Where They Eat: Controller and Kent Ale House

Where They Eat: Controller and Kent Ale House

One of the saddest things about getting music digitally is the lack of good, old fashioned liner notes. I loved opening up a brand new CD, pulling out the insert and reading all about how the band would like to thank mom, dad, Sasquatch and pillows for making their latest album a reality. On top of that, I had the lyrics right in my hands so this never happened.

When the time comes for Controller, an indie rock band from New York, to put together a collection of liner notes, somewhere within those notes you’ll probably find mention of their favorite restaurant, Kent Ale House. Why does Controller hold this Brooklyn based soccer, rugby and sports bar in such high regard? Here’s what they had to say:

We are a pretty fancy band. We are also a pretty lazy band. Our favorite place to eat is literally only 10 feet to the right of our rehearsal space: Kent Ale House. It’s a bar that has really good beer and surprisingly good food, although we’ve technically never forgiven them for removing our favorite item from the menu: a delicious portobello salad. But it’s still our favorite place. In the summer when they open the windows, people just walk by and sometimes we’ll randomly see friends and they’ll come in for a drink. It’s where we have band meetings and do all our scheming. Josh, our guitar player, always orders some kind of weird coffee-flavored beer and we’ve never called him out on it until right now, in this blog post.

But most importantly, they give us growlers to take next door when we rehearse. And we always fail to bring them back, yet they keep giving us new ones. Everything we’ve done has been fueled by those growlers. There are empty growlers all over our space.

We like this place so much that when a gigantic warehouse right across the street burned to the ground in a full-on seven-alarm fire, our first reaction was to panic about Kent Ale House burning down, and then second to worry that every single scrap of equipment we own was sitting 10 feet away. Fortunately, the bar’s still there. We should probably return those growlers!

“Separator” is the newest, growler fueled, single from the band:

Food Pairing 101: What Goes With Bailey’s Brunch at Carmel Kitchen?

Food Pairing 101: What Goes With Bailey’s Brunch at Carmel Kitchen?

Is it any wonder that Carmel Kitchen is rolling out their new Bailey’s Brunch menu in South Tampa? After all, South Tampa is to brunch as Paris is to lovers. At least that is what I’ve heard from my friends with the funny haircuts. You see I don’t live in South Tampa and I don’t do much brunch. I frankly find both of those a bit…shall we say indistinguishable. But when Robert Bailey invited me in to try out the new brunch menu that would be rolling out at Carmel Kitchen next week, I took him up on the offer. It wasn’t the pancakes or the waffles that got me. It surely wasn’t the alcoholic breakfast drinks. Nope, what got me there was the promise of homemade bread and preserves. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

We arrived at the kitchen right at our allotted time and were immediately seated in a booth by the window. Our waiter and hostess both gave us a quick run through on how to order via the electronic gadget that was lying at the end of our table. Afterwards, our server informed us that we didn’t have to use the device we could just order from him. We liked the human aspect, he was sarcastic and funny in a way that our device wasn’t. We elected to stick with him.

On the menu were a number of items that are typically over sweetened for American consumption. These included blueberry muffins and pancakes and cinnamon buns. But Bailey’s Brunch did things differently. They cut the sweet down. The blueberry muffins were extremely soft with a nice crust across the top. This crust was decorated with coarse sugar. It had a look that was reminiscent to muffin I used to eat all the time when I worked for Whole Foods. Taste wise, it was completely the opposite of what I imagined. It wasn’t sickly sweet inside. Instead it had a gentle flavor that really allowed the blueberries to take center stage.

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See that crusty top and sugar shower?

The pancakes were pretty humorous. They were similar to the blueberry muffins in that their lack of sweetness allowed the blueberries first class citizen status. Another plus is that the pancakes were served drizzled in homemade syrup. So what was so humorous about them? The size. Due to some mishap in the kitchen, the pancakes came out way too big. I guess that’s why they run these training exercises. Not that J-Fur (or Z-Bot) minded. They’ll be pancake snacking for days.

