to the table, I asked him if this was the mustard-crust chicken, and his response “if that’s what you ordered, I guess that’s what it is.”


Let’s just say, the quality of the food matched the quality of the descriptions. No wonder why the place was empty…still! Next week, I’m sure it’ll be operating under a new name. I hope it’s “Closed”.

The wrong descriptions are really troubling. How hard is it to properly describe an item, and then actually deliver what you’re telling people they’re buying? If you’re offering a grilled rib-eye steak, don’t tell me it’s roast prime rib (see the Top Shelf review) and if you’re offering mustard crusted pan-seared chicken, don’t serve me deep-fried chicken breast without a hint of mustard, and have your staff guess about what I ordered.

Not to worry, I won’t be going back to Morse Tavern…I’m sending out the SOS on that!

Until next time America…eat well, eat often.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tip top...

The past couple of weeks, I have decided to give the local guys a chance, and have tried two new restaurants in the MetroWest. First, “Top Shelf”.

Top Shelf opened in Framingham on Route 9, in an underutilized building the size of a shoebox, explaining why it’s underutilized. It opened a couple of months ago, with little fanfare but a few articles in the local media. It is being billed as a higher-end dining experience in the local area. After a few other bloggers whose opinions I respect posted some positive reviews, I figured it was time to “palatize” it.

Let me say at the outset that I will return, like Eisenhower to Korea, except without the photo ops...

I have to give Top Shelf high marks for food presentation, price point, portion size for salads and entrees. I have to give them low marks for appetizer price to value ratios, their inability to properly cook the Junior Palette’s burger twice, rather apathetic server attitude and poorly described “specials”. Let me explain…

Tornado ordered a burger, “medium”. Not complicated at all. The burger came out cooked all the way through, and then through again, and the bun was charred and blackened (not toasted) and essentially, inedible. Sent it back, and when the replacement burger came, it was swimming in a puddle of red “juice”. We cut into it, and while it was cooked slightly more than the O’Connell’s burger from a year ago, it was not edible, from a ten year old’s perspective. Sooooo, we returned it again. Tornado ordered a steak this time, and when they brought that out, it was barely cooked, and couldn’t even be cut, as raw meat cannot usually be cut with a regular knife. Oy. She ended up eating vegetables…

During the delivery, and subsequent return of the meals for Tornado, I was a little surprised at the server’s attitude. No apology, and every request met with a heavy sigh. I would have expected the server to look at the charred bun the first time, knowing it’s going to a ten year old, and say to the cook “hey, a kid isn’t going to eat this.” Better yet, maybe the cook should have realized that from the outset. Also, for a new restaurant, I think they’d be uber-focused on service to ensure people return for subsequent meal. Was it ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care!

The other odd observation, and one that repeated itself at a different restaurant that same week, was a poor description of the “specials”. That night, the server told us that they had “roast prime rib” served with sautéed vegetables and roasted potatoes. On the menu, they also has grilled NY sirloin, served with sautéed vegetables and roasted potatoes. While a rib eye steak is my cut of choice (really a piece of prime rib, but cooked as a steak, not roasted), since their prime rib was roasted, and I was really in the mood for something “grilled”, I opted for the sirloin.

Let me say, it was good. Unlike the Tornado’s, mine was cooked perfectly, the vegetables were crisp, and the potatoes were tasty. But, my dining companion had ordered the prime rib special, and it looked exactly like mine. In fact, I dare say that it really was a rib eye steak, and it was grilled, not roasted!!! Damn, I wanted that!

Also, a slight annoyance was that both mine, and my dining companion’s steaks were drowned in a mushroom demi-glace. Hey, I like demi-glace, or gravy, as much as the next guy, and was happy to have it (I would bathe in it if possible), but it would have been nice to have been warned. It wasn’t listed on the menu, and the waitress didn’t mention it. Had she, I would have ordered it “on the side”, so I could enjoy the grill meat in its purest form. Oh well.

All in all, while Tornado’s meals were challenging and puzzling, and gave me some pause, the other food was executed much better, and I guess they deserve another chance to impress me. Unlike O’Connell’s Pub over a year ago, where the food and the service was so utterly awful, and they made no effort to make sure things were acceptable, at least Top Shelf tried. As the Senior Palate says: it is never a shame to try and fail, just a shame to fail to try!

That’s it for now. Remember, eat well, and eat often.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Keep lickin'...

I haven’t forgotten or forsaken you, dear readers. After a surprisingly busy summer, I am anticipating a busy Fall. However, that has not thwarted my sampling of ice cream across New England. Join me on Saturday night, September 17, 2011 on “The Jordan Rich Show” from midnight until 3:30am as we’ll be talking ice cream and other delectable frozen treats. Tune in to WBZ 1030am or streaming live on the Internet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bad Burrito

A little over a year ago, I embarked on the burrito blow-out, giving both Boloco and Chipotle high marks, running neck and neck. After further dining and sampling of the wares at Moe’s, I feel compelled to upgrade Boloco again, and downgrade, to the bottom shelf of the bodega, Chipotle.

