Monday, June 11, 2018

Off the Map: On the Cape, Off the Menu

Stuffed Quahog -- Marshland Restaurant, Sandwich, MA

It seems only appropriate that Vodka should kick off the weekend of Ginger's Cape Cod wedding not with running errands, decorating the venue, or doing anything remotely helpful, but rather with stuffing her face in the name of Best Thing I Ever Ate loyalty.
Pretty Sure the Bride Would Approve
This is how Vodka and her wedding date, Whiskey Sour, wind up at Marshland Restaurant barely five minutes after crossing the bridge. 
Priorities: Eat First, Unless Cocktails Are Available. Then Drink First
We are here to consume Duff Goldman's HOMETOWN FAVORITE choice, the stuffed quahog, which despite being advertised heavily on the establishment's website, is inexplicably not on the menu. 
Not the Menu
Fearing she'll have to stage a disgruntled walkout (which would seem on-brand on the eve of Ginger's big day, to be honest), Vodka asks one of the congenial waitresses about the missing item, and she is assured that it is indeed available.
Not Available: Levers for Straightening the TV Sets
Mere minutes later, Vodka is delivered a giant clam shell piled high with... well, it just looks like breading. 
Is This a Clam or a Dinner Roll?
She douses it with a solid helping of the accompanying melted butter and digs in, finding the creation to be... bready. Like, essentially just breadcrumbs toasted among a smattering of red peppers, butter, and presumably, clams. 
Like Biting Into a Soggy Ritz Cracker
Usually, Vodka is all for a carb overload (she did once complain about crab cakes having too much crab, after all), but this ratio seems extreme. 
Perhaps Whiskey Sour Could Lend Her Some Salad for a Bit of Texture
Whiskey Sour, a New England native and resident, finds the creation more pleasing and thinks that it is decidedly of its location, thus a good dish for making a local feel like he's home. 
Home Is Where the Bar Stools Are
After Vodka drowns the entire clam in hot sauce and continues to look neutral about the whole endeavor, Whiskey Sour poses what should be an easy question:

"Do you even like clams?"

"Um, I don't know."

"Have you ever HAD clams?"

"I've had linguine with clams...."

"Oh dear."
What? Does That Not Count?
Vodka finds the best part of the stuffed quahog to be its price tag, as she can't remember the last time she procured lunch for a mere $5.66.
Bargain Basement Beet Salad
And in the end, it seems to make sense that Vodka's final meal before slinking off to Ginger's nuptials is one she finds completely mediocre.
We Are Curmudgeons, After All
What would make even more sense is if the meal came to a riotous conclusion with a biting customer service brawl, but alas, it appears that battle will have to wait for the next joint Vodka and Ginger outing, with or without Ginger's unsuspecting husband in tow. 

Marshland Restaurant's Stuffed Quahog: 3 stars

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Off the Map: Everything Really Is Bigger in Texas

Fried Chicken -- Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Burleson, TX
Whoever coined the term about everything being bigger in Texas clearly did so while dining at Babe's Chicken Dinner House.
Maybe This Is Texas's Ploy to Keep Us from Leaving
Vodka and her college roommates, Diet Coke and Whiskey Sour, are at the Burleson location to sample Melissa D'Arabian's chosen FRIED CHICKEN favorite from Best Thing I Ever Ate.
"Comfortable" Seating Options
Only when we arrive at 4:30pm, expecting a quick munch on a chicken leg before heading back to the stables of the Fort Worth stockyards, we find a crowd gathered outside for a 20-minute wait.
Could You Move This Along? We Have a Rodeo to Get To
Settling atop some wagon wheels, we watch customer after customer emerge from the joint clutching a single, transparent plastic bag.
We've Seen Many To-Go Containers in Our Lives, but Never Anything Quite Like This
"What are they all carrying?" Whiskey Sour asks.

"Chicken?" Vodka guesses, perplexed by not only the proliferation of leftovers, but also by their chosen receptacle.
But As We Will Soon Learn, These Bags Are Not the Most Perplexing Aspect Of Babe's Chicken House
However, within mere moments of being led to our table inside the Epcot-like decor of Babe's, the reason behind such doggie bags becomes clear: we are about to be drowned in food.
A Whole Restaurant Full of Excessive Chicken Eaters
Our waitress explains that our table is about to be laden down with salad, biscuits, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy, along with our desired meat: fried chicken, chicken fingers, smoked chicken, or chicken-fried steak.
In Other Words, We're Never Getting Out of Here
Vodka chooses the fried chicken, believing she is speaking for the entire table, since all of the dishes are to be served family-style.
Plus, This Would Certainly Fill All Three of Us, No?
"You all want fried chicken?" the waitress asks.