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Imma gonna eat your face, pancake

One of the most intriguing menu items was the multicolored hash browns. They came in red, purple and sweet potatoes. We asked to sub out the meat that came alongside the pancakes for some of the hash browns. Our waiter informed us that the hash browns had actually come out looking gross the day before so they were nixed in favor of red, purple and sweet fried potatoes. I loved the fact that they included three different types of potatoes. Unfortunately the cooking times of these potatoes are different and I’m not sure that was accounted for. The sweet were super soft, the red and purple not completely cooked. I left the need for a more uniform feel as my feedback for how Bailey’s Brunch could be improved. I just hope they keep trying, I would hate for Bailey’s to shift to the normal, mundane regular potatoes. The world of brunch doesn’t need more of the same.

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The potato trifecta

My favorite item of the day (and the one I was looking forward to the most) was the fresh baked bread and homemade preserves. Bailey’s Brunch offers a number of seasonal preserves to go along with their wheat or white toast. Right now the menu includes blackberry, strawberry and pineapple. I was a huge fan of the blackberry and pineapple. The strawberry was fine, I just felt like it is a bit overplayed when it comes to dressing up toast. The wheat bread looked strangely like white and I was informed by Kim, as he came around and checked in with us, that the bread had set a little too long and that caused it to lose a lot of the bulgur flavor and look. He assured me that they knew exactly what they did wrong and couldn’t wait to correct it next weekend. Despite this, the bread was still really good. I had two servings.

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Wheat bread with strawberry and blackberry preserves

To end the meal, J-Fur got a hold of a cinnamon roll which our waiter informed us were to die for. You have an option of ordering with raisin or without. If you know J-Fur, you know she went with raisins. We expected a Cinna-Bon style over-sugared disaster. But the theme of looking a lot sweeter than actually tasting played out one more time. J-Fur pushed the contents of her stuffed stomach aside just enough to polish off nearly the entire bun. It was that good.

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Iced Iced Baby

My final take? I appreciate the invite immensely and when some of the kinks are worked out, I’m definitely returning to Bailey’s Brunch at Carmel Kitchen.

So what would I pair with a meal of this nature? One that has the sweetness dialed back but is fully loaded with fruit. That’s why I’d go with “Ghost Insider Your Head” by United Fruit.

Where They Eat: Loframes and Entre 2 Vins

Where They Eat: Loframes and Entre 2 Vins

I liken Franck Russo’s double life to the sweater that J-Fur is in the process of knitting. As it stands right now, the mustard color piece has a really long arm and one that is about bicep length. Total indie musician on one side, dinner date on the other. Franck spends his bicep length time producing music. After some successes on his own On The Fruit label and via Berlin’s Bpitch Control, Franck has ventured into duo territory. He joined up with British singer-songwriter/producer James Yuill to form Loframes. The band is prepping for a March 9th release, via Beatport, of their debut single, “Get Real (Can’t Touch Your Love)”. The track blends electro, pop, synth and deep house into a smooth, lovelorn classic. There’s also some badass saxophone sounds, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Tim Capello’s oiled torso greased the stage in Lost Boys:

So what about Franck’s really long sweatered arm? That would be Entre 2 Vins. This is his restaurant that he owns in France that specializes in handmade foods and wines sourced from small producers. Franck’s meal of choice? Well, I’ll let him tell you about it:

My restaurant Entre 2 Vins is situated in the old touristic city of Antibes on the South-East coast of France. We specialize in natural wines that have been hand made by from small producers and with absolutely no chemical products, and our food is all similarly sourced and draws inspiration from local Provençaal, sud ouest and Spanish traditions.

I think my favourite item on our menu would certainly be the Vacherin du Mont d’Or. Vacherin is a prestigious, and rare, cheese produced only in the Jura region. It’s made from cow’s milk but only during the cold winter months from September to April when the cows are brought down off the mountains.

In our restaurant we bake it in the oven along with a glass of Jura white wine inside, one clove garlic and a grind of some good black pepper. While that’s cooking, the cheese melting deliciously on the inside whilst the surface crisps up, we’ll prepare some beautiful potatoes, a variety called “La Bonnotte” that only come from the island of Noirmoutier and have this incredible taste from being grown close to the sea.

