Blue Ribbon BBQ

May 7, 2010

Dry-Rubbed Ribs

Vegetarians be warned; this is not a post for the faint of heart.

Blue Ribbon Barbeque and I go way back. I first discovered it last year while out on a run in Arlington. I was intrigued by the sign, which promoted their BBQ as “real.” Coming from St. Louis, I’ve had my fair share of cooked meat. I’m no connoisseur, but I know good pulled pork when I see it. And while the fish here is phenomenal, the other meats leave something to be desired.

The menu seemed promising, so I got a group of my friends together. It was the end of freshmen year, and I was ready to smother the pain of finals with some dead animals.

But wait, there's more!

This wasn't even all of it...

I should tell you all, the portions are quite large. Last year, we ordered the supper for six and didn’t finish. There were eight of us. Eight male college students. We eat like it’s our job. They call it the supper for six, but they don’t specify. Six humans? Six grizzly bears? Six Cthulhus? I’m not sure.

Here are the contents…

1½ slabs of Memphis Dry-Rubbed Ribs
2 pints of Pulled Pork, Burnt Ends, Pulled Chicken, Beef Brisket or Hot Sausage.
2 Barbecued or Jamaican Jerked ½ Chickens
2 pints of Baked Beans
2 pints of Cole Slaw
6 pieces of Cornbread
6 Sandwich Rolls

There are also a myriad of sauces that range from mild to volcanic. For me the Blue Ribbon Gold Barbecue Sauce took the gold, followed by the chipotle mustard. All of my friends and I agreed that the pulled pork was by far the best. If you go, that’s what I’d recommend.

And the most essential part of any trip to Arlington ends with a visit to Boston’s premier frozen custard establishment: The Chilly Cow. Frozen custard is another Midwestern phenomenon that hasn’t taken off in other parts of the country. Much like Blue Ribbon, The Chilly Cow’s serving sizes are a bit warped. There’s kiddie (essentially a small), small (medium to large), medium (big), and large (gargantuan).

So here’s to PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals!


Kickass Cupcakes-April Happy Hour

April 28, 2010

There are some things I will miss when I go abroad for the entire school year. I’ll miss my friends, family, and the Tufts community. I’ll miss the Dunkin’ Donuts; something tells me that they won’t be as ubiquitous in Madrid as they are here in Boston. I’ll miss american holidays and customs, like Thanksgiving and Football (no, not soccer). But more than anything, I’ll miss the food. Things like gargantuan breakfasts or frozen yogurt vendors.  Oh yeah, and cupcakes.
Monday night was probably the last Kickass Cupcake Happy Hour I will attend until September 2011. After all, I won’t be here over the summer. You know the drill: last Monday of every month means three free cocktail inspired miniature cupcakes. Fittingly, I went with a friend who recently got his Bartender license, for which he had to memorize over one hundred drink recipes. This month, we had Chocolate Kahlua Kiss, Scorpion, and Lemon Drop.


The Chocolate Kahlua Kiss was easily my favorite. The chocolate cake was very moist, and the white chocolate flakes garnished on top of the mocha frosting provided a nice contrast. The Kahlua cream filling was disappointingly subtle; I didn’t even taste it. Maybe there just wasn’t a lot of filling in it. It is interesting to note how prevalent fillings have become in cupcakes. It seems as though half of all cupcakes offered at bakeries nowadays have some sort of filling. As cupcake vendors become more and more common, the offerings become more and more complex.


On that note, the Scorpion was probably the most ambitious. I found the almond cake to be a little on the crumbly side, but the orange liqueur frosting tasted great. I’ve made a Gran Marnier frosting before, and that had turned out quite well. The crushed cherry jolly rancher garnish seemed superfluous and detracted from the orange frosting. On the whole, it was certainly a different cupcake, but not one that I could see myself actually ordering, especially if it were full-size.


The Lemon Drop succeeded where the Scorpion had faltered. The Lemon Drop consisted of a Lemon Cupcake soaked with Limoncello and topped with a lemon frosting. By using Limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur), the Kickass bakers tempered the sugary cupcake with perceptible tartness that I certainly appreciated.
I noticed that Kickass had updated (i.e. raised) the price of their cupcakes from $2.75 to $3.00. Not exactly sure when that happened, but as long as they keep offering free cupcakes at the end of every month, I can’t complain.


