On our last trip to New York City, we stayed in the most wonderful NoMad Hotel just north of Madison Square Park, and on the edge of Koreatown. We planned to have an outing to Koreatown to try out one of the better Korean Fried Chicken places, but had a major wrench thrown into our plans when most of the neighborhood found itself without power. However, one place I called, Mui, said that aside from deep-fried items they could still prepare food, so we headed off to check them out.
Sometimes, I’m drawn into a place due to a recommendation, or a good online review. Sometimes, it’s as simple as walking down the street and seeing a line outside a place. And sometimes, the product itself is calling to you. In this case, we had just finished a rather pleasant visit to the Whitney (in it’s new location at the south end of the High Line, making it a new gem in the meatpacking district). Afterward, we were walking down Gansevoort, and found that amongst the hip nightclubs and galleries that seem to be the staple of the modern MePa (groan, at some point all the TriBeCa/SoHo like names will be taken…), is the Gansevoort indoor market, filled with all sorts of little food stalls (including, interesting, a stand selling autentico horchata de chufa, proper Valencian-style horchatas made with tigernuts). But it was walking by the stand of Cappone’s that my eye was drawn to two things: (a) a picture-perfect slab of rare, herb-crusted roast beef, and (b) the clerk at Cappone’s carving it to make a sandwich. At that moment, a proper, rare roast beef sandwich was what exactly what I was craving, so we decided to lunch there.
Like always, a trip down to the NYC area almost always involves a pit-stop in either southern VT or western MA for breakfast. Luckily, both Brattleboro, VT and Greenfield, MA have quite a good selection of places. In Greenfield, one places has been calling our attention for a while; The Brass Buckle. Located on Main Street just west of the main corner of downtown (Rte 10 and Main), the place itself is quite simple: it’s a quiet little breakfast coffee shop. But since it consistently gets good online reviews, and often has a line out the door when we come by, on this visit, we got there early enough to avoid a rush (and being a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowd).
A recent trip to Burlington had us searching out some pizza for a craving. This isn’t particularly challenging in Burlington, which has rather a lot of decent pizza places with good beer lists, including American Flatbread, Ken’s Pizza, Leonardo’s Pizza, and Manhattan Pizza and Pub. Yes, the fine people of Burlington do indeed like their pizza and beer. But our trip had us staying a night in the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn, and the back entrance dropped us out right in front of Pizzeria Verita. We’d known of it for a while, but it had never percolated to the top of our list. Why? Two reasons. First, it’s next to the truly wonderful Trattoria Delia, which has been known to suck us in off the street in hopes of scoring a table without a reservation (we’ve generally been successful at that). The second? The location, 156 St Paul Street, is one of Burlington’s “cursed restaurant” spots. Over the years I’ve been going to Burlington, it’s been a string of different restaurants (in my tenure, it’s ranged from Irish to Hipster heaven to Sports Bar), some good, most mediocre, none of them lingering long. So, to be honest, I was waiting to see if Pizzeria Verita lasted a while before going, and on this trip, seeing it across the street reminded me that they’ve been around since 2012, thus probably breaking the curse.
In general, I really enjoy that each part of the country has food specialties that they excel in, it gives me something to look forward to when I travel, like a good proper posole in New Mexico, or a proper Cuban sandwich in Miami. But it also leaves me with the occasional hard to satisfy craving. Like when I want a good, quality biscuit. Nominally, this shouldn’t be too hard, considering that within a 50 mile radius of me are about a dozen places that have biscuits on the menu… But I’ve learned that, like the phrase “New England Barbecue”, “biscuit” is a term to be treated with a certain amount of skepticism in these parts. I could get a nice, flaky, buttery biscuit with a bit of crumble… but I’m much more likely to get some sort of stale, leaden lump of dry dough that’s only vaguely suitable as a substrate for a biscuits and gravy. In short, most New England biscuits, well, suck. It baffles me a bit, since biscuits aren’t that hard to do… when I lived in the South, the vast majority of kitchens were able to put out a decent biscuit, without any products labeled with “Bisquik” or having any sort of canned dough being involved. But it’s something that most New England kitchens haven’t mastered, enough so that I’ve joked many a time about opening “Rich’s Remedial Biscuit School” and inviting local chefs. I was in that frame of mind when I was checking out reviews for some new places in Montpeliers, and I had noticed several good reviews for Philamena’s, a new Italian place that opened this year on Montpelier’s west side. Most importantly, more than one review mentioned great biscuits. Hopeful, but still skeptical, we decided to check them out for breakfast.