Hold up -- we EACH choose our own meat?! Please just bring us the to-go Ziplocs now.
Or We Can All Eat Our Own Half Chicken.... That Works, Too
Chicken Fingers? More Like Chicken Hands

Vodka sticks with the fried chicken, while Diet Coke goes for the smoked chicken, and Whiskey Sour, the chicken fingers.
Pace Yourselves, Everyone
And before the waitress has so much as walked away, a heaping bowl of salad and plate of biscuits gets placed before us.
Olive Garden, Southern Edition
The salad is surprisingly flavorful, being that it resembles little more than romaine tossed in dressing. And the biscuits are some of the lightest and fluffiest we have ever encountered.
In Other Words, We Polished Them Off in Five Minutes Flat
Not to be outdone, we are soon graced with our own chickens in various forms of preparation, and we barely even know where to begin.
And This Was Only Round One
While she has no desire to actually prove this theory, Vodka believes that of all the Best Thing I Ever Ate episodes, she has sampled the most dishes from the FRIED CHICKEN one, and Babe's variety is one of the best.
Though to Be Fair, It's Hard to Find a Fried Chicken We Won't Enjoy
Incredibly crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside, it is the ideal stereotype of how fried chicken should be executed.
And Special Shout-Out to the Mashed Potatoes
Diet Coke and Whiskey Sour find their choices to be similarly pleasant, as are the proliferation of sides, for which the waiters at Babe's keep insisting we should accept refills.
No, No, Please No More!
Indeed, a solid fifteen minutes into our meal, our only show of progress is a single bare chicken bone beside Vodka's plate, and we begin waving the white flag -- or in this case, the plastic leftover bags.
A Pitiful Display
By the time we roll out of Babe's, the crowd outside has quadrupled in size, proving that the people of Burleson seem to value chicken more than they do booze during their Saturday night dinners.
Have We Mentioned This Place Doesn't Serve Liquor, and Yet, NO VACANCY
And as our own chicken gets tucked away in our carry-on luggage, to be consumed immediately upon reentries into our homelands, Dallas hammers home the point that even upon leaving its borders, the state's vastness extends so widely that you can never quite leave Texas behind.

Babe's Chicken Dinner House's Fried Chicken: 4 stars

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Off the Map: Mostly Closed in Texas

