meat

Jim’s Cheesesteaks, Philadelphia

When Dane and I were in Philly at the end of September we (finally!) made it to Jim’s Cheesesteaks. Since Dane is from Philly, I was surprised he hadn’t tried all of the best known cheesesteak places in town. Somehow, Jim’s slipped past him. At least I got the bonus of being there for our first try together.

Jim’s has been around for over 70 years at it’s original South Street location in Center City. Now it’s expanded to four locations in and around Philly. All have the original signature cheesesteaks. While we stayed with Dane’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, they were kind enough to make sure we got the experience. We went to the newest location, in Springfield (actually it’s over 10 years old now, but still it’s the newest of the four locations).

Jim’s has this art deco thing going on (which I read is similar for all their locations). Just a grab your food, sit, and enjoy kind of place. Which is exactly what we did.

The sandwiches were huge. There was a lot to love about it. Everything about it was perfect. I went with provolone on mine, but there was a choice of cheeses. It was a juicy, cheesy mess of goodness.

Adults love it. And kids do too! Best to get them started on a love of cheesesteaks early in life.

It’s such a nice treat to have an actual cheesesteak from Philly. Up in Boston there are a ton of places that claim to have the best steak and cheese subs, but it’s never quite the same as a cheesesteak.  You have to go straight to the source for the real thing.

If you’re visiting Philly, head down to Jim’s! And while you’re at it, you should probably hit up three of four cheesesteak places. For research purposes, you know? Enjoy!

Boston Pie Experiment Recap

A few weekends ago Dane and I competed in our first ever cook-off competition with the Boston Pie Experiment, hosted by the Food Experiments. We had no idea what to expect, but prepared enough food for about 300 samples, picked our team name, and got ready for the big day! Our recipe was Chicken and Beer Pot Pie – a variation on our regular Chicken Pot Pie Recipe that uses half beer and half chicken stock, instead of the full amount of stock. We upped it a notch by also marinating our chicken in beer. Obviously we used Brooklyn Lager, since the event is sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery.

We cooked for about 8 hours straight the day before the event preparing our pie filling and making the pie crust so it would be ready to bake on Sunday morning.

Anyone that knows us can tell you we are a little nerdy (in a good way, at least I like to think so). The Boston leg of the Food Experiments was focused on pie and Dane came up with our team name: Pie 2-D2. And we were actually one of two Star Wars inspired teams.

We went all out with t-shirts, signs, and even brought along our Star Wars picture we had taken two years ago when we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Yes, that’s Dane and I superimposed on Han Solo and Princess Leia.

When we arrived we got our table and started setting up. We had about an hour to heat our pie filling and start making our samples. Everyone got straight to work on heating or setting up their recipes.

Right at 12pm the doors opened and we were flooded with people coming to taste all the different entries. We also started to get called up team by team to present our food to the panel of three judges: Eunice Feller, Chef & Owner, Bread & Chocolate, Paul Schiavone, CEO & Creative Director of BostonChefs.com, and Gerry Tice, Executive Chef at Parker’s Restaurant at the Omni Parker House. I brought three samples on stage and introduced our recipe and had time to answer any questions from the judges. I was nervous about the event, but mostly this part since I had no experience with this sort of thing. Luckily we were about the 4th team to present so I didn’t have to be nervous for very long.  And the judges were lovely, nothing to actually be worried about.

Then for about 2 hours we served our samples. Non-stop. It was awesome to talk to so many people and get such great feedback on our entry. People seemed to enjoy it and we were just happy we got to participate. Our friends Greg and Brittany came out to support us too! They said it was close, but in the end we did end up getting both of their votes. Those two are tough to please (and by tough to please I mean they are our friends and we fed them chicken and beer pot pie – can’t get much better).

At the end of the time, they announced the winners of the Judges Choice and Audience Choice. It was awesome to see these home cooks get some recognition! And the winning team could not have been more excited. They had the best reaction ever. Congrats to Gee One Point Four for their winning Pissaladière!