To go alongside the baked cheese and potatoes we’ll prepare some special charcuteries from Burgundy and Corsica, such as Jambon Persillé, Coppa, Lonzu and Prisuttu and finally provide some good bread fresh from our local boulangerie.

Then to wash it all down I recommend a nice bottle of the 2007 Domain Jean François Ganevat “Chalasses Marnes Bleues”, a citrusy wine made from a local grape Savagnin and one of our region’s famous Vin Jaune. All in all it’s a simple but really quite special meal and customers are queuing up for it in season.

When I saw Franck Russo is a producer, we aren’t just talking music here. We are talking a double life of producing music and locally sourced, seasonal food.

Click: Black and Vegan, Combating PMS, Dairy Free Illuminaties, Mint Chocolate Chia Parfaits, Bitches in the Hood and Other Items From This Past Week

Click: Black and Vegan, Combating PMS, Dairy Free Illuminaties, Mint Chocolate Chia Parfaits, Bitches in the Hood and Other Items From This Past Week

Its bad enough that the Ivy League schools scheme about ways to rule politics, now (meaning for the last four years) they are doing the same thing to veganism. We’ve gotta watch out for those vegan illuminaties. Here are some other things to watch out for:

Happenings:

Recipes:

Singles:

“What D’You Say” by The Go! Team

Will Joseph Cook “Streets of Paris”

Canopy Climbers “Fever”

“Cities Between Us” by Ellenberg

The Longwalls-Home

Remixes:

Sirena “Chemicals” (Ace Supreme Discomix)

Videos:

“Fucking Bitches in the Hood” by Death Team

“Hypnotic” by Zella Day

First Quarter Click Tracks (When Available) via Spotify:

Where We Eat: Give & Grub Food Truck

Where We Eat: Give & Grub Food Truck

Everyone knows that the more people that get involved in something, the more likely it is to be ruined. There’s even an ancient proverb that speaks directly to keeping collaborations to a minimum: “too many cooks spoil the broth”. I think it is time to mark that proverb with a big ol’ asterisk, one that is footnoted at the bottom with the words “the exception to this proverb is Tampa’s Give & Grub food truck.

Five Companies, One Goal

A project by Laser Spine Institute, the Give & Grub food truck was created through an integrative partnership between five different organizations. Each of these organizations brings their own unique expertise to the table. As an extension of a collaboration between Laser Spine Institute and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and through a mutual desire to “stick it to hunger” in the local community, the idea of a “food truck for good” was developed. The purpose behind this food truck would be two-fold. First, for each menu item sold, Laser Spine Institute would donate a meal to a hungry child in the Tampa Bay area. Second, the menu items offered would consist of gourmet, food-truck friendly versions of Tampa Bay Lightning players’ favorite meals. To help out with the food insecurity side of things (food insecurity is when access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money or other resources) Laser Spine Institute reached out to Feeding America Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries. If anyone knows the food insecurity issues in the local area, it’s these two groups. Both agreed to join the fight. The final piece of the puzzle was to find and staff a food truck. This part of the project was taken care of by California based Roaming Hunger. With Laser Spine Institute leading the charge, these five organizations began working together to achieve two things: feed Tampa Bay citizens gourmet food from a food truck and use the profits to fight back against hunger.

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Give & Grub’s Lightning Inspired Menu

How it Works

Give & Grub travels around the greater Tampa area visiting business parks, local events and Thursday and Saturday home Lightning games. Here they offer their seven different menu items for sale. Each item that is sold is tallied and a meal is given to a needy child or family. Don’t live in the area? Unable to get off work to visit the food truck during the lunch run? Lightning games end too late for you? No problem. Give & Grub has made it easy for you to participate via the internet. Just use the hashtag #GiveandGrub on your social media posts and a meal will also be donated to children and families in need.