Dave’s Fresh Pasta

January 27, 2010

Pasta gets a bad rap. Maybe we should blame Mr. Atkins for villanizing carbohydrates? Or perhaps the blame lies with all those school cafeterias for flooding the market with bland versions of spaghetti and meatball. The overabundance of pasta has turned many of us off to the dish entirely. After all, how many of you dreaded the dinner doldrums of “Pasta Night” growing up? In the end, pasta’s affordability and non-threatening cooking instructions proved to be its undoing. Which is unfortunate, because pasta can be truly delicious and original.

Case in point—Dave’s Fresh Pasta. After my sweet potato gnocchi in St. Louis, I decided to finally hop on the DFP bandwagon. This shop sells day-fresh pasta and ravioli along with plenty of homemade sauces. The flavors of pasta and types of ravioli fillings range from the traditional (egg pasta and spinach ravioli) to the unique (squid ink spaghetti and Butternut Squash ravioli). Along they way there are pasta flavors like Lemon Basil, Saffron, and Chipotle. The homemade sauces are equally eclectic. With 5 different kinds of basil and a myriad of red and cream sauces, the number of “pasta-bilities” is endless.

I imagine Charlie Bucket’s experience in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory was quite similar to my trip to Dave’s Fresh. While there wasn’t a river of red wine or a tribe of orange-skinned midgets singing as they pressed paninis and cut pasta, the vastness of the store and options proved astounding. There were gourmet cheeses and chocolates and wines galore. And the samples! The free samples! Screw Sam’s Club—if you want free samples, go to DFP. A big basket of bread, flanked by cheeses and oils a plenty, was just begging to be sampled. Between the daps of avocado oil to the homemade tzatziki sauce, I took my fair share of free food. I could’ve spent hours gazing at the shelves of food, but in the end I decided on the chicken sausage and fennel ravioli with the arrabiata sauce.

The only bit of advice I can give is that you should separate the ravioli prior to cooking. The prescribed cooking instructions directions told me to drop the ravioli in and stir to separate. This didn’t work. I ended up splitting some of them open in my feeble efforts to detach them. The ravioli itself was decent, but the sauce was incredible. If you’re looking to pair your pasta with a spicy red sauce, this is the one to get.

So don’t give up on starches! Go eat pasta! Show all those low-carb sissies what’s what.


Kickass Cupcakes Happy Hour

January 26, 2010

Ugh. I’m ready for a vacation. Between my Econometrics class and the precipitation of biblical proportions, I’ve had a pretty rough time getting back into the swing of things here at school. But there’s one thing that will always pick me up: cupcakes. Mick Jagger had it all wrong in “Mother’s Little Helpers.” Who needs happy pills when you’ve got cupcakes?
Well, Kickass Cupcakes offered up three free cupcakes Monday night. This “cupcake happy hour” occurs once a month from 5pm-7pm. It’s best to get there on the earlier side. Trust me, the last thing you want is to show up at 6:30 on an empty stomach and leave empty handed.

There’s something to be said about these tiny cupcakes. Their diminutive size lets you guiltlessly gorge on more than one, unlike their bigger alternatives. And they are so adorable. Whether it’s dogs or ipods or cupcakes, one thing is clear—it’s all about small. Miniature cupcakes are especially prone to dryness, but all three offerings were nice and moist. The three flavors tonight were each a little different. Below are my descriptions and thoughts.

First up, we have the Somerville Sensation, which consists of a Espresso cupcake with a marshmallow fluff center and chocolate Nutella Fluff frosting topped with Taza Chocolate cocoa nibs. The crunchy nibs were a nice touch, as was the fluff center. This cupcake was unique in its liquid accompaniment. This pairing marked the first time that “happy hour” actually included real liquor—in this case a small amount of some liqueur. Personally, I felt it added little to the taste of the cupcake, but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. The legality of the whole situation is a little iffy, but I’m not complaining. Compared to the drive-thru Margarita stand in St. Louis, this is pretty legit.

The second cupcake, a Chocolate cupcake with a chocolate beer ganache filling and a sam adams cream stout frosting was fittingly titled the Sammy. This was my favorite. The Sam Adams stout frosting was amazing and complemented the cupcake well. The ganache filling and stout frosting weren’t particularly sweet, so they constrasted well with the chocolate cake and the small drizzling of caramel on top.

The third flavor was a raspberry cosmopolitan which was made up of a vanilla cake with a raspberry center and cosmopolitan frosting. I’m never a big fan of fruity sweets like this, because more often than not they taste artificial. The raspberry filling was too sugary for my liking. The lime zest pearched atop the frosting was a nice touch, but beyond that I found this cupcake lacking, especially compared to the other two. In all honesty, I’ve yet to come across a fruity cupcake I’ve enjoyed. If I want fruit, I’ll order a blueberry muffin.