I share with you the following email sent to Chipotle headquarters on July 19, 2011:

“This isn't the first time I've written about this location, but it will likely be the last. This particular location has the worst line, and the worst logistical layout of any Chipotle. The past three times my colleagues and I have gone there, the line has been winding through the seating area all the way to the front door. The staff is slow to move people through the line, using up almost our entire lunch-time just waiting to be served. This wouldn’t be so bad, except with of the "open kitchen" concept, we are able to watch what goes on behind the scenes. I have often said that people like to eat sausage, but don't want to see it being made. The same can be said for Chipotle.

Yesterday, while waiting in line, we watched a gentleman in the kitchen, WITHOUT GLOVES, toss ingredients into the rice with his bare hands, and then mix it with a large spoon. When the rice was tossed up onto his UNGLOVED hand, he shook the rice back into the bowl. Adding to this show, he wiped his nose on the back of his hand!!! At that point, my friend and I left, and went across the street to "Moe's" (blog aside-another bad choice). This isn't the first time we've made such observations, but it has grown to such a degree that I doubt the efficacy of your training and there is a tremendous breakdown in supervision. You are lucky the Board of Health hasn't come for lunch there.

Besides my day job, I am a food blogger, and am a frequent guest on WBZ radio here in Boston. On a previous show and posting, I gave Chipotle high marks but my experiences over the past few months has left me no choice but to stop eating in your restaurants, and to update my post warning people about the sloppy food preparation and potential danger. Feel free to email me with your response.”

So kind readers, consider yourselves warned.

I give Chipotle props for their prompt response, which came almost immediately, and not only addressed my issue with the usual corporate double-talk, but also resulted in them sending me gift cards for 2 free burritos (with a side of Giardia if I want to take the chance-and I don’t mean DeLaurentis). We almost took a chance today, which ended with me sending the following email to corporate tonight.

“…I can tell you that after my visit to Chipotle today (which again resulted in my friend and I leaving before ordering), I will not be returning.

Last week, my daughter wanted to eat at the Framingham location, so we went back, with some trepidation, and once again, I could see the exact same situation as before going on in the kitchen. One glove on, one off, handling food. We left without ordering. At the time, I thought to myself “maybe they haven’t received the corporate directive to take patrons' health seriously and WEAR THE GLOVES, so I’ll give it another chance in a week or so.”

So today, one of my colleagues and I went to Chipotle. Of course, we were greeted with a line longer than the Great Wall of China. While we were waiting, we were treated to the usual kitchen show-except this time, the rice-maker wasn’t wearing ANY gloves, mixing and tossing the rice bare-handed! Besides deciding to leave, I also wanted to speak with the manager. When I approached the side window to ask to speak with him, I could see him in the kitchen, cutting up green peppers, bare-handed!

It was immediately apparent that this is a systemic training issue and when the person in charge of the restaurant doesn’t care to observe the rules, the staff will never care to follow the rules either. There just isn’t any motivation to do so, and apparently, can’t be any repercussions since the manager himself is setting the bad example. I just shook my head and walked away, not bothering to speak with the manager. I wonder if these rules have even been communicated to the management, or staff.

At this point, there really is nothing that can be done and there is no reason to return. It is doubtful training will have any effect, as it appears that thus far, it has fallen on deaf ears, if it has been communicated at all. Perhaps a visit from the Board of Health might help re-adjust the staff's perspective on safe food handling.”

I have resorted to a tactic that I rarely invoke-the Board of Health. The report was made. When I described the issue to the BOH, the response was priceless: “what is wrong with them?” Indeed!

Could I have a chicken burrito, with a side of Listeria and a sprinkling of Hepatitis please?

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Ado about Nothing

Here's another entry into audio-blogging. Sit back, and enjoy "Aud-Blog 2"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Without further ado...

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me on his show last week. We had a lot of fun talking about last meals...felt like we were on death row.

I've been slowly ramping up the audio component, so without further ado, here's another attempt to post some audio. As always, feel free to share your thoughts. There will be more to come, like it or not...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Now this is a rib!!!

Please join me tonight (Friday, May 20) on The Jordan Rich Show on WBZ 1030AM at midnight, where we'll be talking Texas BBQ, burritos and your recent restaurant experiences, both good and bad...

To whet your appetite, I share the following:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tune-In...testing,1, 2, 3

Finally, the moment many of you have waited least those of you that can't tune in to WBZ 1030AM-the Critical Palate audio blog!!!

This is merely a test, with plenty more where this came from. For now, sit back, relax and enjoy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Final Countdown…

Well, the end came too soon if you ask me. While it would be nice to get home to Mrs. Palate and the kids, there was still more bbq to consume and opinions to render (and I’ve been known to render a few). However, work and other responsibilities beckon, and while I could just keep waddling from joint to joint, all good things must come to an end. But not without one last hurrah!

Like the other days, we got up and out early. After checking out of the hotel with the requisite last visit to Starbucks, we hit the road for “The County Line” in Austin. County Line, like “Rudy’s” (see earlier post) is part of a small chain. However, unlike Rudy’s, the County Line seems to have retained a little of its “joint”-like feel from its origins.

Separating the County Line from the others was carpeting, literally. It was the only place that actually had a carpeted dining room. Our table overlooked a hilly vista onto Texas Hill Country, and it was slightly incongruous to be eating messy bbq with such a beautiful view on carpeting. I would think that Stanley Steamer is on-call.