The food is donated through weekly backpack drop offs at targeted elementary schools in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Through their partnership with Laser Spine Institute, Feeding America Tampa Bay sources these backpacks with food and every child in the school receives one to take home (the schools range in size from about 250 to 450 kids). Each of those backpacks includes five meals for the weekend. Once a month Give & Grub has a huge “blowout” at a local boys and girls club. This involves filling the food truck with a Lightning player (or the street team if a player is not available), kid friendly food and more backpacks. The kids then get to experience what it is like to go up and order from the truck, take home a backpack and possibly meet a Lightning player. Laser Spine Institute works with Metropolitan Ministries to make all the kid friendly food that is served during these monthly “blowouts”. To date, Give & Grub has given back 25,000 meals. Their goal for the year is 150,000. Currently they are on pace to reach it.

The Food

So what about the food that Give & Grub sells from the truck? As I mentioned before, the truck offers seven items. One of their most popular items is the Chicken Parmkos (honoring Steven Stamkos). It consists of Chicken Parmesan on homemade bread that is baked fresh in a commercial kitchen the day the truck goes out. The sandwich is served alongside housemade potato chips. Fun fact: Give & Grub also makes their own pickles. My sister-in-law opted for the Parmkos. It was a huge sandwich that she couldn’t finish in one sitting. She was a fan. Another popular item is the Hedman Steak Tacos (named after Victor Hedman). I’m not sure if Hedman is into tofu or not but Give & Grub offers a tofu version for the vegetarians. The tacos are served with marinated tofu, roasted corn, Pico de Gallo and Tijuana rice. They are then topped with spicy chipotle ranch and served alongside a container of black beans and fried plantains. The tofu on these tacos is hands down some of the best I’ve had in Tampa. Sate Asian Grill and Taco Bus are the only places comparable in the tofu department. Whatever that tofu was marinated in gave it a nice flavor that lingered long after each bite. Also standing out were the peppers that were layered across the bottom of the tortilla. They too had a very distinctive flavor. The tortillas themselves? Fabulous. Each taco comes double wrapped in flour tortillas. These tortillas serve as a safety blanket, protecting the tacos from extreme conditions. I took a set of tacos to go and the tortillas were still crispy the next day. Most tortillas can’t stand up to the Branson family fridge and they go soggy with fright. Give & Grub’s just laughed at the weather whole time.

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The Hedman Steak Tofu Tacos

The surprise of the day belongs to the other vegetarian friendly item on the menu, the Bishop Bowl. I say this because I did not expect to be a fan of it. The bowl is named after goalie Ben Bishop. It is piled high with blackened tofu (or shrimp), wasabi caramel, mango, plantains and cilantro rice. The dish nicely melds together Cajun cooking, Japanese spices and South American fruit. The bowl is huge. It probably weighs more than a quarter of what Bishop weighs. Both J-Fur and I were really impressed with the bowl. Again, the tofu and peppers were top notch. But they were only part of the fun. The sweet of the mango and plantain and the slight spiciness of the wasabi caramel helped finish off a dish that pleases all the parts of your palette. Z-Bot was also a huge fan of this dish.

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The Bishop Bowl

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The Baby’s Seal of Approval

Give & Grub’s food proves that having too many cooks doesn’t necessarily have to spoil the broth. Sometimes, if the wrists flick just right, all those hands can actually create an amazing product. But what truly sets the truck apart is that all the profits from their amazing product go to help better the Tampa community.

Give & Grub on Urbanspoon

My visit to Give & Grub netted me a lot of food. It took all I had to finish it in one sitting. After the last bite I immediately felt like *thumbs quickly through CD collection, ah, here it is* I was in Fat Heaven. That’s why they are the perfect match for a Give & Grub visit. That and they pay homage to Roaming Hunger’s locale.  Check out the band’s “LA Girl” from their self-titled EP.

Where We Eat: Ciccio Cali

Where We Eat: Ciccio Cali

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day I finished writing Act IV of my new American tragedy theatrical piece dubbed Ciccio Cali. Act IV, like the previous three acts, was set in the beautiful outdoor seating area of a restaurant, Ciccio Cali, in Tampa Palms. The weather was perfect, just the right amount of Florida sunshine and shady trees and seventy degree temperatures floating in the air. The table was covered with food. At one place setting was a wrap. As usual, this wrap looked and tasted amazing. At another place setting was a bowl filled with farro, veggies and a peanut sauce. Act IV saw this bowl fall just a step below the top notch performance we had come to expect from the earlier acts (not quite enough sauce). But slightly below top notch at Ciccio Cali is beyond the reach of what most restaurants can do even during their finest hours. To truly grasp the power of Act IV, we need to return to Act I.

