Category Archives: Restaurants

Maureen’s Kitchen: A Long Island Institution

So I’m one of those annoying morning people and more so now that Future Foodie wakes up at 6:30 AM on the dot every day.  This past Saturday, we were visiting family on Long Island.  It was 7 AM, my sister and I were up with Future Foodie and I decided that it would be just awesome if the whole family got up and went to breakfast at Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown.  So one by one, I woke my grumpy ass, the opposite of morning people up and told them we were having a family breakfast TOGETHER.  There was cajoling, demanding, and straight up yelling but I was absolutely determined we would get to Maureen’s Kitchen together and early.  That place fills up very, very quickly and I hate waiting for food, especially with a toddler.  So we collectively arrived at 8 AM and were promptly seated.

It’s super cute inside, there’s a big cow theme. Seriously, cows EVERYWHERE.  My parents took my sister and I took to Maureen’s kitchen when it was literally this tiny shack around 20 years ago and it’s been there ever since and has morphed into a bigger and nicer restaurant over the years.  The big thing at Maureen’s are specialty pancakes. I wasn’t feeling any of them so I got something I had never seen before, croissant french toast.  I mean yum, right?  Yum they were too!  Lightly dusted with powdered sugar, they were heavenly. They were not overpoweringly sweet, soft but not mushy.  I seriously ate my entire plate of food (sausages included), and a side order of the best corned beef hash I have ever eaten.  I was so happy. 

My mom got some awesome banana walnut pancakes.  They were delicious with walnuts baked right into the fluffy pancakes.  She took half of them home since she couldn’t match my voracious appetite and I finished them off the next morning.  I love leftovers!

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Maine, Part 2

On Monday, J, Future Foodie, and I went to the Side Street Café for lunch. It was very charming inside, with bright colors, and local paintings on the wall.  I ordered a burger with avocado, bacon, and aioli.  Wooheee, was that burger delicious!  It was tender, the bacon was crispy, the meat had flavor to it, the bun was nice and soft.  I devoured it.  J ordered a lobster roll (are you sensing a theme here?).  He thought the roll was divine, kind of what Thurston’s should have been.  It had a perfect blend of mayo, lobster, and spices.  We ordered macaroni and cheese with spinach for Future Foodie.  It was very impressive because the kid’s order was huge, it came out piping hot, and it was delicious.  We were definitely sneaking our bites in as well.

We stayed in for dinner again and J made crab cakes using Faidley’s recipe (a famous crab cake stand in Baltimore).  They also bought steamer clams, which J liked because he found them to be creamy, but our friends disliked them for the same reason.

On Tuesday, we stayed in Portland.  We made a beeline for Duckfat.  Let me just say this, BEST FRIES EVER!!! In Portland of all places! Who knew? I mean I’ve had fries in the birthplace of fries and I go and find the most delicious fries ever in Maine of all places.  They are fried in duck fat (duh) and are so crisp, and come out so hot, and stay hot (how, I’m not sure).  We got garlic aioli and truffle ketchup to dip the delicious sticks into. Yum.  We ended up getting three orders of fries, because we started with a small order of regular fries and we wanted to try the poutine (fries covered in melted cheese curds and gravy).  The poutine was pretty good but I preferred the naked fries.  Then after eating both of those, I decided we needed another order and proceeded to finish that one as well.  Reading that over now, kind of makes us seem like total gluttons.

Lest you think all we eat are fries, we did order the carrot and ginger soup (for Future Foodie who wanted nothing to do with it) and I orderd the tomato fennel soup (creamy and delicious, with just a hint of fennel).  J ordered the ruben Panini made with beef tongue.  He thought it was good, but nothing to write home about because the tongue didn’t have that “tongue” texture which he likes.  We also got a strawberry milkshake, which was so damn good that Shake Shack should be ashamed of itself.

We actually did take out for dinner from the Dogfish café.  We were so tired and we really couln’t envision ourselves sitting down to another semi-stressful meal trying to entertain Future Foodie and eat at the same time.