Unfortunately, the County Line was the weak link in the bbq chain. The food was good, but not great, and other than the view, the only other exceptional item, for me, was the cole slaw. Sides tend to take a back seat in Texas, but for me, it’s nice to have something to sample other than meat. I enjoy a good side of beans or cole slaw as much as the next guy, and the County Line takes the blue ribbon for best side. I was hoping for better, but still, not a bad way to end.

Next post will be my final observations, but here’s something to chew on…the worst bbq meal in Texas is better than anything I’ve ever had here in Massachusetts or across the Northeast-it was even better than the bbq I had in Columbia, MO or St. Louis while I was away in law school. BBQ is in their blood down there, and they just know how to do it right.

Until next time America…eat well, eat often!

"I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president"

With two days left for the bbq binge-fest, and plenty of space in my stomach, we awoke with a plan for Sunday, albeit a less aggressive one.

First stop, “Rudy’s” in Austin. Rudy’s was the first restaurant we dined at that was part of a chain. With 30 locations across Texas and Oklahoma, Rudy’s more corporate approach is apparently a winner, or at least popular. While the environment was more sterilized/corporate, and clearly designed to replicate a roadhouse as opposed to actually being one, the food wasn’t bad at all.

Upon walking through the front door, we walked up to the counter to order. While the employees were friendly and greeted us in a humorous fashion, there’s a palpably different essence here, where the crew is wearing nicely pressed shirts and clean aprons, as compared to Black’s or Kreuz, where it doesn’t look like anyone has laundered their clothes or showered in a week. Frankly, I prefer the filthy, worked-in clothes.

Once we identified that we were from out of town, the guy at the counter launched in to a presentation about their food, plus some sampling, to help assist me in my decision-making. I opted for my usual: brisket and smoked turkey (they did not have beef ribs on the menu). The food was tasty, and I give them the blue ribbon for best smoked turkey; it had a nice peppery crust, and was very moist. Even with the corporate feel, the food was tasty and they seem to be doing something right, judging by the crowds.

After lunch, we took a leisurely drive to the University of Texas-Austin campus for a visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. I really enjoy visiting places like this-the library was so much more than a vanity tribute to President Johnson; it was also a museum of modern American political history. No matter which side of aisle you sit on, a visit to a presidential library and a glimpse into history is always a worthwhile diversion.

After essentially three days of bbq binging, for dinner we decided to cleanse our palates with a change of culinary pace; what better way to re-boot than with Chinese food in Texas!

Marty was familiar with a small chain called “Pei Wei”; a quick-serve Chinese restaurant owned and operated by P.F. Changs. For you dedicated readers, I am not a huge fan of P.F., but I’m willing to give peace a chance, and so we went to Pei Wei. Honest assessment-pretty fine, especially for a semi-counter service establishment. Marty and I agreed-it’s similar to “Panera Bread”, except it’s Chinese instead of sandwiches.

When you enter, you come upon a colorful digital menu board, listing the menu items and showing you video of the food itself. You approach the counter, and order. Upon completing your order, the cashier hands you a number, which you display on your table, and a few minutes later, a server brings you the food. Quick, but fresh, hot and tasty!

Finally, what better way to end the day than with a little ice cream. Thanks to our trusty friend Garmin, he was able to locate an “Amy’s Ice Cream” for us. Amy’s reminded me a lot of “Bart’s” in Amherst, or the old, funky “Steve’s” before they went corporate. They do the whole “mixing ice cream and ingredients on a slab of marble” thing, but my small coffee ice cream tasted terrific just the way it was.

So another day of consumption came to an end, with more to come on our final day…as we prepared to depart, we planned our final stop…the County Line in Austin. Would it live up to expectations?

Until next time America…eat well, eat often.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A man with a plan...

We arose Saturday morning with a plan…touring the Hill Country of Texas gorging ourselves on the best bbq we could find. Having done our research ahead of time, and travelling with someone who lived in Texas for a while, we agreed that the day had to begin again in Lockhart. So, with Imodium and Pepto Bismol in hand and a Venti Iced Coffee from Starbucks (basically, something to keep things moving, and another to shut it down, if necessary), we were off.

We drove the dusty roads on the outskirts of Austin again, arriving at Kreuz Market at 11:00am. You’d think it’s a little early for lunch, but since we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, we figured we’d grab some early grub. Apparently we weren’t the only people with that idea. Even at 11:00am, there was a wait to get to the meat counter. There must have been a reason for this, and we soon discovered it…it’s called “BBQ”.

Kreuze was a very different experience from Black’s. Black’s was small, intimate roadhouse, where you might end up sitting at a table next to the owners. Kreuz was a giant warehouse of a place… cavernous, with giant communal tables. However, that cavern housed some of the best brisket I’ve ever tasted. I suggest it was only incrementally better than Black’s…small nuances separate “the best” from “the very best”, but sitting at a communal table, eating perfectly cooked brisket, with the proper balance of fat, crust and beef…heaven on butcher paper.

Oddly, I took note of some people sitting at a table near us. An hour later, when we walked in to Black’s to purchase our requisite T-shirt, I saw those same people now enjoying the best that Black’s had to offer. This is what people do there-eat bbq!

After a brief tour of the Hill Country of Texas, we ended up at “The Salt Lick” in Driftwood. “Driftwood” is really just another name for “Nowhere” .