The trip was nice and helped me forget about the stresses of my economics major for a while. As much as I “love” hypothesis testing and multi-variable linear regression, it just can’t compare to this.


Best Cupcake in Harvard Square?

October 3, 2009

Molasses cake w/ginger buttercream

I was sauntering about Harvard Square last night when I encountered a tiny little shop with a rather peculiar address, Zero Brattle Street. How odd! I peered inside the shop, and suddenly my heart skipped a beat while my stomach simultaneously pirouetted. The shop, Sweet, is Harvard Square’s premier cupcakery. Well, seeing as I had just published a post on Kickass, it seemed prudent to try out Sweet’s cupcakes. I sacrifice so much for this flog!

Since they were thirty minutes from closing, many flavors were depleted. Their Red Velvet cupcake sold out four hours before my arrival, making it the most coveted cake on their menu. All the flavors appealed to me in some way. Some basic flavors included Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Carrot (spelled Karat), and Boston Crème Pie. They also have a fall selection, which just this week replaced the summer offerings. These fall flavors seemed a bit more exciting, at least to me. Apple Pie, Chocolate Orange, Molasses Ginger, S’Mores, Pumpkin Pie, and Salted Chocolate to name a few. After much deliberation, I decided to get the Molasses Ginger, which consisted of a molasses cake and a fresh ginger buttercream, sprinkled with what looked like raw sugar.
Perfect amount of frosting
The cost for one cupcake totaled to $3.25. Now, this is a little high. After all, they were average-sized cupcakes, not Crumbs-sized monstrosities. Was I paying for ambiance? The pink and fancy décor was more saccharine than sweet, and the large LCD TV on the wall clashed spectacularly with it all. I did greatly appreciate the spacious seating provided, a rarity at places like this. And given the location, all that space is certainly coming at a cost.

Frosting applied "DQ Style"

Frosting applied "DQ Style"

The molasses cake was quite dense; I thought that it could’ve been just a little lighter and moister. The strong molasses flavor stood out well. So often we limit molasses to cookies, so it was refreshing to get that flavor in something else. The ginger buttercream wasn’t particularly fluffy, but the flavor was fantastic. The ginger went well with the molasses, and the ratio of frosting to cake was perfect. I hate having to ration frosting as I eat a cupcake. This isn’t WWII, rationing is a thing of the past.

Cupcakes, like steaks, should be eaten with utensils

Cupcakes, like steaks, should be eaten with utensils

Now the question you’re all wondering: How did it compare to Kickass? Well, the 50 cent differential is worth acknowledging. After all, if you go with a couple other people, that amount starts to add up. Granted, Sweet has a better seating area and a bigger selection. I dunno how consistent their flavors are, I need to conduct some more “research.” If I find myself craving a cupcake, I’ll end up going to Kickass, since it’s closer. If I’m in Harvard, I’ll get one at Sweet.

mmmm... mmm... closer


Kickass Cupcakes: Happy Hour

October 2, 2009

Cupcakes

Virtually every situation in life can be described in culinary terms. Some of these have become famous, such as “easy as pie,” “life is your oyster,” “I’m in a real pickle,” or “icing on the cake.” I try to sprinkle food-references into my day-to-day life whenever possible.

For example, my visit to Lyndell’s Bakery on Sunday reminds me of the sharp contrast between the two halves of the black and white cookies they serve. I’m split in my assessment of Lyndell’s baked goods. On the one hand, they have what I think to be the most amazing Black and White cookie with the fresh, fluffy cake topped with a generous layer of creamy buttercream frosting. On the other hand, I had a comparatively uninspired cupcake—dry cake with a ho-hum chocolate flavor. Yes, my cupcake was dirt cheap ($1.25), but the cupcake itself just didn’t do it for me.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

