Friday, December 28, 2012

Philadelphia, PA - Cafe L'Aube; On hopes of finding the little unique cafe that makes their own delicious almond croissants, I can't go wrong with a French name as Cafe L'Aube.  I arrived as their first customer that morning and ordered their Almond Croissant and Le Midi.

Since I arrived before they opened, I had the opportunity to look into their pastry case.  Their croissant was inside, waiting for the next customer.  Question: how long was it waiting though? I'm not sure when it was made, but it definitely wasn't made that morning or the night before. It had been sitting there for a little while, maybe a day or so. It didn't look fresh or taste fresh. It didn't have that buttery, flaky, crispy topping. It just had the soft outer shell to match the soft inside. Even more disappointing was that it didn't have any almond paste inside. Their version of an almond croissant, was toasted almonds on top.  This could have easily been the croissant in 7-Eleven on your way to work.

The Le midi, which is a crepe prepared with pears, maple syrup, and blueberry spread, was nice and sweet and crepe cooked well. It just too small. With any crepe, I'm expected one that can fill the length of a plate. This made it to a disappointing three quarters across. Even with it folded on top of itself several times, it was still barely an eighth inch tall. The flavor was good though and I would be willing to try one of their savory ones if I had the opportunity.

FYI...I wanted to get one of the waffles from the pictures, but they stopped making waffles. :(

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Philadelphia, PA - Metropolitan Bakery; A true test for a bakery I'm looking for is their Almond Croissant. If its only almonds on top, you can forget about it. If they make it with the almond paste inside, it's one you want to eat nice and slowly to enjoy every bite. Their croissant passes the test. It has nicely toasted almonds on top, but inside has nicely balanced almond paste in almost every bite. It's one you may find yourself going out of your way to pick up.

If I hadn't had enough carbs yet, I tried their Millet Muffin. I never heard of millet before here, so why not try it. It was slightly on the dry side, not extremely dry though. The millet was interesting? It gave a similar texture as nuts to the muffin. However, it didn't have any flavor like nuts typically added to muffins. I would get it again if it were available. It had enough interesting flavor and texture.

To add a bit of protein to all these carbs, I moved onto their Yogurt Parfait. It was a delicious vanilla yogurt with berries on the bottom and topped with their homemade granola. The granola is spiced well and not too sweet. It hit the spot.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Philadelphia, PA - Morimoto; When I learned of Chef Morimoto's restaurant and they offer chef tasting, it was on my to try list. They offer three different tasting menus depending upon how much you want to spend. The difference is the type of seafood and meat. More uncommon and exotic choices are on the expensive choices.

Each dish had unique qualities, whether it be the complexity of the sauces or tiny additions to elevate the texture. Nine times out of time, it will be delicious and have flavors you probably haven't had before. My only complaint would be the cost. I think it was over priced for what I received.

I left enjoying the meal, but disappointed with the price and how fulfilled I was with the quantity of food.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Philadelphia, PA - George's Sandwich Shop; Being in the city and recently watched Bizarre Foods Philadelphia episode, I had to track this place down. It's in the heart of the Italian Market, so you get to experience both the market and their sandwiches. You can either go inside where there are maybe four tables at e counter to eat or order through their walk-up window. I recommend the window since you get to see all options for ingredients. FYI, the pork, beef, and tripe options, you can mix your sandwiches. If you want to try the different cuts, you can order a sandwich with two or three meats. However, you can't mix the sandwich with the Philly cheese.

When I came to Philadelphia I had one agenda item, to make sure I try a real Philly Cheesesteak. Why not try it at the place Andrew Zimmern recommends. I asked to have it prepared the traditional way, which comes with sautéed onions with the steak. I like how the cheese lines the bottom of the bun, giving a minimal protection from the juices. You don't want a full barrier since you want it to soak in a little, giving the bun that extra delicious flavor. This is truly the real deal. The steak is prepared well and cut thin to allow the flavor to come through. It was worth the trouble getting here

I now ventured to the exotic cuts to try what brought Bizarre Foods out. To get a sampler, I chose the pork, beef, and tripe all on one sandwich. The first flaw is not having the cheese line the bread for a barrier for the juice. The juices although add flavor to the bun, it also transforms it into a soggy mess if you don't eat it in 5-10 minutes. Its not an option to "take it home" to eat it later.

All three meats were cooked well. Its easy to over cook the beef and pork consequently drying it out. Not in this case. Both were still juicy and not crispy. If the tripe had been under cooked, it would have been too rubbery, but it wasn't. It too had the correct texture. All three meats couldn't compare to the steak. They all lacked in flavoring. The only one that looked marinated was the tripe in a tomato base, but none of the flavors came through.