We shared the Dogfish burger (8 oz, with an onion ring, bacon, tomato, mesclun mix, and bbq sauce). It was another mouthwatering burger.  You had to open your mouth very wide to take a bite but that bite had so much going on with it.  The tasty burger itself, the vegetables, and the crisp bacon and onion rings, and the spicy bbq sauce.  It was a delight. I also ordered a half rack of ribs, which got better the more I ate them.  I wish the meat was more tender, I really don’t like having to rip the meat off, I prefer it to fall off the bone by itself, but the bbq sauce was really tangy and spicy and kind of addictive.  I also enjoyed the cole slaw, it was wonderfully crispy with red and green cabbage and some carrots slices thrown in.


The next morning, we ambled over to Hot Suppa!, a local place devoted to fresh ingredients and local ingredients.

The restaurant itself had a nice, cool, hip vibe to it with a GIANT chalkboard with specials on it.  It was pretty quiet when we got there.  Our server, a young guy, was great, really friendly, welcoming towards Future Foodie, and most importantly, great at being a waiter.  J and I both ordered the corn beef hash as it’s highly lauded (even in national food magazines).  J, very smartly ordered a side of hash browns with it.  Future Foodie got a fruit plate.

The food came out fairly quickly and J immediately declared it THE BEST CORN BEEF HASH EVER. I thought it was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off.  Here’s why I wasn’t so crazy about it and for the same reason, why J loved it.  It’s not a traditional hash, the corn beef is more shredded in bigger chunks, and there’s a very small amount of potatoes.  It was tender and tasty, but didn’t blow my mind. It also bugged me that it wasn’t hash like.  That’s what I like best about corned beef hash, the mushy quality of it.  I just felt like I eating big chunks of corned beef.  But J loved it and raved and raved.  Although I do have to say, his hash browns ROCKED.  They were so crispy and perfect. He mixed them into the corned beef.  So I caved and ordered some too.  The fruit plate for Future Foodie was great: sliced bananas, grapefruit, orange slices, strawberries, and grapes. She was loving it.

I am almost embarrassed to admit to this level of gluttony but J and I just had to have Dogfish burgers again. So we each had our OWN burger. I knew this time to order extra bbq sauce (I love my condiments).  J and I went to town on those burgers and finished the big things in like five minutes.  I’m getting misty eyed thinking about it because I know it’s going to be a while until I have it again.

That pretty much concluded our Maine trip.  As you can see, eating played a huge factor in the trip, as it always does.  We loved Maine. We want to retire in Maine.

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Maine, Part 1

So this past week, the foodie family went to Maine for our first family vacation.  The majority of the time was spent in Bar Harbor, but we did a stop in Rockport first and then headed up to Bar Harbor.  Rockport was so beautiful, with gorgeous views of the ocean and a cool downtown area.  Bar Harbor is beautiful but touristy and filled to the gills with “cruisers” of a certain age.  I don’t think I saw a shop that didn’t sell paraphernalia with “Bar Harbor” or “Maine” plastered all over it.  But the town did have some good restaurants.

We first had lunch at the Lompoc Café.  Friends that we were vacationing with recommended it.  The meal didn’t start off so well, since a clumsy waiter spilled beer, first on J and then all over Future Foodie.  So with Future Foodie smelling like a beer, we got our salad of roasted beets and new potatoes with crisp sage leaves.  The salad was good, it was dressed with a light horseradish dressing and the beets were sweet and tender.

I ordered the Bang Bang sandwich, which was cornmeal encrusted chicken, topped with a red cabbage slaw and aioli.  They used a soft, delicious focaccia bread.  I also put honey and Chalupa hot sauce on the sandwich.  The entire thing was spectacular.  The chicken was crisp and tender, the slaw had a real kick to it due to the slices of jalapeno, and the honey and hot sauce blended really well together.  One of the better sandwiches I have ever had.  J ordered fish cakes which he found to be unimpressive.  They smelled fishy to me.