As I mentioned, The Salt Lick and Adam Richman’s gluttony were the foundational elements for this trip. The Salt Lick and it’s indoor open pit (see pictures) set the stage for an enticement that caused me to book a flight, hotel and rental car, and drive into the middle of nowhere with one of my closest friends while “Dueling Banjos” played in my head.

While the food didn’t quite live up to my wildest imagination, it certainly felt good to be sitting there eating that food. It was the same feeling from Black’s and one that would repeat itself several times this weekend: the “I can’t believe I’ve been seeing this place on TV all these years and I’m finally eating here” sensation that can’t be adequately described but needs to be experienced.

While the food was quite good, it wasn’t quite the “better” of any one thing, except the ambiance. I give it high marks for the ambiance mostly for the location, the indoor open pit and the live blues band playing outside for the patrons that had an hour and half wait ahead of them. Despite not being the best of the food, it’s a must-see on the bbq tour and I am excited for a return trip.

Later that night, back in Austin, we decided to walk up to “6th Street”, the club/bar/restaurant strip which is a cross between Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Duval Street on Key West, and De Wallen in Amsterdam. As a friend said, “it’s hard to describe-you just need to see it”. He wasn’t wrong.

While “clubbing” wasn’t our thing that night (or ever), we did have a pleasant walk up and down the street. Over a five-block area, there were bars and clubs with live bands, acoustic performers, hip-hop disc jockeys and motorcycle gangs, but not once did we feel threatened or uncomfortable. I call it “controlled chaos” and credit a strong police presence for the sense of safety. I also have to say that in general, Texans are amongst the friendliest people I’ve encountered, and that goes for the motorcycle gang members we were chatting with that night as well.

The evening ended with a brief appearance on the “Jordan Rich Show”…2:00am EST! After a long hard day of eating and driving, I was happy to relax and share some thoughts with Jordan and the listening audience. On May 20, I’ll be back on the show, talking more about this trip, and other food topics.

The weekend will continue with the next post, but until then, enjoy “Easy Rider”.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Texas, part 2

Don’t think we ended Friday with just lunch…that would be like putting down a “Playboy” after looking at one picture. So I’ve heard.

Upon our entry into Austin, we checked in to a very upscale “Marriott Courtyard” down by the Convention Center, and only 2 blocks down from the in/famous “6th Street”. The quality of the hotel was enhanced by the presence of a full-service Starbucks in the lobby. I really love Texas.

Friday afternoon, we took a walk several blocks up to the Texas State House. While we really just popped our heads in, on the way out, we ran into this guy…clearly someone who had issues with lawyers. We chatted, and he was a funny guy. Told me he was “takin’ it to the streets”. Must be a Doobie Brothers fan…or just a fan of the “doobie”, as far as I could smell.

We opted for “Tex-Mex” on Friday night at the “Texas Chili Parlor”; an inner-city roadhouse. Very good chili, washed down with a couple of enchiladas and a Shiner Bock. A party in my mouth.

After dinner, we rode over to “H-E-B Central Market”, a very upscale supermarket on the order of “Whole Foods”, but with an even more extensive selection of produce and dry goods, as well as bulk spices and other items. It even had it’s own restaurant and ice cream stand/coffee bar. Great to visit and see what markets are like down south.

A long weekend of bbq debauchery awaited for us. The next day, another pilgrimage to Lockhart, and then a road trip ending in Driftwood. It was time to regroup and get ready to rumble, at least with my digestive system...

Friday, April 15, 2011

It was a noontime arrival on a warm afternoon. The wind buffeted the plane violently as we came in for a landing, but when I walked in to the terminal, I wanted to kiss the ground; not in thanks for the safe landing, but in thanks for my arrival at the barbecue Mecca known as Austin, Texas. It was “game on”.

Last weekend was Marty and Eric’s Excellent BBQ Binge Fest, brought about by a mutual viewing of “Man v. Food” and Adam Richman’s visit to the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, a farm about 20 miles outside of the Austin City Limits. For context, Marty was my roommate from my freshman year in college at Northeastern, before I journeyed westward to Amherst, and we’ve remained close for 27 years. On this trip, we not only survived, we thrived, and can now tell the tales of our weekend in Austin, and no, it won’t read like a letter to “Penthouse Forum”.

There’s a lot to tell…too much for one blog post. So, I think I’ll go day by day. We crammed a lot in on this trip, on the odometer of our car and in our colons.

As soon as we left the airport, it was time for a quick 30 mile drive to Lockhart, TX, the literal barbecue capitol to Texas, as named by the Texas State Legislature. Our first destination was “Black’s”…don’t know why, but there was something pulling us in. We passed “Kreuz Market”, a destination for the next day, and turned right down a dusty side road and pulled right up to the front door of “Black’s”. When we opened the front door, the sweet and pungent odor of smoke hit us in the face like a velvet glove. It was both a slap, and a caress, and we knew that we were about to experience something sublime.

As we found out, like most barbeque joints in Texas, Black’s is semi-self-serve, ordered by the increments of pounds, like at a deli counter. Grab a tray, walk up and tell them what you want. In my case, it was “two slices of a brisket and a beef rib, please”. Seeing is believing, so check out the picture to the right. A new expression has been coined: “Food Porn” or “Forn” for short. If there is such a thing as “forn”, this is surely it, and I assure you, it felt and tasted as good as it looks.