Ciccio Cali exists in a place that used to be reserved solely for beer drinking. It was never high on my places to visit in the Tampa area despite the fact that it consistently popped up on recommendations and isn’t far from our apartment. Why did I avoid this place? Because my wife and mother-in-law dined there and enjoyed the food immensely but every time they talked about how good it was, my mother-in-law always brought up that it seemed expensive. That was a major turn off. So anytime my wife suggested Ciccio Cali it was immediately shot down. “You’ll love it,” she would say. “Yeah and I’d also have to pay for it,” was my typical response. Eventually, due to reasons that at this time have been forgotten, I gave into her pleas for a lunch date at Ciccio Cali. I promised myself that I would hate it. But, despite all the willing and wishing, I was not able to hate the place. In fact, I damn near loved it. The wrap that they made me was a Buffalo wrap (sans the blue cheese). Instead of filling it with blackened chicken, I asked for the veggie and broccoli mix. The veggies were combined with some rice (for slightly more you can combine your veggies with farro or spaghetti squash) and then mixed with a slightly spicy buffalo sauce. The tortilla was pressed in a way that simultaneously crisped the outside and clamped it shut. It was the type of tortilla job that immediately makes me question my own cooking skills. Why can’t I ever seem to replicate this snuggly, fried tortilla blanket at home? Along with the wrap came a dip of my choice. I went with their mustard which has a sweet, tangy taste. While mustard and buffalo sauce may sound like a weird pairing, it actually worked. In fact, it worked so well that it conjured visions of some of the American duos that have made this country great. It was sort of like eating the condiment version of Sonny and Cher, Laurel and Hardy or Ike and Tina.

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My Veggie Wrap

J-Fur’s meal of choice has been (and always will be) the Peanut Stir Fry with farro. This meal is piled high with veggies, farro and peanuts and then covered with a delicious peanut sauce. The sauce isn’t spicy or super sweet and it doesn’t overload you with peanut flavor. It flows nicely with the veggies and farro.

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J-Fur’s Stir-Fry

About the only thing we didn’t like on this initial visit is that we ordered a side of farro and pesto for our daughter. The pesto was cream based (mayonnaise?) which wasn’t something we expected. Neither us nor the baby liked it.

Are there any downsides to Ciccio Cali? They are a bit frustrating because of their dinner prices and brunch menu. I am okay with paying the lunch time prices. The plates of food are pretty big so I don’t leave feeling hungry. At ten dollars the wrap is right at the edge of where I feel that I am getting value for the amount of money I pay. Dinner ups the prices a dollar and, while it isn’t much, it pushes the meal past that point. So I only dine at Ciccio Cali during the lunch hours. No problem, I have weekends off. I’ll just show up then for some wrap love. Not so fast butterfly. Ciccio Cali has a special brunch menu on weekends and the wrap I love isn’t part of it. Neither is J-Fur’s Peanut dish. That means we can’t dine at Ciccio on weekends either. So no nights or weekends at the restaurant and a job that doesn’t allow me to slip away for lunch. Basically we are limited for when we can visit this place.

But I’m okay with that. Ciccio Cali’s becomes another reason to look forward to those days off work.

Ciccio Cali on Urbanspoon

The perfect song for Act I at Ciccio Cali is the St. Tropez’s “I Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”. I really didn’t and tried not to but the restaurant had other ideas.

Where We Eat: Cafe Hey

Where We Eat: Cafe Hey

Cafe Hey is the restaurant version of Pretty in Pink. It is my Andie Walsh. Inside the little shack, located right near 275 in West Tampa, a bevy of vegan coffee, baked goods, soups, salads, vegan sandwiches and breakfast items are slung together with ease. The restaurant walls are made of exposed brick that is worn and faded from years of sun exposure. These walls are covered with local art, music posters, murals and signs celebrating the regional foods that supply the business. Cafe Hey’s bathroom is one of the quirkiest that I’ve come across in the Tampa area. I love that the kitchen, at least the part that I could see from my seat, had writing on the wall. I’m not sure what it said but I imagined some sort of mad scientist chef in the kitchen at night jotting his recipes there in finely printed ink so that the daytime employees could easily find them. All of these factors work together to make Cafe Hey the kind of charming little place that is easy to fall in love with. The only problem is, the Andie Walsh effect. It is located on the wrong side of the tracks.