For dinner, we went to This Way Café.  We had the oddest waitress. She seemed to be moving at a very slow speed under water.  She took forever taking our order.  Which felt extra, extra long, due to us trying to wrangle our cranky toddler at the same time.

I ordered a brie fondue with wild mushrooms.  It was very good, although nothing exceptional.  I think it would have been great over pasta. It was salty, melty, and the mushroom pieces added some nice texture.  J ordered scallops wrapped in duck bacon.  He said the scallops were cooked perfectly, and the duck bacon added a

smoky, subtle flavor.  The duck didn’t overpower the scallop.  Our friends ordered the quail appetizer which looked a little sad to me, the poor little quail didn’t look like it had a chance.  But they really enjoyed the dish.

I actually got the tastiest entrée, a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.  They used fried eggplant as the bottom and top, and then as a filling used goat cheese mashed potatoes.  The entire dish was smothered in a creamy sauce that had corn and a kick to it.  All of the flavors were delicious together, all creamy goodness. The eggplant added some meatiness to the dish.  Everyone else got lobster rolls prepared three ways.  The lobster itself was good however everyone felt that there was too much bread.  I also have to add that I really liked how they prepared Future Foodie’s kids meal (pasta with tomato sauce).  It came out on a kid friendly melamine plate that had different compartments.  They separated the pasta and sauce, added a small corn on the cob, and a carton of apple sauce.  She enjoyed it very much.  All in all, a charming restaurant with pretty good food, albeit a tad pricey.

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A detour back to Denver

Before talking about Maine, I really needed to tell you about Osteria Marco, my hands down favorite restaurant in Denver.  It wins that title because of its casual but very cool atmosphere, its fairly varied menu, and delicious and well priced food.

Osteria Marco is in the very pretty Larimer Square.  We sat outside since we try to avoid enclosed areas when eating out with Future Foodie.

We started with their meat sampler, which was a sampling (duh) of their own house made salamis.  The soppresata was out of this world, J and I were fighting over the last few pieces.  There was also a wild boar salami, which was very good as well.  All of the salamis were sliced paper thin and delicious.

We also ordered a whole grilled artichoke as an appetizer.  I wasn’t sure about it, because to be honest, we have ignored artichokes for a long time in our house.  But this appetizer definitely reminded us of how delicious artichoke can be.  It was grilled, and there was a lemony, garlicky, buttery sauce spooned all over it.   There was a garlic aioli sauce to dip the leaves in, and it served as a perfect compliment to the tender leaves.  J and I devoured the artichoke; another four or ten would have been great.

We ordered the margarita pizza.  When they brought over the pizzas, they also brought over a bottle of chili oil.  I had never seen that before and was all for it.  The pizza was really really good.  Nice and salty, the cheese had a nice flavor to it and the chili oil added a nice kick to the whole thing.

I actually brought some friends back to Osteria Marco a few days later, and they also were big fans of the place.

There are not a lot of restaurants that provide a cool, hip atmosphere with great affordable food, but Osteria Marco does it very, very well.

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Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs

I’m not sure how loudly I have proclaimed my love for hot dogs in the past, and I’m going to keep on proclaiming because I had one of the most delicious hot dogs of my life in Denver.  I was lucky enough to go to Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dog stand on 16th and Champa.  Anthony Bourdain is supposedly a big fan and now, so are J and I.

It’s a food cart, and they sell hot dogs for $5, but the catch is that these are no ordinary hot dogs.  They serve elk, boar, and buffalo hotdogs along with all beef hot dogs. It seemed like a popular place because there was a line of hungry looking but patient people.

J ordered the Elk jalapeno and cheddar dog.  I went crazy and ordered two different dogs, the veal hot dog and the Louisiana Red Hot (all beef dog).  You can get the option of cream cheese and caramelized onions (cooked with Pepsi) on the dogs.  I was not sure about this but I went ahead and did it anyway and am so damn glad I made that decision.

My other favorite part of this food cart was the variety of toppings they offered:  fresh chopped onions, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, sauerkraut, Sriracha, etc.  It was wonderful!