Eating at Black’s was like having sushi in Japan, kimchi in South Korea, a croissant in Paris, schwarma in Jerusalem or coffee at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. It was a transcendent moment; one that almost cannot be described but must be experienced.

On a whim, after we ate, we asked if we could get a tour of the “pit”, or for the uninitiated, the smoker. The pit-master could not have been nicer, taking us back into the smoke room/kitchen, explaining his whole process, the temperature, the different meats and times, and the wood used to impart the sublime essence.

It was a great end, to the great beginning; I said to Marty as we walked out, if I didn’t have any more barbecue the rest of the weekend, I was all-right.

As the slogan on the t-shirt says: “Take me back to Black’s”. Right now.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Binge-Fest 2011

Just a reminder, I launch into field work next weekend, and will be sharing my travels, and trevails of the BBQ Binge-Fest 2011 with you, here on and on WBZ1030am. Feel free to tune in for my live remote next Sunday morning at 2:00am on of 1030AM.

My Dinner With Andre'

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having a quiet dinner with one of my oldest and closest friends. The food was really irrelevant to the opportunity to spend some time with him, but so surprisingly good that I feel I need to review the restaurant.

The “Ugly Duckling” is on the top floor of a converted farmhouse on Route 20 in Sturbridge, where after dinner, you can head over to Old Sturbridge Village for a “group churn”. Downstairs is a high-end place called the “Whistling Swan”, and upstairs, a more casual and relaxed environment.

Having been there years ago for lunch, I remembered it as a sandwich and burger place. It still may be, for lunch, but it has turned to quite a bit more at dinner.

We arrived on a rainy Thursday night, to a fairly empty house. The setting is rather pleasant. As I said, since it’s in an old farmhouse, the post and beam construction was exposed, and the wide-plank pine flooring added to the authenticity. The service was prompt and attentive, and the menu offered a variety of moderately upscale choices, but with reasonable price points. An added bonus-live entertainment by local musicians. That night was a saxophonist and an upright bass player. Quite polished and very entertaining.

That evening, we enjoyed an appetizer of Truffle-Parmesan Fries along with our salads. I ordered “Roasted Chicken Breast” which is described as a lightly smoked statler chicken, served with creamy parmesan polenta, sautéed spinach and balsamic-cinnamon cherries. My friend ordered the Cracker Crusted Haddock 
Sautéed vegetable orzo, Meyer lemon and fresh herbs. The service was attentive but not intrusive, and both dishes were well executed and tasty. We give it two forks up.

I have to say, The Ugly Duckling Loft was a pleasant surprise along the mean streets of Sturbridge. A while there, I had to wonder-what goes clip clop, bang bang, clip clop, bang bang? An Old Sturbridge Village Drive-By…

You’ve been great. Enjoy Jay Beckenstein.

Must Not See TV

As I get ready to depart on some Palate field work, I've been wonder: whatever happened to “Must See TV”, the classic NBC advertising campaign back in the 90s? We were urged to tune in to NBC on Thursday nights and we could sense that we were watching real classics in the making. Whether it was the Cheers, Seinfeld, Wings, Friends or Mad About You, it was practically appointment television.

Back then, if you might not be home, you had to learn how to split the atom and program your vcr to “tape” these shows, and watch them some other time. Now, most people I know have a DVR or TIVO, which has made missing shows a non-issue. You can DVR the higher-quality shows and watch them at your leisure, leaving the networks to fill all the rest of the empty time, hoping to grab your attention. As a result, I think the combination of cable and TIVO have caused the dearth of quality TV.

Back in the day, there were only 3 networks and a handful of cable stations. Most of the cable entries were HBO, Cinemax and the like, ESPN and CNN with Headline News. Having cable tv really meant that you got a static free signal and didn’t have to worry about adjusting rabbit ears…it did not mean an offering of a garbage meant to makes your eyes and ears bleed.

Sadly, I think that is the current state of television today. At “Palate Palace”, we have the “Dish Network” and subscribe to “America’s Top 200” with our local channels. As I have written before, what this really offers me is 200 channels of nothingness…the non-fat, decaf skim lattes of television (might as well order a cup of air). Sometimes I feel I’m better off watching a blank screen.

For those of you willing to take a chance with your brain cells, feel free to tune into Nickelodeon. Back when cable was fresh, “Nick at Nite” was the repository for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or “The Bob Newhart Show”; you could also catch episodes of “The Odd Couple” and other classics. As cable grew and the channel line-up expanded, and Nickelodeon and Disney expanded from 1 channel to 118, the need for new programming became paramount. There are only so many repeats of the old shows people will watch, and certainly younger viewers weren’t tuning in for repeats of “The Patti Duke Show”. So, along comes “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”, “Zoey 101” and “Big Time Rush” (a brief digression-I am not sure there has ever been a worse show than “Big Time Rush”. A derivative rip-off of the all-time “classic” “The Monkees”, except without talent and without humor, and without the LSD-inspired bump-ins and bump-outs. Closing in fast in “Ned’s Declassified…” and “Zoey 101”) Spend time watching this junk and you might need professional help.

The more channels, the greater need to fill the air. So instead of high quality writing and acting, these stations dump the classics and instead we get “Victorious, “True Jackson, VP” and “Shake it Up”. I dare you people to watch these shows.

