Category Archives: Foodie Reviews

Taco Tuesday: Battle of the Taco Titans

For those with intimate knowledge of American Appetite’s culinary explorations have known this day was destined to come.  A loosely held secret is my obsession over the ultimate taco joint, and here we are pitting my top two contenders against one another.

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De-Bunking Sandwich Myths at Bunk

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The east coast invasion has finally begun for a hoard of panini press pirates making birth from the Beaver State.  Portland Oregon institution has set up shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, letting New Yorker’s know all about what slinging sammies from the west coast entails.

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2016 In Review: #1 Food Post – Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli : The Cannoli Battle of Boston’s North End

Michael Corleone famously said in The Godfather Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again, ever“, well what happens when unfortunately your crazy uncle has the palate of an ageusic slug?  Family feuds and awkward Thanksgiving dinners are what happen.  I can’t think of any greater lightning rod of family dissension than the Italian culinary cannon the cannoli, more specifically between two great houses along Hanover St in Boston’s North End Neighborhood.  Perched diagonal from each other less than a block away are the Stark/Lannisters of the cannoli game in Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry .  Both are North End institutions that have braved the neighborhood for over 50 years, and over that time folks have garnered an unyielding opinion on what ricotta filled confection reigns supreme.  I literally know Aunts who have stopped talking to Nephews, cousins refusing to take phone calls from other cousins, and co-workers who won’t even send back a passive aggressive email all over their contemporaries choice of pastry shop.  It was with that in mind that I took to the street with an objective taster, ( I was born and raised by Mike’s and don’t want any whiff of impropriety)to once and for all try to solve the dilemma of who makes the best cannoli.

First up is the fine people over at Modern Pastry.

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Their product is the perfect proportion of shell to ricotta filling.  A crunchy cookie-esque tube is filled with tangy and not overly sweet ricotta cheese filling, you really know you’re eating ricotta.  The light dusting of powder sugar gives a little extra sugar punch that is quite nice to balance the innate cheese tang.  Overall it is a phenomenal cannoli, but how does it stack up to the across the street rival.

Next up is Mike’s Pasty

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This hand filling behemoth is jam packed with and overflowing amount of ricotta filling.  Their shell is a bit more brittle and airy with noticeably larger air pockets that flake away and crunch nicely when you bite in.  Filling at Mike’s is more on the sweeter side where you don’t get the tangy ricotta flavor that is more pronounced at Modern.  While the powdered sugar adds a little bit more sweetness it isn’t completely necessary to balance out the ricotta filling.  Overall another Casanova of the conical confections.

The conclusion is that while both Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are destination canolli locations when in The North End there can only be one head of the family make rule on which is top.  In this battle the fine folks at Mike’s Pastry are the winners.  But be the judge for yourself and go try them out as soon as you can.  Tell them American Appetite sent you so they can be confused and maybe start reading the blog too.

2016 In Review: #3 Food Review – Doughnut Showdown: New School vs Old School

Doughnut Showdown: New School vs Old School

Cake or yeast, frosted or jelly filled, cruller or munchkin (doughnut holes for those outside the grasp of Dunkin’) there are so many doughnut debates to be had, including how to spell it.  With such a blank canvas a doughnut is the perfect foil for any number of flavors causing a bit of a resurgence when it comes to new pop ups here and there with some bold flavors like cherry cola and habanero mango.  So with the new influx of dough boys and girls on the food scene we took to the streets to compare a new up and comer against a tried and true stalwart of the dough game.

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First up is the long-established staple of Linda’s Donuts in Watertown, MA.  Having been around since my parents were in high school, Linda’s is as old school as it gets.  Still made and hand cut to this day from techniques taught to the owner at Dunkin’ Donuts in the early 80’s, the institution on a small suburban corner always has lines to, and often out, the door.  The shop itself is tiny with a few booths to sit at, a counter that squeezes three people in sideways to try and get the last pumpkin spice on the shelf,  and a grill in the back for the sweet adverse eaters who need some breakfast sandwiches or the like.