I was happy to just be in the company of all these fun people who brought their love of cooking out for the afternoon. Yes, I’m taking pictures of the crowd from the stage. Never thought I’d be up on a stage at a cook-off competition.

I hope the Food Experiments bring the tour around again next year. Now with one competition under our belt, who knows? Maybe there will be more in our future.

Thanks to Nick and Theo, founders of the Food Experiments and congratulations to all the competitors and winners!

Redbones, Somerville

Man, I love barbeque. We went out with a group of Dane’s co-workers to Redbones in Somerville for some delicious meaty goodness and were not disappointed.

We started up at the bar while they figured out our seating for 11, which was just fine with us. To be adventurous I decided to spin the Wheel of Beer and have my beverage choice made for me.

I ended up with number 16, the Opa Opa IPA. Thank you Wheel of Beer, for making an excellent choice for me. Never had that brew before but I really enjoyed it and I don’t always love IPAs.

As soon as we were seated it was down to business. An order of fried pickles and jalepenos, stat.

I can’t look at this picture without thinking about how delicious this was and how much I want it right this very second. I don’t love the jalepenos, but Dane takes care of those for me, and they give the pickles a nice kick.

Then on to the meat smorgasbord. I went with my favorite, pulled pork sandwich and beans. Dane went straight for the ribs. The pulled pork is super juicy and slightly smokey, and clearly my love of pickles plays out here too with some on top of my sandwich. Nice saltiness to go with the lightly sweet BBQ sauce. Dane’s ribs basically fell off the bone. They were super tender. Just what you want (or at least what we want) in BBQ ribs.

When a very chatty group of 11 people go basically silent for the duration of a meal once the food comes out, that’s how you know it’s a seriously delicious meal. Except for the occasional invitation to share with others (and there was plenty to share) there wasn’t a peep out of us.

Then there was this beauty, the Combo. Described as “whatever ribs we have on hand at the time” along with a variety of other meats, this platter is definitely not for the faint of heart (or light of stomach). Disclaimer: We did NOT order this, it was one of Dane’s friends from work. I salute  him.

There aren’t really any words to describe this beast, so I’ll just let you soak it in via the picture.

Loved Redbones this time, just as I have all the others. It’s really fun with a group and if you’re open to trying some new things. Portion sizes are big, and I never end up being able to finish my entire meal despite my healthy appetite.

My love of craft beer was nurtured with the Wheel of Beer, and I don’t think I would ever order any other way again now that I’ve done it. Go get yourself a beer and some pulled pork. You’ll love it!

Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, Cambridge

During one of our ridiculous snowstorms here in Boston Dane and I both had a snow day at work (one of the perks of working in higher education). Nothing could get us to leave the house. OK, one thing. Burgers from Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage in Harvard Square. Despite the foot of snow on the ground, I convinced Dane to get on the T with me and head to Cambridge for a taste of these delicious burgers.

Mr. Bartley’s has been in around in some form since 1960. There’s a variety of things on the menu, but it’s really all about the burger. They were featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri on the Food Network recently (which to be honest I didn’t actually know until we saw the signed poster there). It’s easy to see why the Food Network would want to showcase this place. The funky atmosphere and perfected recipe for a burger, along with all the fun names on the menu are definitely different and worth visiting.

My favorite part of eating here is the menu of all the different varieties of burgers. Some are named for politicians (the Menino, the Scott Brown, the Barack Obama), sports figures (the Tom Brady, the Kevin Garnett), pop-culture icons (the Lady Gaga, the Oprah, the Facebook), and everything else you can think of. Each has their own flavor and mix of toppings.

I ended up with the the Democrat (saurkraut, swiss cheese and Russian dressing) and Dane had the Mayor Mumbles Menino (fried egg, bacon and cheese).