Instead of being surrounded by the fabulous parks and museums of downtown Tampa, Cafe Hey is a short walk (or long one if it is cold and windy) away in Tampa Heights. It is in a part of town that scares the bejesus out of some people because of how close it is to “vagrants” and “borderline unsafe” neighborhoods.  Because of the location, every time I try to profess my love for Cafe Hey and plan an intimate visit, I am met with resistance from those nearest and dearest to me. Things like “if you want your piece of low grade vegan food, fine, take it, but you won’t have friends” or “if you’ve got a hard on for trash, don’t take care of it around us” roll of their tongues with ease. For years, this put me in a tough bind. I listened to them and dated only those restaurants on the right side of the tracks. I acted like everything was cool. But deep down, I felt empty. Finally, I grew the courage to tell my pals that I was crossing the tracks and they could come with me or stay behind. Only my wife and daughter rolled along. Imagine trying to start a revolution with only your wife and kid…

On our first visit to Cafe Hey the three of us set up shop right by the huge window that looks out on the street. It was chilly so both J-Fur and I ordered some hot drinks. I went with a specialty coffee (I can’t remember which one) with almond milk while she slammed the hot chocolate. Not being a huge coffee fan, I had hoped that whatever I ordered didn’t taste much like coffee. Unfortunately, it did. It warmed me well enough but it wasn’t as tasty as a bunch of sugar and almond milk would’ve been. J-Fur was pretty giddy over her hot chocolate.

J-Fur and I ordered sandwiches for the two of us, I went with the VLT and she ordered the Hummus and Veggies sandwich. For the little one, who was on a bit of an oatmeal binge at the time, we purchased a huge bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup.

J-Fur’s sandwich came out first. It was covered with hummus, pressed and included shredded carrots, cucumber, tomato and lettuce. The carrots and cucumbers were fresh and crisp. They paired nicely with the hummus and pressed Cuban bread. I wasn’t a big fan of the hummus, felt like it didn’t have much taste, but J-Fur was pleased with the outcome. Our daughter also seemed delighted by it though you could put hummus on a boot and she would probably enjoy the taste. That is how much of a hummus fiend she is.

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J-Fur’s Hummus and Veggie

Cafe Hey’s VLT features Light Life bacon, lettuce, cabbage, tomato and Veganaise. It is served on Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor. I wasn’t expecting the sandwich to be amazing, I’ve done VLTs at home a number of times and have never reached anything more than pretty good status. But it only took me one bite of Cafe Hey’s version to realize that it was leaps and bounds better than any I had made at home. The pressed Cuban bread was nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The Veganaise just sort of melted into the bread making it impossible to tell one from the other. The lettuce, bacon, cabbage and tomato injected a speed metal jolt of juicy, salty, crispy and chewy into each bite. The sum of all those tastes? A sandwich that on the surface seemed so simple tasted absolutely divine.

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The VLT

The oatmeal was….well, oatmeal. There was nothing earth shattering about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first visit to Cafe Hey. The prices are a bit steep so it won’t be a place I can frequent too often. But now that I’ve crossed the tracks and shed some of those not so supportive friends, Cafe Hey and I will definitely see each other again. I hope to visit to try out some of their specialty events. I’m particularly eyeing the Not Just for Omnivores Brunch which takes place on the last Sunday of each month.

One last thing, if you are into quality service and people that are willing to wait on your every beckon and call, this place probably isn’t for you. They are very laid back and, for the most part, let you do things for yourself.