Get there early because they often sell out of some of their most popular flavors, as was the case when we strolled in at a dilatory 8:30 on a Saturday.  Worries aside we went with a variety of both yeast and cake, filled and frosted.  The basic chocolate frosted was light and airy with a very sweet base dough, it didn’t really move the needle but it wasn’t even close to a disappointment.  The Boston Creme was a perfect donut representation of the Parker House classic, oozing with vanilla creme that came poring out when we cut it.  While they have a variety of jelly fillings we went with the basic raspberry and similar to the chocolate frosted it was delicious but not really transcendent.  However the butternut cake donut is where Linda’s brings the hammer.  Having eaten butternut donuts for the past 25 years I still have no clue besides coconut what is on it, but damn do they do it right at Linda’s.  It has a caramely and nutty taste that is just sweet enough to cut through the dense cake batter.  Overall Linda’s is what Dunkin’ Donuts wishes they could be, having mastered a variety of the classic donuts.

 

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For the new kid on the block we have Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions  tin Waltham, MA, that along with their top notch charcuterie and booming back room restaurant have a decent breakfast spread that includes some of the best doughnuts around.  For a “deli” it sure does get popping on weekend mornings, with a long line every time I go in.  There are an assortment of other pastries and also a breakfast menu that features some of their deli creations (what up pork roll).  But the reason for the visit on this day was doughnuts and doughnuts were had.

 

The selection at Moody’s is a little more about counter balancing flavors and not usually the tradition one note variety.  Overall while they were yeast doughnuts, the actual dough was more toothsome, almost creating a yeast and cake hybrid which was incredible. Aside from the basic cinnamon and sugar the combo’s we got were vanilla frosted with a caramel swirl, chocolate and coconut, and chocolate with bacon.  I find it to be a rule in life that inevitably someone will take whatever product they make and  add bacon to it, and I honestly have yet to find an outlier where it doesn’t work.  Such was the case at Moody’s where the salty bacon and the luscious sweet chocolate frosting danced perfectly back and forth like bachata partners.  The hit out of all the doughnuts at Moody’s was the vanilla with caramel swirl.  Not to overly sweet the burnt sugar aspect of the caramel worked well complimenting the more savory doughnut.

In this the most heated of doughnut/donut battle I believe I am going to have to announce as the winner……..me.  There is a reason that both old school donuts and new school doughnuts are both thriving right now, that’s because they are one of the best foods on the planet.  So go get an old fashioned cruller or a new agave and lemon blossom yeast creation and enjoy because the day donuts run out of favor is a day I don’t ever want to see.

2016 In Review: #4 Food Review – The Genuine Article: Brunch at Article 24

The Genuine Article: Brunch at Article 24

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A hip new little joint in the Brighton/Allston area of Boston is Article 24 where the food and decor scream retro hipster.  Brought to you by the guru’s of the gastropub, The Neighborhood Restaurant group, who also are behind the immensely popular Local 149 in South Boston, and The Biltmore Bar & Grill in Newton, MA, this place is sure to take off just as quickly as their contemporaries.

 

 

 

 

The interior is very warm and cozy, with making the most of their space they offer a wrap around bar right inside the door way that adorned with televisions for your Sunday football watching pleasure.  Further inside is the main dining room that offers extremely comfortable chairs with the low tables, bordered by high tops along the wall.  The room is well lit with a lot of the brightness bouncing off the vibrant artwork and retro signage, such at a giant Getty sign adorning the back wall, and an explanation of the 24th Article embossed with Eleanor Roosevelt along another.  The feel of the room is energetic while still at the same time maintaining a comforting artistic interpretation of the past.

At Article 24 there are numerous options to get you all lathered up ranging from the simplistic Miller High Life to the most inventive cocktails you could imagine.  Their Bloody Mary was tasty, yet fairly basic.  However they do offer up some other notable libations worth checking out, including a pantheon of cocktails featuring house made ginger beer, which is spicy and phenomenal.  They also offer up their Bucket O’ Bubbles which is a bottle of prosecco and all the fixings needed to set your day off right.  If you are more of a cheap beer person, that option is there as well, and actually is a perfect partner to some of the classic bar snacks from their sister restaurant, by the way of Hog Wings or the otherworldly Mac Fritters.