And milkshakes because the burgers experience is just rounded out when you have a yummy chocolate milkshake to wash it down with.

If you like a great burger, you have to try this place. It gets mobbed at lunch, especially when it’s nice out (though we found a late lunch around 2pm can work just fine). Branch out with your burger tastes here! It’s the perfect opportunity to try some toppings you might not ordinarily think of, and would never make on your own.

Looking forward to heading back there, but this time minus the foot of snow.

Vee Vee, Jamaica Plain

Somehow after living in JP for almost 4 years, I had never heard of Vee Vee until recently. Thanks goodness Rebecca remedied this. As she swooned and was almost speechless over the sirloin she had had there, we decided it could not wait. We had to go to Vee Vee that night.

It was a Saturday night, and we knew it’d get busy so we made reservations for as soon as it opened. Why wait, right? We opened the place up.

Vee Vee serves modern American food that changes with the season. They have a nice selection of craft beer to go with their appetizers and entrees, as well as wine (but for me the beer selection always comes first). The staff was lovely and knowledgeable and the atmosphere perfectly relaxed, fitting well into the Jamaica Plain community.

We started out with some drinks, and I when I saw Pretty Things was on the menu I had to get it. Pretty Things is currently my favorite local brewery. I have yet to try a beer from Pretty Things that I haven’t fallen in love with. Vee Vee had bottles of Our Finest Regards, and with a name like that I knew I couldn’t go wrong.

Also, this little guy on the label at the top? I love him.

Now on to dinner. Since Becs gave the sirlion such breathtaking reviews, my mind was already made up. We both went for it. Dane mixed it up and went with the pollock.

The sirloin au poivre was served with hollandaise and a fried egg, with a side of blue cheese and bacon mashed potatoes. I had to look up what “au poivre” actually meant after I had it, and it’s a way of cooking a steak by coating it in cracked peppercorns then searing it to create a crust. In other words, just making it awesome. The egg on top of the steak is something I wouldn’t have necessarily imagined that I would have liked, but it was absolutely delicious. Both Becca and I devoured our meals.

Dane’s pollock was panko crusted, which I think is what sold it for him (he loves panko bread crumbs so much that he probably didn’t even read what came with the meal after he saw the word). Along with the pollock there was brussel sprouts, cabbage and a bacon (seriously!) aioli. Needless to say, we didn’t hear a peep out of Dane while he ate, a true sign of a delicious meal.

And although were were very full, we had to have a dessert. Pear gingerbread upside down cake.

Check out Vee Vee’s “Hood of the Week” for discounts depending on where you are coming from to have dinner. Each month another area is featured, and if you are from that town/neighborhood and come in you receive 25% off your bill. An AMAZING deal and great way to bring in new customers from outside of JP.

Bottom line? We loved Vee Vee and will absolutely be visiting again soon. It was a great place to relax with friends on a weekend evening and enjoy some great food and great company.

Vee Vee on Urbanspoon

The Fireplace, Brookline

I had been wanting to try this place for months. Come on, a restaurant called The Fireplace? It sounds so warm and cozy! During Restaurant Week this summer, Dane and I finally got ourselves there for dinner. And my warm cozy thoughts about The Fireplace were definitely confirmed.

The Fireplace is an upscale restaurant that comes with a slightly upscale price point. But during Restaurant Week The Fireplace offered the 3 course deal for $33, along with many other Boston restaurants. There is no way to beat that. A full meal from appetizer to desert for only $33? Yes, please and thank you.

The restaurant itself has a comfortable atmosphere, complete with – you guessed it – a fireplace. Doesn’t it just look warm? I definitely want to get back here for drinks (and maybe some dessert if I’m feeling sassy) with friends.

The Restaurant Week menu had some great choices, and it definitely took us a bit to make our decisions. I really just wanted one of everything. I also made the mistake of looking through the menu, which made me want to order some cheese and a Humble Offering (a special that is offered Sunday-Thursday for a lower price than the average entree), but I refrained by reminding myself that I had 3 courses on the way.