I purposely left “Drake and Josh” and “ICarly” off the list. These shows border on “pretty ok”, as their comedy can be slightly subversive and attractive to both kids and adults. The producer, Dan Schneider, also produces “Zoey 101” and “Victorious”, proving the adage that even a blind chicken gets some grain now and then.

Overall, the simple economic theory of supply and demand has created a black hole of creativity in the development and execution of television. The more available television space, the greater the need to fill with “original” programming, the greater the likelihood that less skilled writers and creators will get a chance to put up shows like “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”. I’m not sure I can “survive” that much more…

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The Junior Palette was unable to keep her dinner down; this morning was "colorful" to say the least. Her comment when she was done: "tell people not to order the fish and chips at the Wildwood".

You've been warned.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Some nights, you’re better off staying home and eating leftovers. For some reason, I felt compelled to dine-out tonight. It was just the four of us, and we decided on the “Wildwood” in Marlboro. Once a pleasant local steakhouse, now, if invited to go again, I would say “Wildwood-not”.

Normally, I dine, I think, I write. The process can range from a few hours to a few weeks. Tonight, it’s been a few minutes.

Let me start by saying that I had some concerns about going there. We went there a few weeks ago for an adult night out, and the service was unbelievably slow. I needed a haircut and shave by the time we were done, and people familiar with my hairline know that’s no mean feat. Not speaking for anyone of the other 7 adults in our party, I was whelmed. It was a harbinger for things to come.

Tonight we went and were seated promptly. That was the best part of the meal. Our tag-team servers also attended us to quickly. Maybe things would be different this time (why do I tease myself like this?). After a reasonable amount of time, we placed our order, and this seems to be where things went wrong. Without boring you with all the details, lets just say that things weren’t complicated. Junior Palate ordered his steak without bacon (it was a topping), and I made absolutely no changes to my order. I ordered the exact same meal I ordered two weeks ago-strip sirloin with pepper sauce, sautéed spinach and plain baked potato.

The food came, and there were a number of issues. First, JP’s steak came with the bacon on top. Not sure if this is a service issue, or a kitchen issue, but an issue nonetheless. You faithful readers know that we don’t dig on swine.

My meal was the train-wreck (of course). Two weeks ago, my steak came practically raw, so I sent it back. When they brought the steak back, it was done beyond “medium”, but most of our dining companions were almost done with the meal, so I choked it down. Tonight, it was the opposite-my steak was way overcooked. Oddly, the spinach was plain…as if it was steamed. No oil, no garlic, no flavor. Just steamed, plain. We let the staff know, and they took it away, and said that they would have a replacement out to me “right away”, with a healthy dose of attitude.

I have come to learn that “right away” really means “after everyone else in your party has completely finished their dinner and now will just be staring at you while you eat.” The lapse in time was so ridiculously long that I actually said to Mrs. Palate that I didn’t care if they came back and fed it to me, I was considering just telling them to take it away so we could out of there.

Right when I had given up all hope of eating a decent meal tonight, a gentleman appeared with my food. He looked like a managerial type, so I thought he might be a good person to discuss my disappointment with my experience at the Wildwood, not just tonight, but from 2 weeks ago. The steak also looked good. I was wrong on both counts.

Now, I’ve had a few of these sorts of conversations before. I know, you find it surprising. Usually, it’s more of a monologue, with some dialogue thrown in. I talk, they listen. Apparently, the modus operandi of the Wildwood is to be argumentative. I thought maybe I was mis-reading his affect, and thought he was being partially inquisitive, but I conferred with Mrs. Palate after he left, and she was shocked and put-off by his affect. It takes a lot to put Mrs. Palate off, so I knew I wasn’t mis-reading this. Having been in the restaurant business and having cooked for hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, I understand that the customer does not always understand what goes on in the kitchen; I assure you kind readers, I am not one of those people. I know all too well what happens behind those closed doors, and sometimes it isn’t pretty.

I was explaining was that 2 weeks ago, my steak came out twice on opposite ends of the spectrum, neither being the way I wanted. Note that I like my steak medium, which isn’t, or shouldn’t be, complicated, especially for a place that has “steakhouse” in their name. Lat visit, the steak was rare, and then well done; tonight, it was the opposite-well done and as it turns out, rare enough that I couldn’t eat most of the second steak (I did eat a portion of the steak, because the edge pieces were done, but as you got to the center, I could see that it was just not done, even medium rare). This is just not acceptable, and really requires some serious re-training of the staff. At least give someone a meat thermometer. I cook with one at home…maybe they should try it.

In addition, I pointed out to this gentleman that the spinach was a puzzle to me. I merely ordered it off the menu…nothing special. But it came totally plain, steamed. He was incredulous…that is impossible, because they don’t steam the spinach, he says. “It goes in the pan” was his refrain. Ok, but in the pan usually goes garlic and oil, and maybe salt. What I was saying is that the spinach was just wrong…it was steamed. I picked it up off the plate and felt it. No oil, no garlic, no salt. It was barely wilted, but you could tell water had touched it, but nothing else. Once again he said but “it goes in the pan. We don’t steam the spinach.” Ok, keep saying it enough and maybe you’ll believe it, but I can only repeat myself so much. This had quickly become a waste of time.