I didn't particularly care for the cooks attitude who also took my order. I mentioned that I was from out of town and this was my first real Philly steak. He wasn't any help or made me feel welcome.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Detroit, MI - Mac Shack; Can you really change mac-n-cheese to really offer different and unique dishes? By looking at their menu, it sounds like they can pull it off even though the base of the ingredient is just mac-n-cheese. Well, they execute it and execute it well.

So far, I've tried their Dune Climber that includes artichokes, Garlic Parmesan Fries, Poutine Fries, I-80, Bacon Made Me Do It, and Kon San Road

So much to talk about each one, so I separated it into two categories: I'll Take Seconds and No Thanks, I'll Pass

I'll Take Seconds - Parmesean Garlic Fries: I would definitely order another round. They are nicely fried and crispy, but its the garlic that sets it apart. The minced garlic was plentiful and you could taste it throughout the whole order. Dune climber: the two elements that elevates the flavor are the artichokes and capers. The contrast of the acidity from the artichokes and the saltiness from the capers are an excellent balance. Kohn San Road: It has peanuts, bean sprouts, green onions, lime, cilantro, and sriracha. It's an excellent blend of texture, acid, and heat. I can order this one two, three, or as many times as I'm there. It's also lighter than the other dishes, giving it an advantage.

No Thanks, I'll Pass - Poutine Fries: although they are good, I wouldn't be ordering another. The gravy and the egg blend together well, giving it a smooth rich sauce. However, it's just too heavy. Even with sharing the fries, we didn't finish them. Bacon Made Me Do It: having apple smoked bacon, fresh tomatoes, and green onions. Bacon on anything is good and although this was good, I don't thing it's as complex as they hoped. The bacon gives texture and saltiness, but the flavor is still a basic one note. It didn't seem as good as the Kohn San Road. I-80 has beef brisket gravy, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, fried egg. This is just a little over the top. The egg, mushrooms, and onions if left to only those ingredients would have been nice, but the gravy puts it over the top. It's too heavy with the gravy, egg and cheese. Not sure why they kept adding components, they should have stopped while they were ahead. I have to emphasize, it isn't bad or has a bad flavor, it's just too much.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alexandria, VA -  La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe; What's wrong with having a French bakery right outside the hotel? Wanting to visit it each morning and devour every pastry in the showcase.

I wish I could comment on all of them but I have to stick with the parfait and crepe romanoff.

One absolutely shocking piece of information, yet unfortunately valuable was the caloric count signs next to the pastries. WHY?! But thank you. It was extremely helpful to learn the pastries that I really wanted and how I shouldn't be getting them.

The parfait was very large and well balanced with sweetness and crunch. The berries are a nice fresh touch to the yogurt. The house made granola topping has the right amount of portion to mix well with the whole parfait.

The crepe romanoff is a sweet crêpe topped with fresh strawberries with brandy sour cream sauce and cinnamon. It's a nice light crepe, thin and not really filling at all if you were to eat it by itself. Get some other protein with it and you'll be all set.
Detroit, MI - Iridescence; Iridescence sets the expectation for top-of-line-food with perfect execution, correct pairing of foods, sexy and playful presentation in an elegant atmosphere. We had a unique opportunity to have a private chef tasting thanks to the yelp staff,  executive chef, and staff at iridescence.

The chefs came out and did an excellent presentation on the evenings activities with their upcoming fall menu. We started the evening on an unconventional food with two sorbets. Vanilla Bean Strawberries and Creme Fraiche were sweet and designed to cleanse the palate. A nice textural surprise were the chopped pistachios at the base of the sorbet, give addition counter balance of texture and sweetness.

Next dish was Yellow Fin Tuna Carpaccio with chili vinegar, mango coulis, rice crisp, and mango lime foam. The tuna was so smooth, cut perfectly thin to bring out all the flavor. There is a nice balance between heat from the chili oil and the acid from the lime foam.

The sandwich dual off. DY Spindini with buffalo mozzarella and lemon butter against the Croque Madam with gruyere and quail egg. The spindini was nice, light, and smooth. The fresh herbs on top gave it the fresh earthy flavor. The capers was a nice addition to add the saltiness. Even though it was good, the Croque wins the challenge. Its the delicious and refined comfort food that I was hoping to get out of the sandwich. When you break the egg, it's yolk glazes the sandwich nicely and with the salty, nutty gruyere cheese, it adds the necessary balance.