The brunch menu offers the best variety of breakfast staples with a little twist, and something a little more savory for the folks who have already transitioned to lunch.  The classics are well represented with creamy Eggs Benedict and pancakes offered, including an adult version with booze swirled into the batter and drizzled on top.  The Croque Madame is crusty on the outside and soft and salty unctuous goodness on the interior, a sure hit.  For a nice spin on the norm I highly recommend checking out the Waffle Pizza, which is a fluffy golden waffle topped with bacon, thick cut ham, melted cheese, and a fried egg tops it all off.  It the perfect combination of all your favorite breakfast goodies all on one fork, salty, sweet, melty, and scrumptious.  If your tummy is in the mood for the more savory, the lunch skewed items are equally as delicious.  The Crispy Chicken BKT and Uncle Pat’s London Broil Pile up are both beastly meaty behemoths, which tends to be a theme permeating most of the sandwich offerings at Article 24.  A think crispy chicken breast sits atop the makings of an incredible BLT, which is set off by a tangy caesar aioli.  For Uncle Pat’s special you get a mountain of beef and onion strings covered in melty cheese and horseradish sauce, which makes for the best roast beef sandwich you will get around.

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Overall between the upbeat casual interior, beverage options, and phenomenal food, Article 24 is shaping up to be one of the hottest spots in town.  Head on over, grab a stool, grab a ‘Gansett, grab some food, and grab a good time.

2016 In Review: #5 Food Review – Taste of the Authentic at Taqueria Mexico

Taste of the Authentic at Taqueria Mexico.

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I will go to my grave with one sure fire adage that when it comes to Mexican cuisine, the more it looks like a hole in the wall the better it is.  Sure you can have the glitz and the glam and the brightly lit neon of the upscale Mexican chains that offer two for one margaritas and bottomless chips and salsa, but for the real deal look for a place a little worn, a little plain, and most of all a diverse crown preferably consisting of some Latinos.  Well for a true taste of the most delectable Mexican cuisine head on down a one way street with not much else around it to find Taqueria Mexico.  At

The interior is spare and simple with booths along the walls and tables in the middle.  The brightly painted interior vibrantly radiate which carries itself off the walls and throughout the meal with the vivid flavors.  Adorned on the wall are various sculptures, art work, and sombreros giving the room a more homey and authentic feel.While waiting to order the fine folks at Taqueria Mexico bring you over some tortilla chips and a partially picante basic tomato based fresh salsa that is bright as well as a smokey and fairly spicy chipotle salsa, perfectly accompanied by a few cerveza’s.

For a little snack before your meal, I can’t recommend enough the Taquitos Dorados which features for flour tortillas filled with either chicken, or our case the most succulent barbacoa, that are then accompanied with sour cream and guacamole.  They are the perfect way to get into the south of the border mood and prep yourself for what is about to come.  As far as the menu is concerned you can get a combination of any number of different delicacies they have to offer.  From tacos, to enchiladas, to chili relleno, the combination platters they have seem almost endless.  With an endless array of possibilities I’ll narrow down for you some of the can’t miss items.  First and foremost the best thing in the entire restaurant and maybe even north of the Rio Grande is the mole sauce.  It is dark and deep with countless flavors working together having been simmered together into the silkiest blanket of the gods that covers whatever protein is lucky to lay beneath it.  Hints of cinnamon and chocolate are just two of the countless notes that hop all over your tongue as you pull out your CSI kit and try to decipher what all those magical flavors are.  So needless to say the mole is good.  Also worth trying hands down is the chicken enchilada, preferably in the green salsa.  The chicken is perfumed with cumin and cilantro, perfectly rolled up and doused with a tangy while not too spicy green chili sauce that combines together perfectly with the chicken.  Not to be overlooked as well are the impeccable refried beans that accompany almost every dish.

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Bursting with true authentic Mexican food, Taqueria Mexico might not appear to be as classed up as some of the chains mere streets away but it has food that can’t be beat.  I expect peeking into the kitchen would be like sticking a camera in an abuelita convention in Puebla, it sure tastes that way.

The Wild West of Small Batch Gastropubs at True West

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Laying on the outskirts of the Greater Boston suburbs is True West Brewery , a Gastropub and pioneer on the Community Supported Brewing frontier.  Glowing as a beacon of beer, the brightly lit white barn exterior pops on an otherwise quiet intersection in Acton, MA.  Drinkers and diners alike are welcomed in off the expansive front porch and into an open lounge area that pops with chrome and copper shimmering from behind the amoeba bar.  The brew kettles and fermentation tanks towering behind the beerista’s inform the patrons that they are in for some seriously earnest ale’s.  Giving a new perspective on farm to table, the folks at True West apply the concept to beer,  having all their exclusive brews being solely served mere feet from where they are made.  I highly recommend their Ruckus IPA which has a gentler nose than most current IPA’s, yet still packs a whollop of hoppy piney flavor.  Just past the selection of bar stools and high top tables in the front sits the main dining area which is clad in blueish gray touches that balance well with the industrial barn chic that flows throughout the restaurant.