What it comes down to is this: when a customer raises an issue, even if you disagree or think you know better, you say “I’m sorry, and I’ll address this with my staff”. Feel free to ignore me when you walk away, but don’t stand there and try to defend/argue. By the way, you won’t win points, or the argument, with me. I’m a professional.

The manager did come back and check on the steak, but about half way through this second steak, I could tell that I couldn’t eat a good portion of this, so when the waitress returned, I just told her to take it away and bring an end to my misery. She offered a free desert, but for reasons known to most, we passed on that, but when she brought the check, she told me that she had taken the steak off the bill. Uh yeah.

Nothing burns me more than playing a premium for dinner, only to leave feeling underfed and underserved. I always say that I would gladly pay full price and tip handsomely rather than leave unfulfilled. Given this evening’s experience, along with the “whelming” meal from two weeks ago, I see no reason to return anytime soon. Tonight’s meal, coupled with the discussion with the manager, left me realizing why it is better to eat at home than waste time (and money) at places like the Wildwood. Stay away, or at least lower your expectations, but expect to open your wallet.

Once again, for a local, expertly executed steakhouse, head to downtown Shrewsbury and enjoy a meal at Willy’s Steakhouse and Sushi.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Road Trip

Almost daily (at least in my head), one of you palateers comes to me and says “Critical, why aren’t you doing more fieldwork, travelling more like Adam Richman and Guy Fieri?” People often confuse Guy and me.

Well, I am pleased to announce the first-ever “Critical Palate Road Trip”. I don’t yet have a catchy name, so feel free to offer up your ideas.

With special dispensation from Mrs. Palate, and the Chief Rabbi, I will be embarking on the road trip in the Spring. I, along with a charter subscriber, will be heading to the Hill Country of Texas and to Austin, to sample what is purported to be the best BBQ in the world. With our itinerary planned to hit Austin, Driftwood and Lockhart, Texas, in a short 4 day time-frame, we expect to sample bbq at approximately 8 distinct locations.

As an added bonus, I will be calling into the WBZ to The Jordan Rich Show to discuss a little of our fieldwork.

As departure becomes imminent, more details will be shared. But for now, stay hungry my friends.


In the spirit of comfort foods, a few of the charter subscribers and I have a sick obsession with the “Wellington”. It started with a knish (a Jewish version of a mini beef wellington), then the stuffed knish (using the knish as the “bread” for your sandwich), and has now grown into an outright fetish.

As I embarked on the comfort food quest, I harkened back to my youth and the traditional foods served at most family events. A beef or potato knish was always front and center on the appetizer tray, so as I expanded my palate, and after tasting a beef wellington, I knew that a better knish could be made. For years, this knish-wish would lie dormant, but after receiving an email from the Crown Supermarket in Hartford, the “Delington” was born. This would be an opportunity to achieve stuffed dough enlightenment (in my mind, but not likely in my colon). The least that would happen would be an opportunity to eat some puff pastry.

The “Delington” entered this world on New Year’s Eve 2010. The first attempt was a sheet of puff pastry laid out, with some ketchup and mustard slathered on, then layers of corned beef, turkey and salami, with the mustard and ketchup mixture slathered between each layer. Then we rolled it and baked it for about a half hour. We served it in slices, and it wasn’t bad, not bad at all.

Trying to improve, the very next night we embarked on an attempt to do better. This time, we laid out the puff pastry, mixed bbq sauce and brown mustard, with a little kick, then layered on the corned beef, then turkey, and then pastrami. We believed that the latent sweetness of the puff pastry and the bbq sauce needed to be “cut” with the spicier brown mustard and the peppery pastrami. Instead of rolling it (as a “Swiss Deli Roll”) we just layered another sheet of pastry over the top, then baked it for about a half hour. This took the “Delington” from being pretty good, to sublime.

This may make its way into the menu for our holiday dinners going forward.

Stay hungry my friends.

Comfort Quest

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me on WBZ this past weekend talking “comfort foods” with you and the nationwide audience. I can’t of too many things more fun than talking food through the wee hours of the morning.

As I waddled my way around comforting myself with foods, I came to the realization that unless I could choose a specific “comfort” food to compare, I would just be feeding at the trough, so to speak. With that in mind, I tried to eat a variety of different foods that people would consider “comfort foods”.

I suppose “comfort foods” are foods that make you feel good. Maybe you’re feeling a little down because I haven’t written much lately, or maybe you’re coming in from a cold commute home, or from shoveling (which here in Massachusetts, we’ll be doing in July). In any event, there are just some times you want something to make you say “ahhhh”. For some people, it could be as simple as a cup of hot chocolate, but for others, it’s real food. Though no day would be started properly without a hot cup of coffee, the stronger the better.

With my ethnicity, as I mentioned in an earlier post, chicken soup, the namesake for the book series, is among the top comfort foods in my book. There are several others: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy…anything with gravy! While mac and cheese is among many people’s favorites, I love things with melted cheese on them, but not a giant fan of mac and cheese. I did sample a variety of mac and cheese, and I do love a crispy crumb topping, but when it comes to melted cheese, I am partial to a grilled cheese sandwich. Enter “Cheeseboy”.

“Cheeseboy” is an interesting concept…a quick-serve kiosk in South Station in Boston that serves a few varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches, along with a soup or two. Soda and a bag of chips rounds out the menu. When it comes to a winter day, a long cold train ride into or out of the city, nothing says “Welcome to the daily grind” like a grilled cheese from “Cheeseboy”.