We actually rather enjoy going to Northampton, MA. Located in the west of Massachusetts in the Pioneer Valley, it’s a rather pleasant college town, with a really nice rail trail (the primary reason for our visit), several nice art galleries, a nice downtown, and even an outpost of Dobra Tea. But after a day of biking around, we were looking for a nice, substantial dinner, and that’s when we found Hungry Ghost.
I’ve always enjoyed the little town of Hartland, VT. It’s a nice quiet little town, just off of I-91 and down the road from Windsor. It’s a bit funny, since it really has three village areas: Three Corners (where Route 5 and Route 12 intersect, and basically the main part of town), Four Corners (to the west, where Route 12 and Brownsville Road intersect), and North Hartland (a quiet little village nestled in between I-91 and the Connecticut River, and home of the North Hartland Dam, a rather nice little recreational area). As small Vermont towns go, Hartland is nice in that it’s actually got enough basic amenities: a gas station, two convenience stores, a library, several churches (including the host of the Famous Roast Beef Supper) and the like. And a diner, the Hartland Diner.
I’m doing an unusual one, I’m skipping the queue a bit since there’s a bit of a timeliness issue with this review (I’ll be returning to my Réunion reviews shortly). Last weekend, we managed to score a screamingly-good deal on hotel tickets to the NoMad Hotel in Manhattan through Jetsetter.com, so we decided to make a three-day weekend of checking out various eateries, museums (in particular, the new Whitney Museum and the Tenement Museum), and other sites that had been on our to-do lists for a while, while enjoying a nice hotel (and it’s associated cocktail bar, which we also rather like). Interestingly, however, in the two weeks leading up to our visit, several different sources all pointed me to an interesting new place opening to a bit of buzz in Astoria: Burnside Biscuits. These ranged from a NY Times article, something got posted to my twitter feed, and two NY-area contacts mentioned it to me on Facebook, and the various online reviews were very positive. So we decided to check it out. What I hadn’t realized is that Burnside Biscuits hadn’t even had their grand opening yet. I was a bit surprised how quiet Burnside was for a dinner on Friday, and our server said, “Oh, that’s because we are still doing our soft open.” Well, whatever various social media work they’ve been doing is working, since I certainly got the word, and I’m not that high up on the New York City food blog food chain. And it got us a nice little, quieter-than-normal intro to a place.
Each Spring and Summer, there are a lot of area events that I’m interested in going to, like restaurant weeks (as I write this, Vermont Restaurant Week is in full swing, and unfortunately I had to miss it due to travel). But one of the ones that’s been on my radar for the last few years is the Manchester NH “Hippo De Mayo Taco Challenge”. This year, it’s coming up quick: May 7th, from 4 to 9 pm. Basically, Hippo De Mayo is a Cinco De Mayo celebration held around the Manchester, NH area, where several area restaurants all come up with a unique taco, and sell them to the public, usually for $2 each, and often have other interesting side dishes and cocktails along the same theme. The great part is, these aren’t just Mexican restaurants getting involved… pretty much every major restaurant in the Manchester area (and virtually every restaurant that Offbeat Eats has reviewed in Manchester) gets involved, putting there own spin on it. So you’ll see everything from the classics, to dessert tacos, to Italian sausage tacos, to, well, I’m certain something will surprise me this year as well. Not 100% sure I’m making it down there this year, but for my readers in the VT/NH/MA area, you may want to give it a try. You can read more about it here: http://www.allenmellododgenashua.com/blog/2015/April/10/hippo-de-mayo-taco-challenge-manchester-nh.htm, or get a list of participating vendors from their own web site here.
On our recent trip to Pho Dang in Winooski, we immediately noticed that not only did North Main Street have a phở joint, it also seemed to have it’s own little Southeast Asian neighbor, with several Asian-related businesses nearby. One of them, Dharshan Namaste Asian Deli, is directly across the street from Pho Dang, and proudly sports “Bánh Mì” sandwiches in their window. I love a good bánh mì, so, a few weeks later when we were back in the Winooski area, we decided that we’d duck in and try Dharshan Namaste and see how they did.