Kansas City: One city. Two states.

15 Sep

While in Kansas City, Kansas, I hopped in a cab and headed towards Kansas City, Missouri. For sight seeing? Nah. For the sake of saying I was in two states in one day? A little. But my main reason was to sample the world famous eatin’ at Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ.

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Unassumingly delicious

The cab driver knew exactly where he was going, but I thought he misheard me when he pulled up to a gas station. It turned out to be a gas station that was fueling people with deliciously smoked meats (and gas. They also sell gas).

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This gas station is hiding a DELICIOUS SECRET.

Communal tables and long lines cover this converted space, and wood smoke perfumes the air. If you aren’t hungry when you walk in, you will be by the time you order.

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And this was in the middle of a random weekday.

What I want to discuss is the sandwich that dreams are made of. A creation so heavenly surely angels are secretly smoking this beef and frying these onion rings; a sandwich known as the Z-Man.

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AHHHHHH!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

The Z-Man is a sandwich consisiting of smoked brisket, smoked provolone, crispy onion rings and a smattering of barbecue sauce. It is served on a toasted Kaiser roll, though I’d probably still enjoy it if it was served on stale English muffins.

The cole slaw and beans I ordered were great; creamy cole slaw, rich, tender beans, but who needs sides when a sandwich is this delicious??!! WHO I ASK YOU, WHO?!

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A cross-section of happiness.

The beef was so tender and had a gentle but flavorful smoky taste to it. The smoked provolone enhanced the barbecue experience and the onion rings provided a textural crunch to balance out the fall-apart quality of the meat. The barbecue sauce gave it that needed zing and the toasted roll held everything together nicely. At under ten bucks, why would you NOT order a dozen of them and hoard them in your hotel room like a Gollum preserving his one true happiness in life? Oh. That’s right. You’re probably sane. Stop judging me.

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This ain’t NYC prices.

If you’re in either Kansas City, head over to this gas station barbecue mecca and give thanks for all things smoky and flavorful.

 

Chino Bandido Is Keeno In Phoen-o!

18 Mar

I’m the worst. At updating. But So Good. At Sentence. Fragments.

While near Phoenix Arizona, I insisted my friend and I try a place I saw on “Diners, Drive Ins And Dives.” As I’ve said before, the restaurants on the show are on a very broad spectrum between amazing and disgusting (this is only based on my personal experience), but Chino Bandido in Phoenix, Arizona hit the spot that night. A good spot. A tasty spot. A Mexican-Chinese fusion spot.

I saw the sign! I'm pretty sure I've made that terrible joke before.

I saw the sign! I’m pretty sure I’ve made that terrible joke before.

 

Chino Bandido riffs on Asian and Spanish flavors, by making things such as Chinese BBQ pork AND chile rellenos. Why isn’t this a thing everywhere? WHY?!

Old School signage, brah.

Old School signage, brah.

To order, one has to fill out a card with numbers and initials corresponding to what they want and how they want it prepared. They also let you try most of the dishes to help you decide. Since I’m the most indecisive human being in the history of the universe, this was a welcome help. I decided to try the jade red chicken, the emerald chicken, the jerk fried rice and refried beans.

 

This ginormous plate of food was rich and flavorful. The jade red chicken was crispy and covered in a sweet and tangy sauce. Like general tso’s chicken on crack. The chicken itself was tender and juicy.

Their mascot. An asian panda. Amazing? Yes. Racist? Probably.

Their mascot. An asian panda. Amazing? Yes. Racist? Probably.

 

The emerald chicken was grilled and topped with a chunky sauce (an asian salsa almost) consisting mostly of ginger and scallions. The tangy sauce complimented the slight smokiness of thegrilled chicken well though the chicken was a little dry.

So much food. Dreams.

So much food. Dreams.

 

The jerk chicken fried rice had a great subtle jerk flavor. I’m not the hugest fan of jerk seasoning, but this wasn’t overwhelming, and it was a great accompaniment to the smooth, creamy, rich refried beans. I could have had an entire plate of them.