A great sign of any brew pub in my opinion is a killer list of appetizer/small bites/shareable plates or whatever you want to call it.  With a steady diet of lagers on your lips it helps to have something small to snack on while awaiting your meal.  At True West they do some of the classics right, with a nice brew house twist.  True to form with trying to reduce the waste produced from all their farm to table offerings, they reuse the spent grains left over from the brewing process for some tantalizing tastes.  The spent grain pretzel braid is fluffy and golden, with a deep drunken bread taste that pairs perfectly with their house IPA mustard.  Anyone who is familiar with American Appetite knows that beyond anything else I am a sucker for a good fried pickle, and some of the best I have had in recent memory are to be found at True West.  Once again using the spent grains from the brewing process, the thick chips are coated in a nutty and crisp blanket of batter.  The added malty flavor from the grains perfectly balances with the pickles and picante chipolte ranch dipping sauce.

For the main plates, it is more hopped up gastropub staples.  The Trueben is piled high with unctuous slabs of pastrami, dank sauerkraut, and the tangiest Thousand Island dressing.  Covered in a blanket of Swiss cheese and pressed all together, it will have you transported to the Lower East side on Manhattan in no time.  The taco flight was flavorful and filling, with the pickled slaw and cilantro crema being the real star of the dish.  The fried chicken sandwich was thick and juicy, with smoky bacon complimenting the house ranch and usual accoutrements in the most balanced way.  The star of the meal, aside from the pickles, had to be the incredible Delicata Squash salad.  Thick rings of roasted squashed mixed with sweet apples and carrots on a bed of baby kale were the perfect canvas for what I assume was a crack based vinaigrette.  The menu said apple cider but the shakes and withdrawal I went through days after tasting it, led me onto the real secret ingredient in that transcendent dressing.

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From the fine food to the luscious lagers, True West is definitely pioneering the next great food trend of Community Supported Breweries.  A brief caveat is that with a relatively new restaurant they do have some growing pains with the service, but hopefully it just means the wait means you get the chance to try an extra beer while you wait.

Mexican in the Middle: Middle of Connecticut

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I spend a lot of time traveling between Boston and New York City and constantly find myself on the hunt for great food in the heart of Connecticut.  Always scouring yelp for some diamond in the rough right of I-84, I-91, or the Merritt Parkway, has lead me to some memorable and not so memorable places.  One place that is definitely worth the pit stop if you are making the drive is Cucaramacara Mexican Eatery in Meriden, CT.  Situated about a half a mile from where I-91 and the Merritt Pkwy collide, Cucaramacara bring giant flavors to a tiny strip mall.  With their scrumptious offerings pasted on the outside window beckoning diners in, it serves as what I’ve always said about certain cuisine.  The more a type of food looks like a mom and pop hole in the wall, the better and more authentic it is.  One step into the small storefront and you are assured that this is an authentic family run establishment.  A handful of tables fill the bright red lined dining room, with a gateway into the kitchen providing ample viewing space to see all the Mexican magic occurring behind the scenes.

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The standard options ubiquitous to any Mexican eatery are plentiful here, and prepared with such authenticity and love that it is no surprise it appears that someones abuelita is running the kitchen.  With so much to choose from I recommend going with one of the combination platters.  Wanting some crispy tortilla chips with my meal I went with the fresh fried chips and two chicken tacos.  The chicken was spiced nicely with garlic and a bit of cumin and topped with fresh onion, cilantro, and an otherworldly green chili salsa.  Other big hits include the fish taco, which freshly swims right off the grill and topped with the customary accoutrements.  Also the al pastor taco is bright and vibrant with a giant punch of spice right to your palate.  While sticking primarily to tacos this trip, we couldn’t help but see the gigantic and delectable looking burritos, fajitas, and mammoth torta’s flying out the kitchen window and will definitely be spending some time exploring the menu on the next pass through.