Potato and Mushroom Ravioli was next with bay scallop, enoki, lobster creme plated with their Croquille Saint Jaques. Oh, that ravioli haunts me to this day. I can't find another place to reproduce it. It was magnificently delicious with it topped with the light lobster sauce. The bay scallops also with the lobster sauce causes you to say mmmmm as well. Now, combining the two, what a disappointment. Why did they combined them? I sliced the bay scallop and placed it on top of the ravioli and together, they individually lost their flavor and didn't create some new unique taste.

Now for their playful attempt for the Tribute to the Cheeseburger with sweet potato, tomato nage, romaine, sauce mornay. It is a fully deconstructed cheese burger. It of course doesn't resemble any cheese burger you'll find and if you taste the individual parts, you would come to the same conclusion. Now the genius of the concept, if you place each component on your fork together, you got yourself a full flavored cheese burger. Each element was executed thoughtfully and carefully. Each one was perfect, but the two at really stood out was the tomato nage and the mornay sauce. Those two were very delicate and individually, you would probably say to yourself, really, what is that. Then you had it to the "cheese burger", oh man, you have a perfect "ketchup" and "cheese". This was simply a wow.

The staff did an amazing job to make the night perfect and the chefs did an excellent job in presentation to the group and on the plate.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Marquette, MI - Thai House Restaurant; After driving around the UP, it was wonderful to be in Marquette and to see restaurant choices. For that matter, it was nice to see people again. It was an oasis in the UP from basic little diners or frequent Subways. To find a real ethnic restaurant was a sight for sore eyes.

The salad roll was deliciously fresh with the right ratio of herbs, veggies, and tofu. The plum sauce varies from place to place and was happy to find that this one was tangy with a little unexpected heat to make you look forward to the next bite.

The Basil Squid in Thai Chili was pretty good. The squid was cooked well, soft and tender. I'm glad it wasn't over cooked transforming them into rubber bands. It was served in the typical brown Thai sauce that is always very tasty.

Something different from other paces is their spicy tray they provide. It had the typical chili paste to make it nice and spicy. It also had jalapenos, which I'm not exactly sure what you would put them on, dried chili paste, and soy sauce.
Mackinaw City, MI - Pancake Chef Restaurant; With a name as this, these are going to be the best pancakes in the continental 50 states. Ok, how about just MI? Nope, I would guess not even in Mackinac City.

When was the last time pumpkin pancakes were on a menu? Recent? Infrequent? Rare for me, my first time. Well, they were an enomous let down. I was expecting hot cakes that were rich in pumpkin flavor. Could be furthest from the truth, unfortunately. They almost taste just like regular pancakes without any special seasoning, such as pumpkin. Now I'm weary to try any of their food.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Detroit, MI - Hygrade Deli; Holding up to tradition, Hygrade delivers an egg salad sandwich that meets the expectation of what a deli sandwich should look like and taste.

It's served on two pieces of rye, a hefty serving of egg salad, enough to fill you up in two sittings if you wish, and fresh crunchy iceberg lettuce. What I do like about their egg salad is that it wasn't too over powering of one flavor or another. It blends well together into a nice creamy serving. However, the sandwich just lacks that extra pizazz to give it a fourth star. It does have creaminess along with the crunch of the lettuce and the bread, but no hidden flavors or anything for you to say, hmmm, what is that delicious flavor that I can't put my finger on.

At the end of the day, it's good, standard fare, but doesn't leave that lasting impression forcing you to drive down to the city for it specifically. I should also mention that it is locally owned and operated, part of the D's revitalization.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Mackinac Island, MI - Yankee Rebel Tavern; We already knew its a tourist trap, being so close to the main street and it being on Mackinaw Island, but still should attempt to make the best food possible.  If Yankee Rebel were to be rated on one dish, it would have received two stars, but it was able to tweak out another barely.

The Summer Walnut Salad has the greens, blue cheese, sliced pears, dried Michigan cherries, and spiced walnuts with an oil based dressing. All the elements were fresh and delicious until you combined the dressing. In fact, I'm so happy to ordered it on the side and I ended up eating the whole dish completely without dressing. It really didn't need it with the crunch, sweetness from the pear, cherries, and spiced walnuts with the tartness from the cheese. The dressing just taste of oil, that's it. Stay away from it or order another one.

Yankee would haves received two stars if I would have stopped there. Since I moved onto the Pot Roast Sandwich, they redeemed themselves with another star. It has nicely grilled bread with very tender and juicy beef. It has a layer of Dijon mustard to give it that extra tang and kick.