Lean Cuisine is one of those companies that tries really, really hard to think outside of the box. It talks a big game, like guests on the Maury show with scripted roles of out-of-control teens and pregnant babymamas with fears of pickles. The packaging promises flavors that are relatively exciting and outrageous, but behind the box, they’re kind of scripted and a little boring.Take this barbecue chicken quesadilla, for example. It proclaims, like most absent fathers, to be bold and exciting and free, and full of flavors that will FUCKING BLOW YOUR MIND, like barbecued chicken and roasted corn and peppers and cheese, but like the penises of said dads, proves itself to be limp and uninteresting. The ingredients were haphazardly combined, and the meal was unsubstantial. However, one of the best elements of the entire meal was the roasted corn, which had a slight char in the small pieces I dissected and gave a smoked flavor to the sandwich.The bread was lame. There wasn’t enough meat in the quesadilla. This lack of substance recalled Maury episodes where the highlight fifteen seconds of the paternity tests are played over and over as a teaser before commercial breaks. They also use this technique on To Catch A Predator. The chicken was hyped up, and there was barely any at all. It was really more of a barbecued vegetable quesadilla, and if it was just that, I would have been satisfied, but this promised about as much as a daytime soap- bland and with a cast of characters that I would have rather put out of my mind. I won’t be turning to this again as a source of entertainment.
Swagger and I went out to dinner a little while ago and decided that pho was the way to go. This is a small eatery on the outskirts of New Haven, next door to our favorite Asian grocery. Swagger decided to go for the authentic pho while I chose an appetizer.
The menu selection is small, but modern, focusing mainly on their specialty, the pho, and the service is efficient and friendly. The restaurant itself is very modern, with little digital photo screens at every table showing scenes of generic Asia. Swagger and I counted no less than fifteen as blatant Google Image Search cop-outs.
I went to order two different appetizers, only to be informed that they were all out. Since the restaurant was not booming that evening and since the appetizer was comprised mainly of sliced baguettes, vegetables, and pork, I was taken aback. This happened twice, until I went with an appetizer only described as “pork and green onion cupcakes with creme fraiche.” Color me intrigued. A legitimate cupcake? I was excited.To drink, I ordered a jelly tea- a bubble tea with little cubes of jelly to suck up the straw instead of tapioca. It was very sweet and colorful, but I noticed that some of the jelly cubes had a vinegary aftertaste along with a firm and fruity texture. I was not pleased with that, and it sort of dissuaded me from sucking up the cubes, drinking the liquid instead, a plain green tea. Swagger went with some strange preserved citrus fruit in his drink, which was rather interesting and very tangy.The cupcakes came, topped with peanuts and peanut sauce, and the pork and creme fraiche. However, these were no cupcakes, resembling limp, moo shu pancakes in aebleskiver pans. I did like the presentation of the pancake things, though, with the lid on top of the pan to reveal the entree underneath. I guess I’m just easily impressed.What really bothered me was the texture of these, despite it being a very original and different dish. The pork was very tender and slightly chewy, and the flavors mingled well, but the whole appeal of an aebleskiver is the crisp outer shell yielding to the inner fillings. This was mushy and soft, and gave a very feeble shell to hold onto while eating. A lot of the liquid fell out and didn’t have anything to soak into. The flavors were fantastic, but I just couldn’t see myself ordering this again with the blase texture and soupiness of the dish. Of course, anything can be fixed with sriracha. It took the slightly one-noted flavors of the peanut and creme, which, though delicious, were bland and provided no body to the strength of the pork and yielded to its roasted flavor, and brought it to a mingled, spicy level. If only it made them crispier! If only!The star of the show, as I’d figured, was Swagger’s pho. It has in the biggest, deepest bowl we’d ever seen, and even had a chopstick rest cut out of the rim. He’s a big guy, and he could barely finish it. There were large pieces of tender beef and meatball, and the broth came with a side of fresh bean sprouts so that one could add them liberally without worrying about them getting mushy. The broth was flavorful, with a nice salty and sweet balance. Lots of anise in the taste. And it was just plentiful, hearty, and delicious. I wish I’d stolen more from him. Next time, I’ll definitely trust the restaurant’s specialty.My only criticism of the broth was the lack of noodles. It definitely advertised a bounty of starch to go along with all the veggies and meat, and I think with that lack of starch, it was a little thin. There were some noodles, but none that I was able to detect. Again, sriracha fixes everything and made my bites a little thicker.The dessert list was downright paltry. They had a “gelato” and sorbet variety, but when asked if any were house made, I was met with a confused face and a negative reply. Bummer. We still ordered three flavors: lychee, red bean, and green tea.The red bean and green tea flavors were both gelato, but they didn’t have the rich creaminess of gelato. They were still delicious, though, with very strong tastes. Red bean was a little musty and less sweet than I’d thought, but had enough creaminess to supplement the flavor. The green tea had a brilliant color and a really intense, but not bitter taste, but seemed as though it had a little freezer burn because I kept getting a lot of ice crystals and hard bits in the ice cream that were definitely not fillings.