Just a tad on the dry side

Just a tad on the dry side

Well, my need for a great cupcake led me once again to Kickass Cupcakes. At $2.75 a pop, the cupcakes are more than twice the cost of Lyndell’s; however, the unique flavorings at Kickass really kick Lyndell’s “vanilla-or-chocolate” ass. Sorry, that was pretty lame. I’ll keep the puns to a minimum. My two favorite flavors: The Mojito, a rum-soaked cake with lime mint frosting, and the Green Monster, a Chocolate cupcake with a chocolate beer ganache center and a stout frosting. I don’t often go due to the prices, but it’s a great little treat.
Kind of picked over by 6:45
Kickass Cupcakes holds a cupcake “Happy Hour” from 5-7pm on the last Monday of every month. These two hours of pure happiness consist of free cocktail-inspired mini-cupcakes. This month, the three freebies Kickass gave away were Chocolate Brandy, Banana Daiquiri, and a Caramel Appletini. You were allowed one of each flavor.
P8010690
My favorite was without a doubt the Chocolate Brandy. This had a chocolate cream filling that was just delicious. I’d like to take this time to just say how nice fillings are. Don’t get me wrong—I love regular cakes, but biting into that buried treasure really does it for me.
Banana Daiquiri
If you’ve had banana bread or banana muffin, you’ve tasted the Banana daiquiri cake. The frosting was some kind of cream cheese frosting. It would make a great breakfast cupcake, if there is such a thing.
Too sugary
The Caramel Appletini was too sugary for my liking. The apple flavor was artificial, which was a real turnoff. They garnished the cupcake with bits of green apple jolly rancher, which no doubt contributed to this saccharine artificiality. The banana one tasted like banana baked goods should, which made this even more of a disappointment.

I think I’m gonna go give Lyndell’s cupcakes another chance. Perhaps this Saturday. Until then, I’ve got these photos to keep me going…

So good, so chocolately


The Ballad of the Black and White Cookie

September 29, 2009

Look at that layer of frosting!

This nasty Fall weather has me in a real slump. The rain really dampens my days, literally and figuratively. The fact that everyone on campus seems to have developed a case of the black lung this past week has me rather paranoid as well. All this ballyhoo over swine flu has me in quite the tizzy. So what are you suppose to do when the world is collapsing around you? Eat comfort food! For me, that means hearty soups and sweets. And since I don’t have a stockpot here at Tufts, I took the dessert route.

I made a plum upside down cake using recipe I provided for you earlier. It was decent, but the plums lacked flavor. I wanted peaches, but the grocery store (read: the cafeteria) didn’t have any.

Curse ye Dewick Hall for not having more flavorful fruit to steal!

Curse ye Dewick Hall for not having more flavorful fruit to steal!

I decided that a trip to a bakery would put some much-needed pep in my step. So on Sunday, I ventured over to Lyndell’s Bakery on Broadway. This shop has been around almost as long as Somerville itself. Since its opening in 1887, Lyndell’s has changed hands only 4 times. Pretty incredible. Lyndell’s still has that old school 1950s feel, which was a nice change from the hipster/gourmet vibe thrown off by so many other places these days. My trip to this venerable establishment proved to be quite successful. I ordered one black and white cookie and a cupcake.
The cupcake (chocolate with vanilla frosting) was a little dry for my liking, but at $1.25, it was hardly a financial fiasco. The buttercream frosting was quite nice. The real treasure was the Black and White cookie.

Inside of Lyndell's
I’ve never enjoyed B&W cookies (or half moon cookies, as they’re known to some), but that hasn’t stopped me from ordering one at every bakery I visit. Most often, the ratio of cookie to icing is disappointingly large. I’m a guy who needs his icing. The flavor of the icing is rarely suspect; it’s the cake gets fudged up. It should have the texture of a cake, but a lot of places ruin it by cookifying (yes, as in to cookify—make or become a cookie) the cake. Yes, it’s called a cookie, but that’s not the point! I’ve been places that flavor the cake—I’m looking at you Mike’s Pastries. Mike thought it would be a great idea to turn it into lemon cake. So lame, Mike. You’re lucky you make really freaking good canolis, or there’d be hell to pay. Maybe it has to do with region. After all, B&Ws started in New York.
This ain't yo daddy's fondant icing!
Well, Lyndell’s prides itself on its B&W cookies, so I figured I’d give ‘em a try. The first thing I noticed was the thick layer of frosting. Even without taking a bite, I knew this was gonna be tasty. After admiring the beauty of it for a good minute or so, I dove in mouth first, taking a bite right along the frosting meridian. The frosting was more of a buttercream than a traditional fondant. While this may not be wholly traditional, I didn’t take umbrage because the frosting was just so good. The cake, which was fluffy and moist, had had a sugar coating on the bottom. This crunchy layer texturally contrasted well with the rest of the cake. This small detail took the cookie to a whole different dimension.

Best of all, the cookie cost me a mere $1.75. This is a full dollar cheaper than a Kickass Cupcake, and like three dollars less than a JP Licks ice cream, so it leaves your wallet and your belly full! So next time Fall–or anything really–has you down, just hit up 720 Broadway here in Somerville.

Falling leaves=trees on chemo. And where's the fun in that?

Falling leaves=trees on chemo. And where's the fun in that?