Let me tell you, when I bit into that Louisiana Red Hot, I was amazed by the deliciousness going on in my mouth.  It was spicy, not too salty, popped with flavor.  The cream cheese and onions really added to the entire experience.  My mouth is watering thinking about it right now.  The veal hot dog was really good but not as transcendent as the Red Hot.  J loved his elk, I found it a little dry. I probably could have eaten at least one more Red Hot, but I held back and I was thinking it’s probably not the healthiest thing to down three hot dogs in ten minutes.  Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so reasonable but I am so happy that we got to taste that little slice of hot dog heaven.

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Domo

A good friend of mine lives in Denver; he and his fiance love good food just as much as J and I.  They brought us to Domo, a country-style Japanese restaurant.  It was in an incongruous location, kind of near some train tracks.  But then you step inside, and you’re in a traditional Japanese country setting, with dark wood everywhere.  We sat out in the beautiful garden.

The menu is complex, with lots of different types of dishes. Whatever you order, you also get a series of small side dishes that the whole table shares.  I don’t know what all of them were, but there were meatballs (nice and tender but didn’t seem very Japanese to me), a beef stew type dish, Eggplant with tofu (delicious), spicy chicken (not very spicy), two different types of vegetables, and noodles lightly dressed with soy (bland).  All of the side dishes were pretty good.

We also ordered gyoza (pork and chicken dumplings) and the three of them shared shumai.  The gyoza had a wonderful flavor, and were nice and tender on the inside. I would have preferred them to be more crispy on the outside.  Apparently the shumai were the best shumai they have ever had; very tender shrimp and somehow the wrapping was incorporated in the filling and it was delicious and well-balanced.

J and my friend’s fiance both went with the Wanko Sushi, which was prepared differently than traditional sushi.  No rolls, instead, large pieces of fish or fish mixed with avocado or other ingredients.  Each type of Wanko Sushi is placed over a small bowl of rice.

I tasted the tuna mixed with avocado, and it was delicious.  They had this crispy rice things on top and the textures all worked together.  J said the raw tuna just melted in his mouth.  He loved every bit of it.

I ordered the spicy Udon noodles, with vegetables, an egg, a dollop of curry, and chicken dumplings.  The noodles were delicious, just al dente enough, nice and chewy.  The chicken dumplings were so good, so tasty and tender.

We ordered an egg Tojimono (basically a huge omelet in a soy broth)  dish for Future Foodie.  She was slurping the broth very happily and enjoying the egg mixed with brown rice.  My friend, T, ordered the Salmon curry.  It was a beautiful looking dish and he said it was delicious.

All in all, a completely delicious and different meal.  I would definitely go back.

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Rioja

Rioja was the first restaurant I went to in Denver.  And wow, was it delicious.  My friend, D, recommended it.  She has wonderful taste in food and is also a fantastic chef.  I hopefully will be posting one of her recipes soon.

We started with the Fresh Bacon, which was cardamom spiced Kurobuta pork belly in a Madras curry scented fresh garbanzo bean purée.  We split it and it was melt in your mouth good.  The cardamom really added a nice dimension to the pork and I couldn’t stop dipping my bread (also delicious, and they served different varieties) into the garbanzo puree.

I completely overloaded on the bread by the way. There were these little goat cheese muffins and I couldn’t stop stuffing them in my mouth.

I ordered the grilled bone in rib-eye with crisp “eggplant parmesan” and  arugula salsa verde, heirloom tomatoes, parmesan emulsion with minus 8 ice wine vinegar.  It sounded too interesting to pass up.  I usually veer away from steaks on a menu but…I’m so glad I didn’t because the steak was so so good.  It was tender, and so full of flavor.  The arugula salsa verde added such a light complement to it, I had to finish the entire steak.  The heirloom tomatoes were ripe and delicious especially with the parmesan emulsion.  I think the only thing that did not stick out to me was the eggplant parmesan. It just seemed kind of out of place on the dish but it was nice and crispy.