It doesn't score a ten on ambiance, but the food makes up for it.

It doesn’t score a ten on ambiance, but the food makes up for it.

 

The meal ends with a complimentary snickerdoodle (my favorite!). A soft, sweet, cinnamony (not a word), perfect way to end this meal of decadence. Can they expand and come to the east coast? Great thanks!

COOKIE.

COOKIE.

I Couldn’t Help Myself.

15 Jan

Fine. I know I said the last post was my last Paris post, but it wouldn’t be fair of me to not quickly mention Pottolka, my first (and hopefully not last) Basque experience.

A menu in English. A sight for sore eyes.

A menu in English. A sight for sore eyes.

Ladies who lunch!

Ladies who lunch!

 

I need to head back to this place; almost every single option on the prix fix menu was something I would LOVE to have tried. I begged my server in desperation to help me choose.

Who can resist wine when eating food in France?!

Who can resist wine when eating food in France?!

A big ole glass of delicious.

A big ole glass of delicious.

 

After she poured me a glass of wine and looked at me like the overdramatic, hungry fool I was being, we decided to go with the smoked bacon and pumpkin soup with crispy suckling pig.  Holy friggin crap.

Holy cow...I mean pig. Holy suckling pig.

Holy cow…I mean pig. Holy suckling pig.

The soup was rich and smoky from the bacon, but had deep earthy notes from the bacon. That suckling pig was in a crispy wrapper; it was fatty and rich; I had to stop myself from inhaling it.

For my entrée I went with preserved ox cheeks with mushrooms, potatoes, and Jerusalem artichokes.

So. Much. Roast.

So. Much. Roast.

 I don’t know what preserving them added to the flavor, but it was like the Sunday pot roast to end all Sunday pot roasts. It was a HUGE serving of meaty goodness, in a gravy that would make you want to slap yo’ mama. The vegetables were tender but not cooked to death, and can we just take a moment to give praise where praise is due to the Jerusalem artichoke? I’m so glad they’re becoming a thing.

I was told I had to get the basque cake and it was EVERYTHING. It’s an almond cake with cherries in the middle. It was crumbly and dense, almost like the best blondie you’ve ever had in cake form, featuring cherries. It came with a huge bowl of creamy vanilla ice cream with little crispy streusel bits. How do French people stay so in shape when the portions are huge?!

Cake cake cake cake cake cake cake cake. And ice cream.

Cake cake cake cake cake cake cake cake. And ice cream.

If only they sold it in pints.

If only they sold it in pints.

AHHHHHH!!!! THIS CAKE IS SO DELICIOUS!!!!!!!

AHHHHHH!!!! THIS CAKE IS SO DELICIOUS!!!!!!!

 

 

An AMAZING meal that I would love to relive over and over again. I need to spend weeks in Paris and do nothing but eat. Who’s down?

Oh hey.

Oh hey.

Until next time, Europe!

Until next time, Europe!

 

Paris, Je T’aime

7 Dec

Alrighty. Finally uploading the last and one of the greatest culinary moments of my European adventures. On the advice of my friend Roberta, I headed to the restaurant L’Epi Dupin.

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My view of the city before I headed to dinner. I went on a little excursion in Montmarte. TAKE ME BACK.

It was like a magical mirage.

It was like a magical mirage.

The restaurant was crowded, but I got there early enough to snag a single seat at the bar. Well, they made a seat at the bar for me. I was the American outcast, and it was awesome.

From my seat I could stare into the kitchen. Creepy? Yes. Did that stop me? No.

From my seat I could stare into the kitchen. Creepy? Yes. Did that stop me? No.

There was a prix fix of 33 euros for three courses To be honest, I don’t know why people claim that French food consists of small portions. I was full for DAYS.

The menu was written in French and a lovely waiter translated it for me—the dishes change frequently which I LOVE. It usually results in fresh ingredients and dishes that are always in season.