BBQ Beef Brisket -- North Main BBQ, Euless, TX
North Main BBQ

If there is one fatal flaw in our blog -- or, we suppose, in any food-related review endeavor -- it's that personal taste accounts for quite a lot. In our case, this bodes well for dishes involving, say, liquor, pasta, and cheese, and less well for those with beer, sweet potatoes, and apparently, smoked meat.
Please Pass the Spaghetti
See, the thing is, it's not that Vodka dislikes barbeque, but it is not something that she ever, EVER seeks out. 
Except, Of Course, for OCD Blog Purposes
This is possibly not the best state of mind in which to be while slithering around Texas in search of brisket, specifically that which Ted Allen highlighted on the BAR-B-QUE episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.
So... Is This All That's Left?
When Vodka, Whiskey Sour, and Diet Coke arrive at North Main BBQ in Euless, TX, we are humored by the enormous signs posted outside delineating when they are open (or more aptly, when they are NOT open, which is every day that is not a weekend). 
A Work Ethic to Emulate
Upon entering, we can't locate the BBQ or the restaurant itself, as the entire view is blocked by gargantuan piles of disposable plates.
The Wizard of Oz Version of BBQ
Once we make our way around the structure and request an order of beef brisket, we are immediately given an inquisitive look. "Why just the brisket?"
Um, Does Beef Brisket in Dallas Really Need a Reason?
Whiskey Sour and Diet Coke give Vodka a metaphorical nudge, and she explains that we are here at the instruction of Ted Allen
Who Failed to Mention That North Main Also Possesses a SOFT ICE CREAM Machine
With this news, the North Main employees seem to take a liking to the northeasterners seemingly overwhelmed by the platters of beef before them, and they begin doling out their delicacies willy nilly.
We'll Take One Order to Share... Or Three Plates Worth. Either One
We assemble ourselves at one of the communal tables with our styrofoam cup beverages, and Diet Coke, who chooses Diet Coke (naturally) is in the midst of a declaration about how "Diet Coke drinkers tend to be very functional -- they're in high places." 
Yes, Well, So Are Whiskey Drinkers
Before we can take a bite, one of the North Main beef men scampers over holding "meat candy," which he deposits on our plates, along with some choice burnt ends, as "Ted Allen's favorite part of the brisket." 
A Sensible Mid-Morning Snack
While we are impressed, and quite heartened by the cordiality, this also means that we now have overflowing plates of BBQ before us, and we are feeling a tad overwhelmed.
Looks Like We're Gonna Need More Paper Towels
Thankfully, a few bites into the brisket, it proves to be just as delectable as Ted Allen had described. 
Meat Candy Featured in Front
Tender to the point of true melt-in-your-mouth goodness, it is flavorful even before the addition of sauce. 
Though Naturally, Vodka Still Drowns It in Sauce, Because It Is a Condiment
In fact, the brisket here, along with the pork ribs, are even more pleasing than the versions we tried the night before at Pecan Lodge, which is considered by many to be some of the best barbeque in Dallas, and Whiskey Sour and Diet Coke would venture to say that the brisket alone is truly the best they have ever had anywhere.
BBQ Tray From Pecan Lodge, for Comparison
And Vodka? She doesn't disagree. The brisket is very, very good. But despite the satisfied moans coming from across the table, she just can't bring herself to rank it a 5 star dish. 
Despite Its Dearth of Hours, the Place Isn't Exactly Bumping with Business....
And herein lies the flaw in the system of food, and taste, and all sorts of subjectivity -- it's always a matter of personal preference. And barbeque, no matter how outstanding, would never be something Vodka would choose over, for instance, a heaping bowl of pasta.
After All, Pasta Rarely Gets Cooked in the Garage
Anyone Have a Doggie Bag?
Once we have properly stuffed ourselves, Whiskey Sour wraps the rest of our provisions in an origami of paper napkins, and we head off in search of the Fort Worth rodeo -- or in other words, to brisket's prelude.
Land of Annie Oakley
Brisket on Parade
North Main BBQ's Beef Brisket: 4 stars

Friday, March 16, 2018

Off the Map: Taking Shots in Dallas

Lobster Scallion Shooters -- Abacus, Dallas, TX

Call us crazy, Melissa D'Arabian, but if you're going to be featured on Best Thing I Ever Ate's BEST I EVER DRANK episode, you should choose an actual BEVERAGE, preferably one containing ALCOHOL.
For Reference, This Is What Alcohol Looks Like
Despite Vodka's skepticism regarding any "happy hour" preference not featuring booze, she and her college roommates, Whiskey Sour and Diet Coke, forge ahead down the empty sidewalks of Dallas until they reach Abacus, home of Melissa's favorite lobster scallion shooters.
Brave of Dallas to Incorporate Any Shooting References on Their Menus....
Taking advantage of the generous two-hour window in which one can procure half-priced drinks, we order an old-fashioned (Vodka), prosecco (Whiskey Sour), and Cabernet (Diet Coke), along with a plate of sushi from the similarly cheap bar bites menu.  
Poor Lighting and No Desire to Fix It
Due to the manic efficiency of the bartender (which is quite appreciated by the ever-impatient Vodka, especially when it comes to cocktail consumption), all of our requests are placed before us in mere minutes. 
Zooming In to Actually See What We're About to Consume
Vodka is the first to pour the sauce from the sake bottle into one of the shot glasses, which each feature a small battered lobster fritter atop a bed of scallions. 
The sauce itself is simultaneously sweet and tangy, and it has the distinct aura of sweet and sour soup. 
We Believe It Was Orange-Tinged, Though You'd Never Know by Out Photographic Evidence
When combined with the crunchy lobster, it does indeed prove to be a pleasing combination, enhanced by the novelty of swigging the whole concoction back like a bump of tequila.
Who's Down for Another Round?
Additionally, while the bar bites sushi was also quite scrumptious, once again, Vodka took absolutely no notes on it, so you'll just have to take our word for it. 
Instead, She Took Pictures of Diet Coke Listing the States
Here's the Sushi. Don't Ask Us What's In It
And so, Abacus receives 4 stars for successfully overcoming Vodka's predilections for automatically despising any BEST I EVER DRANK options which aren't found on the spirits menu. 
We Always Feel More Generous at Happy Hours
Though we're still calling foul on singling out a "beverage" one has to, you know, CHEW. Just saying, Melissa D'Arabian. Just saying.

Abacus's Lobster Scallion Shooters: 4 stars