I also tried halibut for the first time!  I have to admit, I don’t eat seafood.  It’s something with the smell.  I attribute to a highly sensitive sense of smell coupled with going to Chinatown fish markets growing up (very pungent fish aroma).  It’s kind of a mental block now but I’m getting better.

Anyway, I thought the food I had at Rioja was completely interesting, and very delicious. Plus, its location in Larimer Square is perfect.  It was pricey though, my steak was $29 by itself but I felt that it was completely worth it.

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My favorite place on earth (besides my home)

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to spend an entire afternoon and night in NYC.  I LOVE THAT CITY.  Very few cities come close to the amazing, kinetic energy of the city.  I grew up going there, and I just love all of the discoveries I find each time I’m there.  This was kind of girl-centric trip and I had the entire day and night planned.  My friends called me the cruise director for the day and that kind of morphed into a dream career for as Cindy, the “Experience Planner”.

Anyway, on to the food.  I do A LOT of research before going into the city because I do not want to leave that place without having at least a few great meals there.

For lunch, we headed to Despana in Soho.  It’s a Spanish/gourmet market/restaurant.  It’s freaking so good. Next time you’re in the city, get your butt over there.  You will not regret it.  I ordered the Picante Bocadillo (sandwich).  It was their own home made chorizo, with Mahon (cow’s milk) cheese, spicy guindilla peppers, tomato slices, and aioli.  Before I get to the inside of the bocadillo, let me talk about the bread. It was a revelation, really what all bread should aspire to be.  So crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, fresh, and such a delicious bread flavor.  It also wasn’t hard to bite off or chew (a pet peeve of mine for bread).  Now on to the filling, because that was so damn delicious as well.  The chorizo and the peppers really gave a nice spicy kick.  The chorizo was so flavorful and just salty enough.  The tomato really added a nice freshness to the entire sandwich.  I finished the entire thing and enjoyed every minute of it.

I also ordered two tapas: a Tortilla Espanola and a Jamon croquette.  The tortilla was really well done, the egg and potato were perfectly balanced and the onion gave it a nice subtle flavor. Plus the texture was nice and firm.  The croquette was perfectly deep fried and the cheese and Spanish ham inside were nice.  It was a little salty, not the best croquette I’ve had but better than most I’ve had in the US.

Okay, so in between lunch and a late afternoon dessert, I scheduled in a 60 minute reflexology massage at Golden Yan Foot Spa for $35! Yes, you saw that number right!  It was great, very, very Chinese, just like the massage parlors in China.  For the $35, you get a nice 15 minute, shoulder massage and then a wonderful 45 minute foot reflexology massage.  My feet felt like clouds afterwards.

Then we had a our late afternoon dessert at Chikalicious, a tiny little restaurant on East 10th Street completely devoted to innovative desserts.  It’s adorable and Chika, the mastermind behind the desserts, was there herself.  We sat at the bar and were able to watch all of the dessert making in progress.  It’s a $14 prix fixe menu – you get an amuse bouche, a dessert entree, and petits fours.  I also sprang for the $7 wine pairing.  The amuse bouche was creme fraiche with some type of Cherry gelee. It was sweet and delicious; the cherry was firm and fresh tasting.

I ordered the Panna Cotta (forgot what the flavor was) with a peach sorbet and some fancy gelatin cubes.  OMFG.  I discovered Panna Cotta back in January and now order it every time it’s on a menu and have even ordered a baker friend of mine to make it for me.  Yes, I do love it.  Panna Cotta was so smooth and light and creamy.  Then the peach sorbet was really just like eating fresh, pureed peaches; it tasted like summer. The entire dish was so delicious.

My sister ordered the cheese cake “cloud” as she called it. She liked it, but it was more like a cheese cake mousse than a traditional cheese cake. Very rich, and I think it would have been better had it been paired with something with a different texture because it was kind of like eating a big ball of cream.