Can you read this? Besides the fact that it's slightly blurry, it's in French. I'm lost.

Can you read this? Besides the fact that it’s slightly blurry, it’s in French. I’m lost.

Something I was really getting into while being in Europe was being off the grid. If I wasn’t connected to Wifi, I couldn’t be on my phone, which may have added in making the food even more delicious. It was a great learning experience.

I started with a red wine that I don’t remember the name of; it paired beautifully with my entrée. Wine in Paris costs less than soda in some instances. And not crappy wine either; rich, full bodied wine. Mmmmmmm. Alcohol.

Red, red wiiiiiine.

Red, red wiiiiiine.

The amuse bouche (a little preparatory bite so the chef can flex his culinary muscles) was a chilled leek soup with bacon foam. BACON. FOAM. Are you kidding? It was perfection; the color was vibrant and I love leeks so that was a home run. Also did I mention BACON FOAM?!

Give me a tub of this and I'd bathe in it.

Give me a tub of this and I’d bathe in it.

I chose a combination of squid and octopus as my appetizer. An octopus cake was expertly fried and a beautiful base for the tender, perfectly cooked squid on top. The simply dressed greens on the bottom totally counteract the fattiness of the fried cake, right? RIGHT?! All in all it was a solid appetizer. Favorite appetizer in the world? Maybe not., but the ENTRÉE. The entrée was everything.

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So many seafoods, so little time.

Okay, so if you’re kind of squeamish, just skip to dessert. For my entrée, I had duck hearts and seared foie gras. They. Were. Amazing. I had eaten duck hearts before but they were nothing compared to this.  Tender and succulent, they were drenched in a buttery, herby sauce that was one of the single greatest sauces I have ever consumed. It was insanely rich, and then topped with a huge chunk of seared foie gras. After eating foie gras here, I completely understand why people are in love with this goose-y delicacy. It was rich and creamy; a complex blend of minerality and unctuousness. I want a pillow made out of it so I can eat it for a midnight snack.  IF I had to name something that could have improved this entree, it would be to have something acidic with it to cut all the rich elements. I actually had to take a break before diving back in because there was so much going on. I don’t remember the last time I had to do that. In conclusion, this was one of the greatest entrees I have ever had.

Take another little piece of my heart.

Take another little piece of my heart.

The dessert was a little less so. For some reason, this place was serving a pineapple confit dessert with pineapple foam (which in my mind was out of season) and an ice cream that had an herb I couldn’t really distinguish. The pineapple was a little sour; it was a great palate cleanser, but I’m just used to something sweeter for my desserts.

Lookin' real pretty.

Lookin’ real pretty.

All in all, I would absolutely be back to see what seasonal, new items are on the menu. Anybody want to ship me to France??!

Sacre Coeur!

Sacre Coeur!

When in Belgium, DRINK!

26 Sep

As much as I wish I could throw back Budweiser after Budweiser, I can’t. I used to hate all beer; it did nothing for me. After working at a wine, cheese, and beer bar in Philadelphia, I grew to appreciate and heck, even like the stuff.

I gained an affinity for lambic beers; beers that are fermented using the yeast that naturally flies through the air; a much riskier process than using controlled yeast and a process that results in a funky, sour, complex flavor.

In the US, these beers are usually imported and costly. In Belgium, they are inexpensive and EVERYWHERE.

Rachel and I spent a lovely evening sampling as many beers as we could muster at Delirium bar in Brussels. They have over two thousand types of beer. Over. Two. Thousand.

Right through here to where dreams come true.

Right through here to where dreams come true.

Our bartender France (Yup. Her name was the name of a country) was the most helpful person in the history of the world. I was OBIVOUSLY overwhelmed, but I told her what I liked and she made some great suggestions.

The inside of the bar, or the inside of heaven?!

The inside of the bar, or the inside of heaven?!

I tried a gueuze, which is a mixture of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics—it was funky and rich. I would have had another one, but there were thousands to try and I’m ONLY ONE PERSON FOR GOODNESS SAKE.

Gueuze her?! I hardly know her!

Gueuze her?! I hardly know her!

This paper wrapped beer was a little more standard—a little citrusy with little hops (I am not a hops fan).

Whatchu hiding underneath that paper?!

Whatchu hiding underneath that paper?!

I loved this tripel—a tripel is a strong pale ale (typically Belgian). It had a hint of fruit in it, and look how jolly that dude is on the label! I want to drink with HIM!

I'd be that jolly if I were drinking this beer all the time.

I’d be that jolly if I were drinking this beer all the time.

My favorite had to have been this hibiscus beer, or hibeerscus as I think it should be renamed. The hibiscus added subtle floral notes and a bit of sweet plum to the beer. Easy drinkin’. And delicious times seven.

Who doesn't love consuming a beverage that is slightly purple?!

Who doesn’t love consuming a beverage that is slightly purple?!

Rachel’s twiter name is geisette, so she was required to get this beer.

Geisette holding Grisette.

Geisette holding Grisette.

Also, the beers were not expensive (of course there were ones that were), but for such a tourist-y place, they kept the prices reasonable, which allows for maximum beer consumption!

How cool do these streets look?!

How cool do these streets look?!

Speaking of beer, we took a tour of the Cantillon Brewery—It’s only a few Euro (under ten) and you get a glass of lambic at the end!

I was so crateful for this experience.

I was so crateful for this experience.

If you want more, it’s only a few Euro to get another glass, then sit by the fire and lambic your troubles away. I had the gueze and the kriek (cherry) variety.

Look at that COLOR!

Look at that COLOR!

This place is world renown for their beers, and they did not disappoint. Tart, sour, and delicious. I highly suggest this tour if you find yourself nearby!

You better store that beer!

You better store that beer!

I had to have mussels in brussels, and I found Mer du Nord. It was a little place right by the hotel where there are no indoor seats; you get your seafood and can stand and eat it at the outdoor tables, or bring to your hotel room with some high alcohol (and kinda gross beer) and have an indoor picnic!

Mer du Nord translates to "deliciously awesome seafood at a stand in the middle of Brussels." I think.

Mer du Nord translates to “deliciously awesome seafood at a stand in the middle of Brussels.” I think.

Indoor picnic funtimes. And Rachel's legs.

Indoor picnic funtimes. And Rachel’s legs.

The mussels were in a light and savory tomato broth flavored with fresh herbs, white wine, and sautéed onions. They were so fresh and tender, I ended up getting them the next day also.

Mussels look kind of weird up close. Still delicious. But weird.

Mussels look kind of weird up close. Still delicious. But weird.

The shrimp I had were equally delicious—sauteed with garlic and tomatoes, and accompanied with crostinis, a mustard-y slightly sweet sauce and some cheese sprinkled on top. A perfect indoor picnic feast. In Brussels!

Who you callin' a shrimp? These guys!

Who you callin’ a shrimp? These guys!

All the better to sop you up with, my dear.

All the better to sop you up with, my dear.

And I could not find brussel sprouts on one freakin’ menu, though many of them were in French and I don’t know the French words for Brussel Sprouts. Oy.

Who cares, ’cause here’s a random statue of a cat riding a bicycle.

No caption needed?

No caption needed?

All in all, Brussels is a beautiful, delicious city. I’d definitely be back, but only after spending more time in Paris, which I head back to in my next post!

Also it wouldn’t be a trip to Brussels if there wasn’t a picture of this little kid peeing! DREAMS!

At least he's hydrated.

At least he’s hydrated.

Waffles, and beers, and fries. Oh my!

27 Jul

Back in the day when they were discussing what to call the holy land, they settled on the land of “milk and honey.” They should have taken a page out of Belgium’s book and named it the land of beer and chocolate. And waffles. And fries. And seafood.

Okay. I guess that land doesn’t have as much of a ring to it.

Rachel and shlepped to Brussels from England. And by shlepped I mean we got on a train and traveled to another country. Inter-Europe travel is bangerang.

I’m an annoying beer drinker; I usually don’t partake unless it’s some kind of obnoxious craft beer, or lambic beer. Lambic beer is fermented spontaneously; instead of a brewer adding specific yeasts, they let the natural yeast in the air turn their beer recipe into a delicious, sour, sometimes metallic-y elixir; an acquired taste that I have acquired.

SO many beers, so little time,

SO many beers, so little time,

In the states it’s stupid expensive. In Belgium it’s not. And it’s everywhere.  Hells yeah.

I equate waffles in Belgium to pizza in New York. There’s a lot of it, and there are places that have it for cheap, but you have to know where to go to get the good stuff, and sometimes it’s just a little more expensive.

Town square! The pretty architecture is EVERYWHERE.

Town square! The pretty architecture is EVERYWHERE.

Usually, tourist traps are immediately off my list, but in Brussels, Dandoy was one of my favorite stops on this culinary adventure.

Seating!

Seating!

The waffles. Were. Amazeballs.

Dandoy has waffles with various toppings, but I chose to go with vailla ice cream with strawberry syrup. Who cares about ice cream when the waffle is this stupidlyunbelievableamazingfantastic.

Waffly heaven on a plate

Waffly heaven on a plate

Tea for two!

Tea for two!

The perfectly caramelized exterior had just the right amount of crispiness and easily collapsed into the pillowy batter on the inside. The waffle was also filled with crunchy sugar crystals that weren’t overly sweet, it just meant that no syrup was needed! I went twice in two days. I never do that.

 

Belgium is also apparently known for their frites (or fries, for you uncultured potato eaters). The usual trick to the Belgium style of fries is that the potatoes are quickly fried (or blanched, if you wanna get all fancy about it) and then fried again to ensure a crispy outside and a pillowy inside. After getting lost for what felt like eternity, we found Antoine, a frites stand nestled next to a park in Brussels.

Look at them arches! It makes my flat feet jealous.

Look at them arches! It makes my flat feet jealous.

The fries were cooked to order; hot, crispy, and a perfect complement to the chilly weather starting to set in.

A cone of happy.

A cone of happy.

But the SAUCES.

Didn't realize this was blurry until I tried to put it in this post. Oops.

Didn’t realize this was blurry until I tried to put it in this post. Oops.

I’m a sucker for condiments, and Antoine didn’t skimp. A list full of everything from mustards to flavored ketchups to aiolis sat on the wall, taunting me to empty my wallet for a taste of each.

Three sauces

We settled on curry ketchup, bitzky dressing, and the house special one. My favorite was definitely the curry ketchup; not too overpowering and the spice from the curry mixture matched the sweetness from the ketchup. Give me a vat of it in which to swim.

I'd like to meet this Antoine.

I’d like to meet this Antoine.

 

Here’s the church near our hotel that they were renovating. Creepy and cool , right?!

Pretty sure the Phantom of the Opera rented this place for a few months.

Pretty sure the Phantom of the Opera rented this place for a few months.

Almost done with the Europe adventure! The next installment will continue the Belgian goodies!

England Traditions= Englitions.

10 Jul

This is a view of London from the London Eye at night. Was it worth $30 to go around in giant ferris wheel circles? Who knows? Partay!

A view from the eye.

A view from the eye.

It wouldn’t be a trip to England without a full English breakfast. As I mentioned in my Ireland post, a “full breakfast” is one that includes eggs, rashers (think a bacon/ham hybrid. WHY DON’T WE HAVE IT IN THE STATES), beans or tomatoes, black and white pudding, and sausage. After some research I found a place that the locals dine in: the Regency Café.

Breakfast blissland.

Breakfast blissland.