Cafe Hey on Urbanspoon

My trip to Cafe Hey was soundtracked by the old times tune “My Grandfather Could Make the World Dance” by Spencer Berger (aka Auditorium). Spencer spent the ages 9-12 performing on stage with a number of “large, sweaty, golden-throated dudes like Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo in front of thousands”. Nowadays, Spencer’s auditorium of choice is his bedroom. His audience? Old He-Man action figures. While Spencer says it’s not quite as grand, he is thankful that it doesn’t induce nearly as much perspiration.

Merry Listmas 2014: The Food

Merry Listmas 2014: The Food

Before the calendar turns to 2015, let’s reminisce about the finer things that food in 2014 had to offer (click on the picture for recipes and blog posts).

Favorite Sandwiches:

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Main Attractions

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Favorite Pasta Recipes

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Favorite Bread Recipes

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Favorite Sides

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Favorite Soups

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Favorite Salads

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Favorite Breakfasts

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Favorite Desserts

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Some Other Favorites of the Year:

Favorite Restaurant Hot Sauce
Little Greek’s version excites. It burns. And it is made from carrots. Can it get any more fabulous than that?

The Always a Bridesmaid of Food
Apples. I’ve always enjoyed a good sour apple. I’ve even pushed it off the deep end into a pile of peanut butter at times. This year I used a lot more apples in savory dishes than I ever had before. I found myself strangely craving the depth and dichotomy they bring to fall dishes.

Best Banh Mi
Green Mint Asian Grill’s Tofu Banh Mi

Best Vegan Biscuits and Gravy
The Corner Store

Best Fruit Drink
Naga Tea (and it ain’t close)

Best Breakfast Restaurant Concept:
Alright, let me pitch it. We’ll take an old saw mill and turn it into a restaurant. Then we will put huge griddles on the table and let people cook their own pancakes. Vegan? No problem, we’ll have a batter for those weirdos. Gluten free? Let’s do a batter for them too. Vegetarian breakfast meat? We got you covered. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House knows how to make breakfast unique and fun.

Best Roti (Whatever the Hell that is)
I didn’t know what a roti was, so I never sought it out. Thanks to one of J-Fur’s co-workers we were treated to a Caribbean cuisine experience courtesy of Caribbean Crown. It was here I tasted my first roti (sort of like a thick burrito). It was here that I returned for my second, third and fourth rotis as well.

Worst You Get What You Pay For Restaurant
Cigar City Brewpub, Prime Bar and Gio Fabulous (tie). My hard earned cash didn’t seem to go as far at these three places. The food, especially at the Brewpub, was good. It just wasn’t worth the price.

Best Vegan Sandwich
The VLT at Cafe Hey. I’ve made many a VLT at home and it just never tasted as good as Cafe Hey’s version. Is it the Lightlife Bacon they use? Or does the secret lie in the Cuban bread it is served in? Guess I’ll have to do a little more investigating in 2015.

Loveliest Lunch Date
Ciccio Cali. The lunch prices give you a chance to taste the wonderful array of flavors that the menu offers without feeling ripped off. Their night time prices get a little to rich for my blood.

Worst Brunch
Ciccio Cali. I’ve never actually eaten brunch here. I only say this because they pull their wraps off the menu during weekend brunch (the most likely time I would be visiting). Because of that, I never eat Ciccio Cali (except during the summer when teachers have off school).

Best Vegan Pizza
Cappy’s deep dish with artichokes and spinach, hold the cheese. They know me at Cappy’s because this pizza is a unique one and I’ve ordered it so much. It is so worth every last bite.

Best Woodfired Pizza
900 Degrees Woodfired Pizza. I don’t ever do Woodfired Pizza but on the one occasion I did this year 900 Degree is where I went. It was much better than I expected.

Most Inventive Donuts
The Frosty Llama. Fresh, warm and a variety of flavors. Some of the profits also goes to build schools and they have awesome decorations and t-shirts.

What Breadsticks Should be
Olga’s Bakery. These don’t look like any breadsticks I’ve ever seen before.

Most Tatery Tots
Brick House Tavern and Tap

Most Mundane Place I Ended Up Again and Again
Eatery 41. I just want to go to Capital Tacos for the food. My co-workers want to go here for the space. I usually lose out.

Yummiest Vegan Treat
365 Caffe Italiano Fruit Gelato. It is so creamy I have a hard time believing it is vegan. But I’ve asked. Four times.

Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year
Capital Tacos. One of my ex-co-workers constantly took to Facebook to bitch about how Capital Tacos messed up her take out order over and over. After the fourth or fifth time, she announced that she was boycotting them in favor of Moe’s or Tijuana Flats. I figured that any place good enough for her to boycott is worth me checking out. I researched the menu and realized they had two vegetarian options. Immediately Z-Bot and I loaded into the car and drove all the way over to Land O’ Lakes to check it out. Once inside, the whimsical little restaurant stole my heart. From its homemade sodas, unique flavor combinations, map with pushpins to mark how far you’ve traveled to eat there and furniture made from wooden palettes, I was in love. I wanted to like the place without even trying the food. But ultimately, that is what I was there for. I wasn’t making the drive just for the decor, I needed the food to be good as well. I ordered the portobello burrito and purchased an avocado one to take home to J-Fur. It only took a few bites for me to realize these burritos are top notch (and that anyone willing to give them up for Moe’s or Tijuana Flats must have a real aversion to things that taste good). The only burrito in Tampa that comes close to equalling the flavor of these two is the tofu version at Taco Bus. Everything else, pshaw…child’s play. Capital Tacos chips and salsa, the former which is served in an IKEA bucket, and the guacamole are my favorites in Tampa. There is no where I’d rather eat chips. No guacamole I’d rather have. And no salsa (although I do love that red sauce from Taco Bus). I’ve visited Capital Tacos ten times this year. That is no small statement considering it is about a thirty minute drive from my house…one way. That is why it is my restaurant of the year.

Where They Eat: Night Lights and Pad Thai Cafe

Where They Eat: Night Lights and Pad Thai Cafe

10679665_533491400084306_6814007897276472780_oI can’t say I know a whole lot about Boston’s eating scene. I mean I’ve spent about twelve hours in the city on two separate trips. One visit revolved around a baseball game that was played under such a hard rain that it left my desire to explore the food culture of the city somewhere around zilch. The other visit was cut short by a banishment. The city kicked me out and sent me to the slow seaside banks of Maine. Don’t even go there with what those banks have to offer food wise. Thanks to local band Night Lights, my knowledge of Boston cuisine has increased ever so slightly.

Before I start dolling out bits of my new found knowledge of Boston cuisine, let’s start with the band. Night Lights is made up of band members from Mexico, Texas, Japan, California and Norway. They are like the long haired philosophers that hang out at hipster bars and eat grilled cheese with pears of indie rock music (only they are much more interesting than those guys who, between sips of drink and bites of pear, ask questions like Why are we we?). Night Lights explore existentialism, community and confrontation of self through the lyrics in their songs. They pair these profound musings nicely with hook laden melodies, danceable music, and intriguing harmonic progressions. I never thought I’d say this but…they are existentialism in the finest sense of the word. Where does a band with such a varied worldview meet for lunch? Yusuke (the guitarist) said this:

“On the corner of Boylston and Hemenway Streets in Boston, there is a Thai restaurant we enjoy and go to probably more than we should. To be honest with you, it is sub-par…quantity over quality. However, there is an exception to this statement from Friday through Sunday. They have an amazing weekend special that takes this place from a three-star to five-star, at least in our books. The special is called khao soi– a spicy Thai noodle soup dish that is coconut curry broth-based. It comes with chicken that falls apart when you poke at it with your fork, and to counter the savory broth, it comes with Asian pickled veggies on top. It’s a trend with our buddies…we’re so hyped on it right now that we miss it during the week, and it gives us yet another reason to look forward to the weekend!”

And what is this place called? You remember when I said earlier that my knowledge of Boston cuisine has “increased ever so slightly” right? If I had a name to go with this restaurant then I would’ve written something about my knowledge increasing exponentially. But since I have no name, it is only a slight increase. The best I can tell it is Pad Thai Cafe but I could find no mention of the khao soi on their website or in any of their reviews. If it is them, they keep that stuff under wraps.

Update: It is Pad Thai Cafe.

Pad Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon

Check out Night Lights new single “Hit the Water”: