Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cake Cafe & Bakery

2440 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 943-0010

New Orleans is known for many different foods, but one of the best known pastries among locals and tourists alike is King cake. Synonymous with Mardi Gras, this cinnamon-spiked Danish is one of many stars at the Cake Cafe.

Although it was not Mardi Gras (I would not be eating King cake), I still wanted to get the NOLA bakery experience, and I was not disappointed. They also crush the casual breakfast realm.

The doughnut you see below may seem like an ordinary glazed breakfast treat, but the layers of pastry were so light, flaky, and delectable, that it was almost unbelievable. Even heavenly.

The biscuits and gravy shown below were no slough, with a spicy Andouille side. The biscuits ruled the roost, light and flaky, like I am unable to make them...

Boudin and eggs were also delicious, with a fresh sausage patty fried crispy over grits, and another biscuit PLUS some yolk. Yes please.

The croissant breakfast sandwich below is another of my go-to's and this did not disappoint. Note: if you go here, order ANYTHING that has a baked good with it.

The central American breakfast subbed the grits above with beans and rice, and added some pico and guac. An interesting take, but nothing too special.

Finally the lowly bagel with cream cheese, a barometer of breakfast in my book. This was a very decent bagel for the South. Believe me, I have had some AWFUL bagels all over the Southeastern US. Was it NY worthy? Or even good Philadelphia bagel worthy? No, it wasn't. Was it a great way to pack in the calories before drinking began again? Absolutely.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Avenue Delicatessen

27 N. Lansdowne Ave.
Lansdowne, PA 19050
(610) 622-DELI (3354)

Lansdowne is a town that has started attracting Philly people due to the bang for your buck on property, accessibility to the city via public transit, and the wave of new restaurants opening up. Also known as "West West Philly", there has certainly been a resurgence in the area. The Avenue Deli is part of that wave, and I had to make a voyage there to try the esteemed corned beef.

The inside pairs retro diner with modern coffee shop.

They have a packaged to-go cooler with house made pickled goods, and various salads and baked goods.

See house pickles below.

The specialty here is Italian Jewish fusion, which apparently takes two of America's favorite comfort foods, and covers them with corned beef. Below are the Reuben fries, hand cut potatoes covered in corned beef, kraut, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing. The idea was good, sort of a Jewish poutine, but it was extremely heavy (as to be expected with the ingredients) and the fries were mostly limp.

The Reuben also featured the house cured corned beef, and the usual suspects of a Reuben. I may have overdone it by getting both Reuben fries AND sandwich, but I have never been a fan of temperance in any form.

The Reuben sandwich was very good. The corned beef was delicious (though I could have used a bit more), and the bread was perfectly toasted. Although not a towering meat vessel, it still had enough calories to leave me more than satisfied. Also, I had eaten a large amount of the fries, so I was pretty well topped off.

The edges of the sandwich tended to be mostly meat free, which was a shame, as the corned beef melted its savory saltiness throughout the middle. Now, I know this is common practice in the sandwich industry: piling the middle high and displaying the thick stack, while skimping around the edges – but I'd like to think that when I'm spending $14 in the 'burbs I'm getting my money's worth.

The Jewish wedding soup, a riff on Matzo ball soup and Italian wedding soup was a huge disappointment. The broth and everything with it was bland. It was like drinking warm water with a large wet carb-ball floating in it. There was no schmaltz that I could detect, and it was as though they had lost the salt. I didn't eat much more than a couple bites.

The potato latkes were a winner, however, and the perfectly crisped shell housed smooth shredded tubers. They were well seasoned and great dipped into the abundance of sauce that came on the "Amazing Egg Sandwich," below.

The egg sandwich featured fried eggs, broccoli rabe, pork sausage, pickled fresno chili cream cheese, and mozzarella on a seeded Italian loaf. The cream cheese/sauce was heavy on this one, which made it hard to eat. Overall it was pretty good, but as you will see below, the sauce kind of took over. It also lubed the inside ingredients up so they slid right out the back/side with eat bite, a personal pet peeve.

The pictures below have not been altered in any way, this is how the sandwich came out.

I had some issues with a couple of the things here, including overdressed sandwiches (unusual complaint for me), only serving the outdoor tables with to-go packaging, though we were obviously eating there, terrible soup, and limp fries, but I did love the corned beef, and the DIY homemade attitude. I wouldn't rush back, but I would certainly eat there again if I were in the area and for some reason the Chipotle in Havertown was closed. Just kidding! (not really.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Woody's Crab House

29 S Main Street
North East, MD 21901
(410) 287-3541

I recently took a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Havre de Grace (don't bother), and the best part about the trip was a stop in North East, Maryland. It is a quaint little town, and as you would expect, they catered to seafood-hungry tourists. I popped into Woody's for a couple cold ones and some food.

It was exactly what I was hoping for. Peanuts at the door, wood trimming everything; it offered the perfect cool, dark place for a summer weekend afternoon.

I did not order the crabs, as I was planning on having some later, but I did order what can only be compared to the seafood feast from Red Lobster or whatever bullshit Joe's Crab Shack is offering this week. It came with tarter and cocktail sauce galore.

I also grabbed a bowl of crab bisque. It was okay, but lacked the sherry zing I have come to expect from any self-respecting bisque.

My feast, also known as the "Net Buster," consisted of a seasoned broiled lobster tail, crab imperial, crab cake, salmon, snow crab legs, shrimp, clams, coleslaw, and hush puppies. Hell yes.

The crab legs, shrimp, and clams were steamed in a net, as they should be. It makes eating so much more exciting.

This was a pretty substantial portion for about $30. I was pleased. The steamed stuff was all as you would expect. Everything tasted fresh, and the crabcake was packed with meat, very little filler. The lobster tail was also delicious, notice the caramelization and ample seasoning? Grilled/broiled is the only way to go with this one. I am also not a salmon fan usually (besides smoked), but this was a non-fishy, well cooked version.

The hush puppies were perfect, light and airy, rather than dense and golf ball-like.

The slaw was good, as it tasted like . . . coleslaw.

If you are willing to brave the heat, they have a pretty large outdoor seating area, as well as a tiki bar. It was just what I wanted from a quick getaway. At about an hour or so from the Philly area, you could do worse. Next time, just park it here and maybe skip HdG?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chando's Tacos

863 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 641-8226

On a recent trip to Sac-town, I was looking for something that just isn't the same on the East Coast. And that thing is West Coast Mexican food. Chando's was just what the doctor ordered (well, not really, because I ate three meals' worth of somewhat greasy food in one sitting).

Much like the beloved cheesesteak stands in Philly, Chando's was a walk up window, but they also featured an outdoor grill, at left. The entire area smelled like deliciously charred meat.

I decided on an al pastor torta, a carnitas burrito, and a steak mulita. I would have gladly eaten everything on the menu.

The carnitas burrito was packed with traditional ingredients, and smothered in sour cream.

The mulita was basically a corn tortilla quesadilla with steak, cilantro, onion, guac, and salsa inside. Delicious and a bargain at $2.50.

The torta was also a winner, tucked nicely into a crispy roll, and perfectly portioned with just enough cream and guacamole to keep it moist. This type of quick stop Mexican food is found locally in food trucks, and I certainly wouldn't mind bolstering the traditionally Puebla-style Mexican in South Philly with a bit of West Coast grab-and-go flair.

So if you're out there and looking to open one up, let me be the first to know.