The lychee was also very tasty and melted well. It had a wonderful and authentic flavor, but I really wasn’t as impressed by the ice cream as I was by the pho itself. And here’s my pho mantra for you, readers: If you go, stick to pho. If you stay, sandwiches are two doors away. Seriously. Clark’s Deli, do it. A Foodette classic.
Look, we’re all on budgets, that I know. College students, families, everyone. We’re all making small cuts for the better. I can no longer afford to buy hardcore German nun porn anymore or subscribe to Cigar Aficionado. Everyone is affected.
Luckily, you can get off your ass and stop buying family sized boxes of chicken rings, because I have a recipe for you, adapted from Food Wishes, that costs less than fifty cents a serving and looks like you’ve hired a freaking chef.
This, my friends, is gnocchi.It’s manly enough to be put in any kind of sauce and garnished without making you look metrosexual or a purveyor of the occasional dress and delicate enough to serve to even the most finicky of guests. Served with a cream and primavera sauce, it’s absolutely filling, delicious, and fluffy.
Ingredients (serves 2)
One large potato
3/4 cups of flour
Salt to taste
1. Seriously. That’s it. Start by boiling your potato or nuking it in the microwave if you don’t feel like microwaving. After it’s hot and completely cooked on the inside, let it cool and peel it. Throw the chunks in a bowl.
2. While that’s happening, go ahead and get a ricer, strainer or a grater, something ricer-like if you don’t already have a ricer to use, and take your egg and flour out.
3. Rice the potato by mashing it against the strainer with a fork until all the chunks and clumps are gone and it’s now in little granules. This is really, really important for the formation of the gnocchi.
4. Take your riced potato and mix it in with the egg, and then gradually add your flour until it becomes pliable and dough like, but not too floury and crumbly.
5. Take it out of the bowl and roll it into a large log. Cut that log into four pieces, and start making clay snakes out of those. Cut each log into little pieces with a knife, and boil until they float. Once they’re all floating, leave them in for fourteen seconds and then take them out. Serve with any sauce you like and watch as your guests rant and rave over this delicious dinner.
Couple of nights ago, Fleeper, Erik, and I went to Local Burger in Northampton. For a few days, I’d been craving a good burger in the worst way, so we decided to pop that cherry and get us some gourmet fast food. That’s really what Local is, anyhow. I was under the impression that it was quasi fancy, but when I got there I threw off my rental jacket because it was refreshingly casual and hip. And they were playing my childhood on the damned radio, I swear. It was like they’d popped in the “Foodette lives the 90’s” mix CD- Gin Blossoms, LFO, and Daft Punk. All stuff I used to hear all the time and left in the vaults. So, thanks.
So even though I’m back to watching Daria and Doug and living in the past, this burger is blatantly fresh in my mind. I ordered the Juicy Lucy, a burger stuffed with American cheese and grilled with maple mayonnaise. With that, we got a large order of fries, too, for sharing.The fries came out first, actually, and those were lovely to snack on while eating. I would have liked them all together, though. They were very fresh and very crispy, and soft on the inside. I liked the seasoning that they used a lot, because I don’t think it was just salt. I tasted garlic on it, too, and that was a different and tasty touch. However, the amount was average sized and was definitely not enough for three people, especially at $3.50 apiece and when most of the fries are under an inch long. Five Guys has twice the fries for that price and they’re much bigger. Still, a hand cut fry is a hand cut fry, and that’s delicious.The burgers came out a little while later, while we were still working on the fries. My burger was a beast. Being accustomed to chicken, I think I underestimated how large ten ounces really is, especially on your plate. And I now have a little more admiration for those people who finish a 60 oz. steak in an hour. The burger was nicely charred, but a little tough and dry to chew through and wasn’t seasoned enough. It was very juicy and the cheese oozed out beautifully and kept it nice and moist. I might have preferred a cheese with a higher melting point, because although I liked the goo, I would have enjoyed it more in my mouth and less on my plate. It was still very tasty and fun to eat, though. The mayonnaise was delicious and imparted more of a maple flavor than mayo, but gave the burger a nice moistness that both flavored and lubricated.Overall, I would definitely come back and try this restaurant again. They had some really interesting sandwiches on the menu and they played amazing music. Their other dishes look interesting and innovative- Captain Crunch chicken tenders? I’m there!
