Beer 9/17/22

Zero Gravity Oktoberfest Märzen lager

The name notwithstanding, September is actually the time of year for Oktoberfest beers, so last weekend we toddled over to the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont. I had several gift cards leftover from Christmas, so my beer purchase was completely free to me! Craft Beer Cellar has been my preferred place to buy beer since I first got started drinking craft beers about 10 years ago. They have franchises in a bunch of places now, wbut we have always gone to the original location in Belmont, which they call the “Mothership”. The two women who own the business are the most devoted beer people I’ve ever met, the store has a wide and interesting selection, and their staff is knowledgable and helpful without being beer snobs.

I don’t think we had been there since they opened their beer hall, called Trinktisch. The whole operation is in a space that was very briefly a small supermarket, so they made one whole part of the store into the beer hall. There are 6-8 picnic tables for seating, plus a bar, and an additional space upstairs that is more like a dining room with restaurant tables. We grabbed a picnic table and ordered.

In addition to the beer, I also had the currywurst, which came with a bit too much curry ketchup all over the sausage and some excellent potato wedges. Not realizing the sausage came with the wedges, I also ordered a half-order of warm German potato salad. Bridget got a hot dog with sweet Bavarian mustard and sauerkraut, and she also ordered the potato salad. As you might guess, one half-order of the potato salad would have been plenty for both of us, even without the wedges. German potato salad is vinegar-based, and the acitidy cuts through the richness of the potatoes very well. We ended up combining the leftover potato salad orders into one take-home container. I wish that the curry ketchup had come on the side, instead of served right on the sausage, because it was hard to get a bite without too much ketchup, but I enjoyed it.

Lunch 8/25/22

Crab fried rice

On the days I go into the office, I order takeout. I work in Lowell, which has a substantial Asian immigrant population, so there are a ton of Asian places to choose from. One that my officemates and I order from occasionally is a place called Wee Thai Food. I usually order the Drunken Noodle, which they make very spicy, but I wasn’t in the mood for spicy, so I tried their crab fried rice instead. Good choice on my part. It was quite satisfying, as a good rice dish should be, but not heavy or greasy like your standard takeout pork fried rice. A few big bits of crab meat on top, and smaller bits throughout gave it an excellent seafood flavor. In all honesty, a lot of the Asian takeouts are not all that great, but Wee Thai really excels.

Lunch 8/7/22

Steamed clams

The heat wave here over the last week or so has kept me and my wife hiding in our air-conditioned apartment, but by Sunday we were suffering from some serious cabin fever, so we braved the “feels-like-100” degree temps and went out to get some lunch so we could say we left the house.

Our goal was to find a restaurant where we could sit inside and continue to keep cool in the AC, but we chose The Lobster Shanty downtown for some reason, and almost all their seating is outside. At least we got the host to seat us under the canopy instead of directly in the sun. Two demerits to us, but one point back for the canopy.

They had steamed clams as a daily special, so I got them as a starter. Steamed clams seems almost as bad as sitting outdoors in the heat, but eating them isn’t partiicularly hot and steamy.

If you are from a part of the world where steamed clams are not a thing, these are soft-shelled clams that are dug up on tidal mud flats (“clam flats”) all over New England. The clams live in the mud and stick up a little siphon that they use to filter their food out of the water. The clams are simply steamed and served with drawn butter. You remove the clam from the shell, pull off the outer layer of the siphon, rinse the clam in water or broth, dip it in the butter, and eat the clam. They are one of the most unappetizing-looking foods you can imagine, but the combination of the melted butter and the fresh taste of the sea is yummy.

My wife, the notoriously fussy eater, usually recoils from the very idea of steamed clams, so I was a bit stunned when she decided to try a couple of her own volition, and even more surprised when she said she enjoyed them. Granted, she did gag trying to swallow a couple, but her overall impression was quite favorable. Like a lot of other somewhat unusual-looking foods, I think it takes a little getting used to. I would not have eaten a steamed clam for the world when I was a kid, but I enjoy them a lot now.

The clams went down well with an ice cold IPA and were followed up with a so-so lobster roll that suffered from the use of celery, lemon aioli in place of plain mayo, and a $30 price tag. Afterward, we retreated back to our private icebox and spent the remainder of the afternoon recovering from the heat.

Lunch 7/29/22

Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich

Here’s my first homegrown tomato of the season living its best life as a BLT. Last year, I somehow screwed up and bought two cherry tomato plants, so I never got a homegrown tomato big enough to make a proiper BLT. This year’s plants produce an average size fruit perfectly suited for the task. This particular tomato was hiding in the middle of one of the plants and I would not have even noticed it if I hadn’t gone looking. There were two others also inside, but some critter got to enjoy partially eating those. There are still probably half a dozen waiting to ripen and one or two I will be able to pick this week.