The factor that interests me is the price point. At under four dollars for the just the sandwich, is this a concept that people are willing to pay for? Two slices of bread and three slices of cheese, and maybe a slice of tomato, can be made at home for about 75 cents. Will people pay $3.99 for essentially a “snack”? Time will tell, but if you read this article from the Boston Globe, you’ll see that the founder is trying to take the comfort food grilled cheese to the masses and is doing fairly well.

For me, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, with lots of mushroom gravy is a real winner. There’s something very comforting, and filling, eating a nice piece of meatloaf sitting on top of mashed potatoes with a small lake of gravy. Just about every diner known to man-kind, including my father’s, serves meatloaf. Some much better than others. Diners, by their very nature are designed to offer comfort food, and comfort. Chatty waitresses, gruff, but loveable (at some places), line cooks (“Order up”…), hearty, filling foods, like meatloaf…diners scream “comfort”.

Then there are sit-down places that can cultivate a recipe, like meatloaf, and take it to a higher plain. I personally like an all-beef meatloaf, but many places add pork or ground veal. If you watch that clown Emeril, formerly of the food network, he preached the three-meat combo-veal, beef and pork. Personally, when talking comfort foods, I prefer simplicity. Places like “John Harvard’s Brew House” make a very pleasant all-beef meatloaf, served with garlic mashed potatoes, while the “Cottage” in Wellesley makes a pleasant meatloaf (even if they do add ground turkey) with sweet potatoes.

Growing up, was there anything better than a Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie? I love CPP. I like a CPP with crust all the way around…top and bottom. Lots of places make a CPP with a giant piece of puff pastry across the top (like John Harvard’s), which is tasty, but not what I like. Harrow’s chicken pies has the thick, pie-like crust which is just perfect to hold in all the CPP goodness.

Speaking of pies, Shepard’s pie is a big winner for me. Seasoned ground meat, covered with either corn or peas, then covered in mashed potatoes. Baked like a pie, with the potatoes as a top crust….yum. Put gravy on this, and it’s pure heaven on a plate; a party in your mouth. Desmond O’Malley’s, late of Framingham, and the Kinsale, in Boston, make decent Shepard’s Pie. Also British Beer works.

Thanksgiving-the ultimate comfort food holiday. Is’t it all about eating and sleeping? I think that what the Pilgrims were thinking…let’s eat ourselves stupid, watch the Detroit Lions lose, and take a nap. What says “comfort” more than a big roast, massive plate of mashed potatos, squash, a thick green bean casserole, followed up with apple pie. I’m surpised I survive this holiday every year.

Of course, there are people who love soups…chicken soup, chili, beef stew.

Each ethnicity has their own versions of comfort foods. Greek food includes Mousaka, Pastikio; Italian food has Lasagna, Spaghetti and meatballs, red wine… Bella Costa in Framingham is my Italian restaurant of choice. Though some people like the Olive Garden, if their slogan, “when you’re here, you’re family” is true, then you must part of the Mansons.

There are so many to mention, the list could go on for weeks, but I encourage all of you to get out there and eat what makes you feel good.

Until next time...stay hungry my friends.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How do you want to pay?

I have blogged in the past about different clerical behaviors that intrigue and puzzle me. Tonight was a new one on me.

I had to stop in to “Sudbury Farms” in Sudbury to grab a couple of items. For you uninitiated, this is an upscale, and overpriced supermarket, with a goofy name. The only “farm” here is the “money farm”, because you’ll need a tractor load of cash to shop here…

So, lucky for me, my purchase of 3 bagels was slightly under $10, and I just happened to have a $10 bill in my wallet. I took out the bill, and when the cashier told me the total, I handed him the bill. He looked at it, and said “how do you want to pay tonight”?

I’m just wondering: has he never seen cash before?

Is this what society has come to: all plastic all the time? It seems that the use of cash has gone the way of being able to actually count back change.

What would Alexander Hamilton think?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Feeding at the trough...

So I was walking around Whole Foods the other day getting lunch, when I heard a whiny 4 year old complaining that she was hungry. Her mother turned to her and said, “hold on”. The mother then proceeded to walk to prepared foods counter and say to the clerk “may I try a sample of the cheese pizza. No need to warm it up.” The clerk cut a generous “sample” and the woman took it, turned to her daughter, handed it to her and said “here you go”, and they walked away.

Now I’m the last person to defend retail establishments, but this action screams “chutzpah”! I mean, Whole Paycheck is in the business of selling food, and if you’re interested in a food item and can sample it ahead, the clerks are happy to oblige. But in this case, the woman wasn’t interested in buying pizza; she was interested in shutting her kid up and finishing her shopping. The store isn’t her own personal buffet; she probably also snacks at the salad bar. I just don’t like it when people feed at the trough as if it’s their right to the food, without paying for it.

Just one man’s opinion.

Merry New Year!

From the staff at the "Critical Palate", here's wishing you a Merry 2011.

Coming soon, reviews and discussions about "comfort foods", and an appearance on The Jordan Rich show where my friend Jordan and I will be talking to you about some of the better places around here to eat comfort foods and get "comfortable".

Until then, stay hungry, my friends.