On a trip with some friends, I ended up eating at Wagamama in Boston, and checking out their modern and funky flair. I only ordered some cheesecake, but the lovely humans around me were more than inclined to share their dishes, too! The restaurant had a bright, bustling family style atmosphere of eating, with benches on long tables, and during that time, I got really close to the people I was with.
First on the menu was the ebi chilli mein, ordered by the wonderful Lily and eaten, for a good part, by me! It’s a shrimp and noodle based dish with lots of veggies and a red chili and tomato sauce on top. The vegetables were roasted and charred to perfection, and the noodles were both tender and firm, perfectly covered in sauce. There was a good deal of vegetables and a wide range within the dish, but I mainly got peppers, which had a good char, but not as much of a crunch as I’d have liked.Because of the stir fry method of cooking, every single piece of food got dunked in this fantastic chili sauce, which was savory and bright red. Although the sauce had tomatoes in it, I found it slightly egregious that they billed it as a chili sauce when the predominant flavor was tomato, but the sauce had a light kick and a different consistency than your run of the mill marinara.
Of course, there’s always a protein in these dishes, and in this case, it was shrimp. Having never been a fan of shrimp because of some bad seafood at a hibachi restaurant some six years back, I’ve always stayed away from the little crustaceans, but in this dish, it was hard to resist. In my portion alone, roughly 1/3 of the plate, I had at least five big, beautiful, curled shrimp, perfectly pink and bursting with juices. With the noodles and the sauce that they’d soaked up, they had the consistency and moistness of a good cooked chicken breast, with that shrimpy texture, slightly corrugated, and a nice burst, they were a perfect addition to the noodle and vegetable medley, even better than chicken.While I was eating all of that goodness, my cheesecake came. It wasn’t just any cheesecake, though. It was a ginger cheesecake on a biscuit base, with white chocolate sauce on top. It was a pretty hefty slice for $3.95, and immediately, I could smell the fresh ginger coming up from the cake. The cheesecake was very moist and creamy, but the texture was different. Within the creamy part, there were little strands, almost like eating an orange, with a similar palatable tang and mouthfeel. That was the ginger, and it juxtaposed the cream cheese base with a spicy POW of heat and that wonderful ginger flavor. I like that this wasn’t just a regular cheesecake made with ginger extract or powder, because with the strands of silky ginger, it just went that extra step to making it perfect and firmer than your average cheesecake.
The white chocolate, though thinly drizzled, added a big flavor to the cheesecake as a whole, too. I thought imparted a slightly sweeter flavor to the cake and, like powdered sugar, made it slightly sugary and gave a nice little texture differentiation to it, too. I think that the only part of the cake that I wasn’t gushing over was the biscuit crust. While it was definitely an original crust, reminding me of arrowroot biscuits, it was thin and mushy underneath, unable to handle the liquids from the cake, and wasn’t crunchy or exciting at all.Now although that was the dessert section of the meal, a few friends and I had ordered the Japanese flatbread as a side and it arrived late, so it was free! So, technically speaking, we had that for dessert. What I thought would be a pillowy, naan resembling bread with toppings on top, hence flatbread, was actually more of a Japanese quesadilla. It was stuffed to the gills with toppings, with monterey jack cheese, chicken, scallions, and sweet corn. The cheese, which is supposed to be sharp, was bland, though gooey, and was more flavorful with the chicken added to it. That was moist and covered in soy sauce, with nice little chunks for easy eating. I was expecting a lot more sweet corn in the bread, as that was what really drew me to it, along with the dipping sauce, but the amount was scattered and sparse, but still sweet when I bit into it. No scallion flavor to be found, rather, they were used as more of a garnish than a flavor additive.
The dipping sauce was strange. What was supposedly chili sauce was more of a paprika tasting, mayonnaise/salad dressing conglomerate with a strange aftertaste that I wasn’t able to quite place. I wasn’t a big fan of that and favored the plain flatbread over the bread with the sauce. A shame because generally sauces at restaurants are tasty, but this one was off. All in all, I’d love to try more of Wagamama’s offerings, and thought that dinner with friends was fantastic and fun. I look forward to more of it in the summertime.