First up for me was the Summer Vegetable Soup and for Dane the Endive Salad. I could not get enough of my soup. It was fresh and perfect.

For my entree, I barely even read past the first option – Grandma Gladys’ Grilled Flank Steak with Boston Baked Beans and Garlicky Broccoli. It’s like this meal was made specifically for me. I absolutely LOVE flank steak (my dad makes it the best which I’m sure is why I love it so much). Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables. I can’t get enough garlic. And Boston Baked Beans? Come on Fireplace, it’s like you read my mind. Dane agreed, and we both ended up ordering the same thing.

After all that, I was thoroughly stuffed. But wait – there’s more! For desert, the Apple Pan Dowdy. Doesn’t get much more cozy than that for a desert.

We both had a great experience at The Fireplace. The service was quick, friendly, and knowledgeable. And I think I’ve already said enough about the food – it was delicious. Check out The Fireplace on Twitter for news (including updates on their changing Humble Offerings). Anyone want to meet me there for drinks?

Fireplace on Urbanspoon

Stuffed Bell Peppers

You may remember my sudden love of Stuffed Bell Peppers after I had one at Bottega di Capri a few weeks ago. I found myself really wanting on for dinner one night, and figured I had enough sense to figure out how to make them myself at home. After playing around with my recipe, I created this one which was delicious (in my humble opinion).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 large green bell peppers
  • 2-3 sausage links (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (I used Minute Rice to make my life easier)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start out by making a sauce that you’ll use for the filling and for cooking the bell peppers. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and diced onion and cook until it starts to become translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper to your liking. Let simmer while you’re prepping for the filling.

Moving on to the filling now, starting with the sausage. Remove the casing from the sausage links, and break it up. I usually just use a knife to cut it up a bit. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and over medium heat. Add the sausage and let it cook. Be sure to keep an eye on it, and break it up into small pieces using a spatula while it’s cooking.

Cook the Minute Rice according to the instructions on the box to make about 2 cups of cooked rice.  Set aside for now.

Once the sausage is cooked, add it to the sauce and stir well. Take about a cup and a half of the sauce and add it to the rice. Add in the grated cheese and stir it all up!

I couldn’t help myself at this point, I had to try some. I could have stopped right here and just eaten this the way it is. But I pressed on.

Cut the top off of two bell peppers and clean out the seeds. Fill both peppers with the rice filling (you may have extra filling depending on how large your peppers are – you might even be able to squeeze a third pepper from it). Add the peppers, standing up, back to the pot of sauce to simmer covered for about 30 minutes. This will cook the peppers through to make them soft.

Serve the peppers with a little more sauce on top and enjoy! I was so happy with this meal and had it for dinner and then lunch again the next day. So good!

Enjoy!

Bottega di Capri, Brookline

On Saturday afternoon Dane and I decided to venture into Brookline and find a place to eat. We passed a few places until one caught our eye: Bottega de Capri. Sounds Italian, and therefore is probably delicious.

We were right. The restaurant was small, smelled heavenly, and was a place to grab a quick bite. There was one big problem though, and that was picking what to order. Bottega di Capri offers freshly made specials that change each day, along with a set menu of sandwiches, paninis, and pasta.

We decided to each get a sandwich for lunch, but couldn’t resist getting a stuffed bell pepper to share too.

Bresaola, if you are wondering, is a dried and salted lean beef which has a dark reddish color. And it is DELISH.

That stuffed pepper was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was beyond description good. The pepper was perfectly cooked and it was stuffed with rice, cheese, sauce, sausage, and I’m sure some other things I couldn’t even identify. I became so obsessed with stuffed peppers after eating it that I developed my own recipe for it (which I’ll post soon).

Bottega di Capri was very reasonably priced and the staff was great. We picked the brain of the gentleman helping us before deciding what we wanted, and he was patient and gave some great information. I only wish we could have eaten more!