Lunch 7/17/22

Lobster roll, onion rings

I love lobster rolls and usually have them several times during the summer, but somehow I have gotten all the way to mid-July before having the first one of the season. We met our daughter in York Beach, Maine yesterday for the afternoon, and began the visit with lunch at Fox’s Lobster House at Nubble Light. My family has been going to York Beach since my grandfather was a little boy over a hundred years ago, and I have been to York Beach and Fox’s almost every summer of my life.

A few years ago, the price of lobster practically collapsed, and around here you could buy live lobsters for as little as $2.99/lb., but the prices have not only rebounded, they have gone up a lot this summer. The warmer water temperatures are driving the lobsters further out to sea, which means the lobster boats have to travel farther to catch fewer lobsters, using more gas, which is expensive, and so on. At one local restaurant here in Salem, a lobster roll will set you back $40.00. So I felt like I was getting a bargain when the lobster roll at Fox’s was “only” $27.95. I hope nobody tells them they could be charging forty bucks, because they absolutely would if they thought they could.

The one thing you can say is that they serve you a no-bullshit lobster roll, as you can see from the photo. All claw meat, and plenty of it, a scant amount of mayo, and one little bit of lettuce. That’s exactly how a lobster roll should be. Which is not to say that other styles of lobster roll don’t have their place, but if you want a lobster roll the way they’ve been made in Maine for over a hundred years, this is the Real Thing.

And, yes, I have been to Red’s in Wiscasset, but it’s a long way to go from here. Plus, I remember when you could just walk up to Red’s and get a lobster roll without having to wait in a two hour line. Red’s probably wins for the sheer amoubt of lobster they put in their roll, but they’re not the only place in Maine where you can get something just as good.

Lunch 6/7/22

Roast beef sandwich

The roast beef sandwich is a true Massachusetts culinary experience. The meat is sliced very thin and piled extremely high. Toppings run the gamut, but the quintessential version is the “3-Way” with barbecue sauce (generally a fairly spicy one), horseradish sauce or horseradish mayo, and American cheese. There are some variations on that depending on where you get your sandwich, but just as you can walk into any Dunkin’ Donuts in Massachusetts and ask for a “regular” coffee and get one with milk and 3 sugars, you can walk into any Massachusetts roast beef place and order a 3-Way and get something very much like this one.

This style of roast beef sandwich originated at Kelly’s on Revere Beach in the 1950s. They are now a chain with 4 locations around the North Shore, including the original one still right on the beach. They spawned a ton of imitators, some of which became institutions of their own, such as Bill And Bob’s. These days, it’s fairly common to find most pizza/sub shops also serving roast beef. and the sandwich has spread beyond the North Shore. I bought this one from a sub shop near my office, in Lowell. This is actually their medium-sized version (called a Large Beef), and the Super Beef is simply enormous.

D.C. Photos 4/16-4/23/22

A few more photos from our DC trip a couple of weeks ago.

We ended up having dinner in the hotel bar a couple of times, and the food was actually pretty good. The crispy pork belly bao were great, as a matter of fact. The charcuterie board was nothing amazing, but it was our last night in DC, we were tired, and everything was tasty if unremarkable.

That same day, we also had lunch at Mikko, a little Scandinavian cafe that was a short walk from the hotel. From that website, I was sort of expecting a fancy European restuarant, but it was a small walk-in with a couple of tables inside and on the sidewalk. We sat outdoors, since it was a very nice day. I had the Skagen, an open-faced shrimp salad sandwich. We also shared a bowl of the mushroom soup. The soup thoroughly exceeded my expectations. It was a thick puree rather than a creamy or brothy soup, full of deep mushroom flavor and almost nothing else.

We had a hard time finding food tours in DC. I don’t know if the pandemic killed hem off, or if it’s just not a thing there. There were only a couple we could find online: one that took people through the U Street neighborhood and focused on the Black ethnic cuisines there (Ethiopian and Jamaican, mainly), and one in Georgetown. We opted for the Georgetown tour, though I am sure we would have enjoyed either. We met up at District Doughnut and then very briskly walked through the gorgeous neighborhood, stopping at several spots that were involved in JFK’s time there pre-presidency. We enjoyed an excellent falafel from Falafel Inc., had the meatloaf special at the famous Martin’s Tavern, and a creme brulee at a newer restaurant whose name I now forget. Overall, the tour did not live up to some of our previous food tour experiences, but it was nice to walk around the neighborhood and sample some local favorites.

Somehow, when I posted the photos from Albi last week, I managed to forget to include the dessert tray, so I have added it here. Tiny little bites of wonder to finish off such a memorable meal. The baklava was especially good.

Lunch 4/9/22

Chicago-style hot dog

Not a great photo by any means, but on Saturday we had lunch at The Scotty Dog in Beverly for the first time this year, and it needed to be commemorated. The Scotty Dog makes a legit Chicago-style hot dog – they use Vienna Beef hot dogs, sport peppers, and even that weird green relish. There’s a hot dog place in Salem that purports to make a Chicago dog, but they put cole slaw on it, and that is just WRONG.