Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bobby's Burger Palace

So last night I was absolutely desperate for a burger, but I just didn't feel like hitting any of the regular spots. (Not to mention, by the time we were ready to eat it was 9pm and most of those places were closed!)

I remembered seeing some fuss about a new burger restaurant in the Burlington Mall, so I convinced Greg to come with me to check it out.

Bobby's Burger Palace at the Burlington Mall is one in a chain of 18 burger shops found in malls, university campuses, and casinos around the country. Its namesake is Bobby Flay, the food network star who... okay to be honest I don't watch the Food network so I'll just assume he's famous for burgers and shakes.

BBP is a mixed counter/table service restaurant, similar to Wahlburgers. You order at the counter, then find your own seat and wait for a server to bring your food to you. Tipping is always an awkward situation at these kinds of places, but I'd say the level of service here was definitely on the "do tip" side of the scale. Various servers checked in with us throughout the meal to make sure we knew what the different sauces on the table were for, to bring us an extra straw for our shake, and to make sure we had everything we needed.

Greg ordered the burger of the month, the "Mulberry Street," which came with fresh mozzarella, basil ketchup, parmesan cheese, and arugula. I ordered the "Miami," a pressed sandwich with a turkey patty, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. We also shared an order of fries (split between sweet and regular potato) and a black & white milkshake.

We were both satisfied with our burgers, with Greg liking his a little more than I did mine. For just under $8 each, the burgers were fairly loaded with toppings. Even though fries aren't included in the price, you can get chips added to any burger for free (though as a topping, not a side). The fries were under $5, and I think they stole the show. One order was big enough to share but I could see myself skipping the burger and just eating an order of these. The shake was also surprisingly good, like Shake Shack's but smoother and creamier with fresh whipped cream on top. I'd compare the flavor to Swiss Miss hot chocolate, but in a good way.

 For a mall restaurant, BBP impressed us both. The prices were decent (I generally figure $10 for a burger and fries is fair) and the service was very friendly. We ended up going pretty late at night, after the mall had closed, so it had kind of a ghost town feel, but I can imagine it's hopping during the day. There was a weird spill around the drink machine that the staff seemed to ignore. I think that was my only real negative on the place.

Overall, no one would call this the best burger place in the city (cough, R.F. O'Sullivan's, cough), but for mall food it's pretty good. It's filling a need for a mid-priced restaurant at the Burlington Mall where everything seems to be either food court disaster or Legal Seafood expensive. I'll say it's worth stopping in if you're hungry after a day of shopping, but probably not a place to drive out just to try.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Amsterdam Falafel Shop

Do you ever get sick of pizza, burritos and burgers?

Me neither, but I still love the falafel sandwiches at Amsterdam Falafel Shop. Why? Hot, crunchy, freshly made falafel squished in the middle of a whole wheat pita, with all the toppings you can shovel in from the toppings bar. I especially love the garlicky roasted eggplant and the garlicky parsley torrator (yes, I love garlic!). 

Next time you're in Davis, check out Amsterdam Falafel Shop. In a city full of cheap eats, it's one of the very best.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cupcake Charlie's

A few weeks ago I visited Patriot Place in Foxboro to meet up with a friend from Rhode Island. While I was there I noticed a cupcake shop I'd never seen before. Naturally I had to check it out.

Cupcake Charlie's has four locations around New England, in Foxboro, Plymouth, Mashpee and Newport. When I walked into the Foxboro location I was immediately greeted with the sweet smell of cookies just coming out of the oven. The case was fully stocked with a range of inviting choices that made it hard for me to choose just a few.

Cupcake Charlie's cupcakes have a good balance of cake to frosting. One of the cupcakes we especially enjoyed was the lemon drop, which had both regular frosting and fondant, as well as a little lemon jelly in the middle.

I liked Cupcake Charlie's a lot and will definitely visit again when I'm next in the area. I still think Sweet has the best cupcakes, but I would put Cupcake Charlie's on par with any other bakery in the Boston area.

To find out more about Cupcake Charlie's, visit

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Taco Truck

It's summer and Gourmanding is back! I started grad school this year which has kept us both too busy to blog, but not too busy to eat, so rest assured we've got plenty of restaurants to write about.

First up is The Taco Truck, a new counter service restaurant in "The Garage" in Harvard Square.

We gourmands are usually burrito people, but who doesn't love a good taco?  In the summer I especially love tacos served simply -- a little meat with some freshly chopped cilantro, onions and lime over a soft corn tortilla.

I ordered three delicious carnitas tacos. I asked for them without "green salsa" which turned out to include avocado, but fwiw it looked like good avocado if you're into that sort of thing. 

Greg ordered the salad with carnitas. He said it was full of tortilla shells and very filling. "Good pork."

For dessert, we shared an order of fried plantains, minus the crema.

I was really happy with this meal. They're not reinventing the wheel, but it's surprisingly hard to find a good taco place. Sometimes it seems like there are a million restaurants in Harvard Square, but I can honestly say this one fills a need that no other does.

My only slight disparagement is that our order didn't come out right the first time, so if you get takeout, be sure to take a look in the bag before you head home. The staff were very accommodating once the mistake was found though, so don't let it stop you from going there.

Overall, the gourmands agree with The Taco Truck's signage. Let's all eat more tacos!

For more info on The Taco Truck visit

Friday, September 20, 2013

New Favorite Brunch Spot - The Neighborhood

Ok, first of all, credit where credit's due, friend of the blog Alicia's been telling me about this place for a long time and I sort of just "yeah, whatever"ed the recommendation. The reason being that most brunch places are pretty much the same. I mean this one's got really good toast, and that one does almond joy pancakes, but the overall experience of going out to brunch is pretty much the same no matter where you choose. 

Except I was SO WRONG not to insist on going to The Neighborhood the first time Alicia brought it up. This place has reinvented brunch.

First of all, you don't sit in a tiny cramped little hole in the wall dining room (at least not in the summer), you sit at a picnic bench under a grape arbor in the fresh air outdoors. What? It's amazing.

Second, you don't have to choose sweet or savory for your brunch. The combinations on their menu let you get a mix of all the stuff you actually want. And don't worry, you'll get more than enough of it.  This two pictures are the food that was included in my $10 breakfast -- plus juice, coffee, toast, and fruit. (pictured are pumpkin pancakes, corned beef hash, potatoes and fried eggs)

If I haven't already convinced you that you need to eat here, I don't know what to tell you. I guess your absence at least makes the line shorter for the rest of us.

The Neighborhood restaurant is at 25 Bow Street in Union Square, Somerville.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Whole Foods in Arlington Center

A new supermarket is big news in a small town, and this year in Arlington we've gotten two new ones. Last year, when Jonnie's Foodmaster closed all locations, it left an open space on the Alewife Brook Parkway that's since been filled by Stop & Shop.  But we were also left with a hole in the prime space on Mass Ave right in Arlington Center. Today, a brand new Whole Foods just opened there.

I think we were all a little surprised to see a new Whole Foods store coming in when there are two Whole Foods locations less than 2 miles away. But one thing that's nice about Whole Foods is that they carry different selections of products in different areas. So, we might have access to some items at this store that we can't get in the other two. I stopped in today to get a look at the new store and see what I'll be shopping for there in the future.

On first entering the store, I saw the small produce section and the fish counter. I was surprised to see as much space dedicated to fish as fruit and vegetables, but I guess it makes sense for them to feature a good selection of seafood since the Stop & Shop up the street doesn't. Whereas Stop & Shop has a good selection of local produce, which I don't think Whole Foods is very good at.

After a quick walk through the aisles (there were only about 4, it's a small store!), I found myself at the Fromagerie. Ok, that was an exciting moment for me. Trying all the delicious cheese samples is my favorite part of visiting Whole Foods. In addition to cheese, the Fromagerie counter offered fresh sliced charcuterie and pasta cut to order. I couldn't resist getting a little whole wheat pasta and some spicy salami.

This Whole Foods also offers a good selection of pre-made foods. I could definitely see us stopping here to pick up a healthy dinner to go instead of ordering restaurant take-out. 

Overall, I was impressed with the selection at this new supermarket in my neighborhood. On the way to the registers I stopped by the bakery and even found a few item I'd never seen before in a Whole Foods -- cronuts and macarons.  This is a supermarket that understands me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Birch (Providence)

Dear Eaters,

We are pleased to have friend of the blog Anthony with us to share his recent visit to a new spot in Providence.  Anthony is always up on what's happening in Providence, and we're always looking for an excuse to have another great meal down there, so we're lucky he's here to dish out the latest!

Guest Post by Anthony Penta

Providence is the most beautiful city in New England.  Go stand on the corner of Benefit and Planet -- the kaleidoscopic center of a whirlwind made of brightly painted colonial homes and brick Victorian buildings -- and tell me I’m wrong.

After World War II, Providence couldn’t afford to tear down all of that frilly, fussy Victorian architecture, so the residents covered it up with stucco, paved over the river, and put up chain link fences.  Then in the 1980s the restoration boom began.  The chain link fences came down, the river was brought back, and homeowners realized there were some valuable antique properties underneath all that mummifying plaster.

