One of the fairly substantial culinary changes I’ve seen over the last 20 years or so is that Vietnamese cuisine has changed from a fairly niche ethnic cuisine limited to areas with high Southeast Asian populations, to a relatively common cuisine that is enjoyed by quite a large number of Americans of all ethnicities: it’s pretty common now for people to know about phở, that wonderful Vietnamese noodle soup, as well as several other Vietnamese dishes, like the bánh mì sandwich. And heck, even Vietnamese-inspired condiments like nước mắm and Sriracha sauce (I know, it’s at least as much Thai as Vietnamese in origin…) are now fairly common: we even have a bottle of Sriracha in the fridge here at work in New Hampshire. But it’s still somewhat of an urban cuisine, so I don’t get to enjoy a good bowl of phở unless I’m traveling. But one of my recent trips to DC let me visit an old favorite: Pho 75 in Arlington, between the Courthouse and Rossyln Metro stations.
A quick check of my review list will show that the DC area is one of my frequent work travel destinations. For a large number of these trips, I end up staying in Crystal City. If I’m avoiding various special events, the rooms are cheap, the area has good Metro access, it’s a short walk (really) from Reagan National Airport, and if one wants to ride on a Capital Bikeshare rental bike, it’s right on the Mount Vernon Bike Trail (and I can get almost anywhere in DC or Arlington in 40 minutes by bike on a nice day). But it also has its weirdness: Crystal City was built as a super-block of integrated office, residential, and retail space, kind of like a self-contained city. And unfortunately, the food choices of Crystal City itself aren’t terribly great unless you are looking for high-end dining catering to the business dinner (like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Legal Seafoods), and a rather large fraction of it is chain restaurants. But there’s one thing that the savvy diner can do if found in Crystal City: look West. Just one block West of Crystal City, on the other side of the Jefferson Davis Highway, lies 23rd Street, which has a surprisingly vibrant collection of restaurants, including a diner, a sports bar, two Ethiopian places, and, finally, my destination: Kabob Palace.
In the 13+ years we’ve lived in Northern New England, there have been quite a few changes to the food and drink world in the area. On the food front, Vermont has had a substantial improvement in the dining scene, with additions such as The Farm House (which was a McDonalds when we moved here), Worthy Burger, Kismet, and Tuckerbox being notable new additions over the last decade (and the first of these are also great examples of the substantial improvement in Vermont’s beer scene as well). And a few places that unfortunately are no longer with us, such as Five Spice Bistro in Burlington. But a recent trip through the Green Mountains led us to Waitsfield, where we happened across one of our old favorites that’s still with us, mostly unchanged, since one of our first visits to Vermont in 2001: American Flatbread Waitsfield Hearth.
While I occasionally make a few exceptions to this rule, I generally don’t review cocktail bars that are just cocktail bars. And indeed, that’s the case with Drink. Located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, downstairs from Sportello (which I reviewed in 2012, and is owned by the same folks), Drink is primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have a limited bar menu. And while that bar menu has a few gems, that’s not why I’m reviewing them; instead, it’s one particularly off-the-menu item that drew my attention.
Several years ago, we bought a Mini Cooper from Mini of Peabody in Peabody, MA, and as a result, had several trips down to the area (until recently, they were the nearest Mini dealer). And along the way, we discovered quite a few gems down that way, including Kelly’s Roast Beef in Saugus, Billy’s Famous Roast Beef in Wakefield, and Richardsons Dairy in Middleton. But one of our greatest finds was a small place on Route 1 with a giant 7′ sausage on their sign, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen. Inside Karl’s was a European wonderland of both excellent sausages and European groceries, and they became a regular stop of mine (indeed, they became my primary suppliers of Curry Ketchup and Feuerzangenbowle zuckerhuts). But I never wrote them up here, since they didn’t serve food onsite. Until a magical event happened in 2012: the packed up and moved from their old shop in Saugus up to a brand new location just off Route 1 in Peabody, MA. And, more importantly, now included a cafe with German food and beer. So when I was in the area for work, I had to make it a point to check them out.
I recently found myself doing a lot of testing for work down in the Northwest Boston suburbs. Driving down there from NH generally, well, sucks, unless you can time things to avoid rush hour (which is actually the better part of three hours long). This means that I have to time things to arrive either before approximately 7am, or after 10am. For those times that I need to be someplace at 8am or 9am, that usually means getting down there early, and finding someplace interesting to get breakfast. In this case, the place was Vic’s Waffle House in Tewksbury, MA.
As I’ve mentioned a few times on here, I generally prefer not to review a place if the reason I went there was a special event. However, some places (like the Cabane a Sucre a few months ago) are special event only, and in other cases (like the The Corner House Inn), the nature of the special event isn’t directly food related, and I’ve got a reasonable expectation of being able to have a similar menu item on a regular visit. In the case of PINE, we went there for a special Friends of Laphroaig Scotch Dinner, and ended being very impressed with the food as well.
I had one firm recommendation for a meal in Grand Junction from my friend Ariane (whose wedding I was attending): that I go get breakfast at Las Marias, and in particular try their tamale. Apparently, the place has been a favorite of her and her brother for quite some time, so we decided to check it out. Like a lot of smaller cities, Grand Junction has a downtown that’s been through an initial heyday, a contraction as people move out to the suburbs and transitioned their shopping from local stores to large box stores and shopping malls, and finally some redevelopment. Grand Junction has done a good amount of development, and seems to be really pushing to make downtown an eating and entertainment destination, and they’ve also installed quite a bit of artwork. At the East end of Old Town Grand Junction is the latest location of Maria’s, across the street from the old (and currently being renovated) Avalon Theater.
The whole purpose of our trip to Colorado was going to a wedding of two of our friends. However, they aren’t exactly traditionalists, so one of the activities planned for their informal wedding was a hike up nearby Mount Garfield. Well, it’s a short hike (~2 miles), but it’s also a steep one (~2000 feet), with most of the elevation gain in the first third of the trail. I enjoyed both the hike and the view from the top, but by the time we got back to Grand Junction to get ready for the wedding, I needed a bit of a snack. Cruising through the west side of Grand Junction, we happened across two places: a Sonic (I don’t really care for their food, but I love their cherry limeade), and in a little parking area right next door, Loncheria Rubi, a taco truck.
Last month had us visiting Grand Junction, Colorado for a friend’s wedding. Aside from (many) trips through the Denver airport, and two trips to Golden, CO for work, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Colorado, despite many childhood trips there, so I was rather enjoying the chance to fly into Denver, drive through the Rockies via Loveland Pass and Glenwood Canyon, and check out some of the scenery in Western Colorado. It was a lightning fast trip, but after arriving in Denver extremely late on a Thursday and crashing in a hotel.
The next morning, the first order of business was, of course, finding breakfast. Seeing that we had pretty much the entire Denver metropolitan area between us and our destination, I figured I’d try for one of the better places in the area, Snooze.