 

Fortunately Rachel has super-human navigating skills (Lewis and Clark ain’t got nothin’) and we got to this off the beaten track restaurant. It was a no frills place where you order at a counter and pick up your meal.

Where da locals is!

Where da locals is!

 

The woman who takes your order asks what you want in a sweet voice and when it’s ready, she announces it in a bellow that sounded like a fog horn mated with Ethel Merman. Needless to say, I was insanely impressed.

 

I got the full English with a side of bubble and squeak, which was pretty much a hash brown. The eggs were perfectly sunny side up, the sausage was full of porky flavor and had a great sear to it, as did the large serving of savory black pudding, and the beans had an amazing hint of sweetness to offset all of the hearty goodness that was surrounding it. Next time I’m in London I may make this place a daily occurrence; it was super affordable too!

So much protein. So little time.

So much protein. So little time.

 

Who can go to England and not go to tea? There is a difference between afternoon tea and high tea, the latter being a much more formal affair, so I went for the informal tradition.

 

After getting lost for decades, I finally found the Kensington hotel. Upon walking in, I wondered why afternoon tea isn’t a thing in the states. You get to take a break and eat some sandwiches, drink some tea, and people watch; DREAMS COME TRUE IN ENGLAND.

 

The interior was swanky but comfortable: hardwood floors, nicely decorated carpets, chandeliers, and intimate lighting. We were seated on a very comfortable couch and were served once delicious finger food after another!

Swanktastic.

Swanktastic.

 

To be honest, I don’t remember which teas I ordered, but I do remember I got 4 pots of different, fragrant teas. The selection was fantastic and the descriptions made me want to sit there and sip until I couldn’t sip no mo’.

Rachel. And tea!

Rachel. And tea!

 

The selection of sandwiches we recieved included roasted chicken with whole grain mustard, cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche, egg salad with watercress, and roasted ham. Each had its own soft, spongy bread that  complemented the rich, savory meats. My favorite was definitely the salmon (I mean, come on; lox and horseradish?! Fuhgeddaboutid).

Why don't all sandwiches come in stacks?!

Why don’t all sandwiches come in stacks?!

 

On the side, we were served warm scones (plain and raisin) with clotted cream, lemon curd, passion fruit curd and strawberry and rose petal jam.  I’m ALWAYS a clotted cream fan, and their lemon curd was a great balance of sweet and sour. I didn’t know passion fruit curd was a thing, and I fell in love with the super sweet creaminess it provided; it was delicious paired with the lemon curd. The strawberry jam made me feel like I was spreading perfume on my scone, so I only tasted it in small amounts.

The scone zone.

The scone zone.

 

For a palate cleanser, we were served gin and tonic sorbet. It was refreshing and had a great tang to it that got me ready for some dessert. Wait. I don’t need anything to get me ready for dessert, but it sure didn’t hurt.

Gin. Tonic. Sorbet. Brilliant.

Gin. Tonic. Sorbet. Brilliant.

 

The dessert tower (damn I wish I used those two words together more often) included dark chocolate mousse, a hazelnut and caramel pyramid, lemon tart, strawberry, lavender and lemon mille feulle (another name for a napoleon), cherry bake well (a pastry covered with jam and filled with an almond sponge cake), coconut panna cotta with passion fruit jelly, and blueberry cheesecake.

If I'm gonna dessert, I'd prefer it have more than one level.

If I’m gonna dessert, I’d prefer it have more than one level.

 

My favorites were definitely the hazelnut and caramel pyramid for obvious reasons.  I mean it’s hazelnut and caramel.  In the shape of a pyramid. The bake well was fantastic and had a beautifully delicate almond flavor. The coconut flavor of the panna cotta matched wonderfully with the sweet passion fruit jelly. I could have eaten a few trays of these desserts.

 

Can we bring tea back to the states?  Great can’t wait so excited.

Also I went to Harrods and took a picture of the real life disney princess mannequins. Here’s snow white:

Where your dwarves at?!

Where your dwarves at?!

 

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