Most of those properties are plaque houses now.  Take a stroll down Arnold Street and you will feel transported back in time.  All that’s missing is the clop of horse hooves on pavement.  College Hill, a huge cluster of Victorian houses and university buildings owned by Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, is like one big wedding cake looking down on the city.

Lately another sea-change has quietly transformed the city.  A few years ago, boutique restaurants began sprouting up in obscure corners.  Chez Pascal on Hope Street.  La Laiterie at Farmstead in Wayland Square.  The foodie boom crept into Providence slowly, like a low-lying fog.  Now every neighborhood seems to have its own designer kitchen.

Traditionally, the nice restaurants in Providence, the special date restaurants, are places like Al Forno, Mill’s Tavern, Pot Au Feu, and Capriccio.  Those restaurants are still heavyweight champions.  Bastions of old-world finery, they proudly display huge rooms full of white linen and exposed brick.  They fit the antique atmosphere of Providence.  I still like to go to the Capital Grille, with its openly confrontational raw beef display behind glass.  I still crave the occasional giant wedge of iceberg lettuce drizzled with ranch dressing and bacon bits.  Who doesn’t?

But the new boutique kitchens have put those old restaurants in a new perspective.  Birch, North, and Flan Y Ajo are small, exciting, and most importantly, casual.  Casual in a Dwell Magazine kind of way. They’ve ditched the white linen for a new, artfully crafted look, and of course the designer aesthetic extends, perhaps originates with, the food.  The list of ingredients on menus in these restaurants reads like witchcraft.  Yarrow, Bronze Fennel, Rosehips.  No giant salad wedges or ribeye steaks here.

Birch, one of the newest boutique restaurants in Providence, is in the old Tini location, across from the Trinity Repertory Company on Washington Street.  Tini was just that -- super small.  One bar like a thrust stage and fifteen seats around it.  Birch has revamped the interior and now serves designer food instead of designer cocktails.

Benjamin and Heidi Sukle are the founders.  Benjamin went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales and spent time in the kitchens of The Dorrance and La Laiterie at Farmstead.  The small Birch menu is presented in four courses.  You can opt to go your own way a la carte, or pick one item from all four for $46.  I decided to pick and choose.

I chose just the Heirloom Salad, the Point Judith Catch of the Day (which was skate) and a glass of red wine -- the “Angeline” pinot from Sonoma. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Angeline had all of the plummy, spicy, dark fruit characteristics I expected from a pinot.  Like many wines on the Birch list, I was not familiar with the producer, so I read through the list again and made a mental note to stop by another day to sample a few more.

While I was waiting, one of the kitchen staff brought out a sample of lightly fried plantain in dill sauce, topped with a crisp of salty, charred spinach.  It was a grenade of unusual, complimentary flavors, and was a glimpse of things to come.

I’ll just say outright, to avoid an excess of fawning, adjective-laden description, that the heirloom lettuce salad with crème fraîche and shaved vegetables, topped by cured egg yolk shavings, is perhaps the best salad, certainly the most interesting salad, I have ever eaten.

That’s right, those are flowers on my fork.  Flowers blooming on my fork.  The salad was an explosive combination of shaved vegetables, herbs, and tiny flowers.  Beguiling vegetable flavors chased themselves across my palate, and I struggled to identify them.  Fennel, romaine and mesclun greens, dill, carrot.  The whole assortment was topped by a salty, creamy snow of shaved, cured egg yolk.  I asked the woman behind the counter to elaborate.  Apparently the chef cures a raw egg yolk in salt and sugar, then when it is hard, grates it like cheese.  Extraordinary.  With shame I thought of the giant wedge of iceberg lettuce I once adored at the Capital Grille, drizzled with ranch dressing and bacon bits.  How could I ever go back there?      

I will admit I have never eaten skate.  I was not sure what to expect.  It’s a stingray-like fish, and for this preparation a wing was very lightly pan seared and served with charred summer cabbage, sweet corn, tomatillo and miso.  In truth, it looked a bit like a special effect from a science fiction film, but it tasted lovely, and was as pliant and flaky as any perfectly cooked cod I have ever eaten.  I’m surprised not to have seen skate on more menus.  The whole dish was light bodied and tasted fresh, which is an achievement for seafood.    

So ended my brief visit to Birch.  It was WaterFire night, where at sundown the city burns wood in metal bowls along the river and music plays in the open air.  I had a friend to meet.  I would gladly have stayed at Birch for another course or glass of wine, but there were more little menus to visit that night.  I think I like the new Providence even more than the old Providence.