I cannot wait to go back here again. In fact, I think I’ll go for lunch tomorrow. Ciao!
Bottega di Capri on Urbanspoon

The Nook & the Jucy Lucy, St. Paul, MN

Before I went to MN to visit Sam and Jason, I heard about the Jucy Lucy. How could a cheeseburger get any better? I wasn’t sure how, but this is the answer. I got really pumped when I saw the Food Wars episode on the Travel Channel with two battling restaurants claiming to have the original Jucy Lucy, Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club. Sam and Jason promised to bring me for a Jucy Lucy first thing after I landed in Minneapolis.

They kept their promise, as good friends do. We headed to their favorite place for a Jucy Lucy (not either of the sites featured on Food Wars) as soon as we picked up my luggage from baggage claim. Having tasted all three, their favorite is The Nook in St. Paul, and I trusted their burger judgment fully and ordered the Juicy Nookie Burger (with pickles, obviously).

No joke, that cheese will burn your face off. It’s best to use all your willpower and hold back a few minute while it cools. Learned that the hard way. I honestly didn’t expect to taste much of any difference from your normal run-of-the-mill cheeseburger, but I was wrong. The cheese in the middles seemed to make everything juicier and the cheese just got into every nook and cranny of the burger.

All I wanted for the rest of the trip was another Jucy Lucy. And now writing about this, I obviously want one. Every place really seems to have it’s own “thing”. NY and Chicago have pizza, Philly has the cheesesteak, and Minneapolis has the Jucy Lucy. If you’re in the area, go to the Nook and get one!

Chicken Wraps with Veggie Salad

This is something my (former) roommate inspired me to do. She used to do something similar, and I just changed it up to meet both Dane and my tastes. Wraps are perfect for a quick dinner after a long day, and if you have leftover veggies, you can use it to top a salad for lunch the next day.

I’m also a pretty renowned wrap roller, so included you can find my tutorial on how to do it so that you don’t lose any of the delicious filling.


Chicken Wraps with Veggie Salad

Ingredients:

  • Wheat Tortillas (or whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1-2 chicken breasts for grilling (this just depends on how it’s cut, if they are huge pieces you might only need one)
  • 3 Plum tomatoes
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 can of Garbanzo beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced in small pieces
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (I used Newman’s Own, but you can really use any kind of dressing you want, or none at all)

Start with the chicken. Season one side of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper (I used chicken breast cut into thin chicken tender pieces) and put them on a grill pan or in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil, making sure the side that has been seasoned is down. Season the other side. Cook time will depend on how thick your pieces of chicken are. These were not too large, so they only took a few minutes per side to be cooked through.

Let the chicken cool and get started on the salad. Dice the cucumbers and tomatoes into small pieces that are bite size. Add to a bowl. Rinse the Garbanzo beans thoroughly and add to the bowl. Add the minced garlic and mix it all up. You can do this before hand to let the garlic flavor seep in, if you want. Add some balsamic vinaigrette dressing and toss together.

Cut up the chicken into small, thin strips for your wraps. Now you are ready to roll your wrap!

Wrap Rolling Tutorial:

This is the integral piece of a great wrap experience. I absolutely hate it when all the topping falls out of your wrap and makes a huge mess. Not saying that won’t happen at all, but this method will definitely help keep your yummy filling where it’s supposed to be: in your wrap, then in your tummy.

Step 1
Add your filling to the center of the tortilla. Fold up one side to make a little “pocket” that will hold everything in. (Optional: Fold opposite sides to make two “pockets”.)

Step 2
Fold over one side, tucking under as you go to keep everything in the wrap.

Step 3
Now roll the wrap up tightly and enjoy!

The next day I used the little bit of veggie salad and chicken we had left over on top of some romaine lettuce to make a salad for lunch. It was a perfect little meal for work. Try it tonight!

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