The other girls all ordered the chocolate tart with a red wine reduction and a peppercorn ice cream.  The votes were mixed on this one, mainly because of the peppercorn ice cream.  All three agreed the tart was extremely tasty. I tried it and the chocolate was so rich and it was lava like.  I like the peppercorn ice cream and thought it added an interesting twist to the dish.  My friend really enjoyed the entire dish. I believe the menu changes every day and it’s so worth a trip because it’s such a city experience.

We hit up a Thai BYOB called Sticky Rice that was so mediocre I don’t want to even talk about it.  It was a fun atmosphere but let’s just say I got rubbery chicken, weird, should not be sweet appetizers, an inedible fake tasting spring roll, and way too peanutty pad thai.  I don’t recommend it.  It was cheap and you can bring your own booze and those are it’s only redeeming qualities.

I also had a fantastic dirty martini at Minetta Tavern (a supposedly amazing restaurant for steak and burgers, which I couldn’t afford).  The martini was so well balanced; all the flavors blended so well together and it was so smooth to drink.  The olives were so good, meaty, and smooth tasting as well. My friend ordered the best Cosmo I’ve ever tasted! The juices were fresh and it was delicious.

So I got totally spoiled in NYC.  I highly recommend doing that every once in a while. It really soothes the soul.

I’m out in Denver for the next two weeks so I will soon be reporting on some of the already great food I’ve had out here…

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My love affair…

My love affair with Chipotle began about 6 years ago when J had an internship with a company out in San Diego.  I visited him quite a few times and and was introduced to Chipotle there.  I marveled at the fresh taste of all the food; the light, crisp taco shells.  The flavorful meats.  But I was sad too because I knew that we had nothing even close to Chipotle in the Capital Region.  J and I even wanted to start a franchise out here, we were that into it.  So over the past 6 years, until Chipotle arrived in Wilton, I tried to eat it whenever I was near one, in D.C., NYC, anywhere I could my hands on it. And then Hallelujah! Chipotle finally came to Wilton and I am proud to say as of tonight, that I have eaten at every Chipotle in the Capital Region.

Our friends invited us to the soft opening of the new Chipotle in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany.  Of course, we headed right down there after work, Future Foodie in tow.

The decor is a bit more funky than other Chipotle I’ve been in and it was really cool.  The restaurant was getting busier and busier and there must have been at least 6 people behind the counter, smiling, and ready to take my order.

I got carnitas tacos (hard shell) for myself, with pinto beans, mild and hot salsa, cheese, and lettuce.  We got Future Foodie, the kid’s small cheese quesadilla with the cilantro rice and pinto beans. J got the biggest burrito I have ever laid eyes on and it was filled with carnitas, pinto beans, rice, mild and hot salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole.

Everything was really good, like really tasty.  The tacos were really crisp and fresh and the meat was perfectly flavored. I always like to squeeze some fresh lime or lemon juice in to give it an extra tang. What I really like about their tacos or burritos is that all of the ingredients really hold their own, it doesn’t just taste like one big mushy mess like a lot of subpar Mexican food does.  The lettuce stays crisp, the tomatoes are firm, and the meat is tender.  Future Foodie gobbled her cheese quesadilla down. As always, by the time I was on to my second taco (you get three), J was already done with his 2,000 calorie burrito.

I just had to take a momentary pause because a freaky looking bug landed right next to me and J valiantly squooshed it after I screamed a few times.

I’ll always, always pick Chipotle over Moe’s (which is a teeny step above Taco Bell in my opinion).  I love Chipotle use of natural, free range meat and locally sourced food.  Okay, I’m done gushing with adoration.

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A scathing review…

Check out this review of Peddlers Bar and Bistro in Clifton Park in the Timesunion.

She is rough on them and I love it! Reviews like that are not the norm.  Cheryl is definitely refreshing.  She is right on as well, since I have only heard negative reviews of the food at Peddlers.  I have not eaten there but if it’s anything like J.J. Maxie’s on Wolf Road, then the food is definitely sub par.

Yay – a real food critic!

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