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If your travels ever find you smack dab in the middle of Connecticut craving some Mexican, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out Cucaramacara Mexican Eatery.  Connecticut may still be revolutionary according to their marketing, but little do they know that it’s the Mexican food leading the charge.

Zaa Zaa Black Sheep Have You Any Dough?

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With three locations all over the Twin Cities area, Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza is slinging some of the best pies in the Gopher State.  On a busy Friday night we headed over to the North Loop location to check out what all the hub bub on the street that we had been hearing was about.  Situated down half a floor in a basement with glowing neon signs, the smell of fresh za’s permeate the air beckoning you forth.  With a wide selection of local craft brew, Black Sheep is the ideal location for you to get your carb chow down on during those cold Midwestern winters.

When going to a pizza joint, you would be hard pressed to go wrong with any combination of meats and cheeses, but who says you have to wait for the dough to be tossed before you dig in.  At Black Sheep they have one killer Cured Meat and Cheese Plate, with whatever local curdled creation and sliced salumi just so happen to be for the foraging that night.  Prime cuts of meat and buttery rich cheeses are complimented with briny marinated olives, nutty pistachios, and the most delectable roasted red peppers.  Toss all that on a crispy cracker and you have the classiest of pizza aperitif’s.

When it comes to the main event, the champion culinary circle comes out bubbling and fragrant.  A sure mark of a great coal fired pizza is the residual black charcoal dust that lines the crust, and there is dust a plenty here.  While like most pizza joints you are free to mix and match your own combinations, the options they have already painstakingly mastered are well worth the recommendation.  Feeling a bit saucy we went with the Fennel Sausage, Hot Salami, Onion & Cracked Green Olives pizza.  Vibrant red slivers of salami dot the pizza in a checker game against the sweeter fennel studded sausage.   The onion adds a sharpness that helps cut right through the fattiness from both meats and cheese, while the briny olives add a bit of zip to keep the palate refreshed for every bite.  While we were thoroughly please with our pie, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we were kicking ourselves for not going with a small so we could order the highly popular Oyster Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary & Garlic, which was almost taunting us from all over the restaurant.

Looking for a night out for some sensational slices with some super salumi, then make your way to Black Sheep.  The beer is cold, the pizza is hot, and the carbs are needed to bulk up for the upcoming cold winter, so it’s the perfect place to pack on some added warmth.

Pub Grub at it’s Best at R.F. O’Sullivan’s

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There is just something so comforting about a good dark pub for a great bite of food.  There is no pub in my opinion that does it better than R.F. O’Sullivans & Son in Somerville, MA.  Just inside the wood paneled exterior you will find a rotund U shaped bar beckoning you in to grab a stool and order a pint.  Lining the walls in the cozy interior are tables and televisions, the status quo for Boston area pubs, or bars of any sort.  But the overall feel of the snug spot is one of welcoming peace.  A slightly dim lit, slightly noisy at times oasis of food and ale in an other wise hectic world and the food hits on all the right notes.

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The main draw at R.F. O’Sullivan’s is definitely their gargantuan burgers.  With a laundry list of combinations everything they do here is over sized, including their giant potato wedges that the disguise as fries.  A giant half pound of meat is topped with a myriad of cheeses, sauces, and toppings ranging from teriyaki sauce to Cajun seasoning to creamy blue cheese.  By far my favorite combination is the Black & Blue burger which is a juicy patty crusted with cracked black pepper and topped with tangy blue cheese.  Also with the prerequisite lettuce, tomato, and onion the bonus draw to the burger is the option for half fries and half beer battered onion rings.  The juices from the prime meat oozes from your hands as you sink your teeth into the thick puck of perfectly grilled beef.  Make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand.  A pro tip, once you pick up the burger and take a bite, don’t put it down because it will fall apart.

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Being a classic pub they also do one hell of a fish ‘n chips, where they offer two varieties.  Their fresh fried haddock comes battered “London Style” which is the classic beer batter or in a more typically New England cornmeal batter.  The flaky fish is delicate and sumptuous in a blanket of crispy fried perfection. Paired with more giant potato wedges and tangy slaw, it sets you back to either foggy London town or beaches of Cape Cod.

Two challenges do arise when it comes to visiting R.F. O’Sullivans, first how will you be able to select which bodacious burger to order and secondly how will you able to unhinge your jaw to get it into your mouth.  Stop on by, settle in and get ready for a delicious and homely time.