Posts Tagged ‘Meatballs’

Chalkboard – Healdsburg, CA

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 by virginia


We arrived in San Francisco on a misty and foggy (per usual) Wednesday morning. After picking up our rental and enjoying an awesome dim sum breakfast with my godparents, we headed into downtown SF to meet up with our friends Claire and Sean, and their adorable son, L. From their apartment we headed off to Healdsburg in our respective cars, stopping once at the Vista Point by the Golden Gate Bridge (which was completely whited out by the fog) to swap passengers (Claire and I needed some girl talk time).

The trip to Healdsburg took about 1.5 hours with minimal traffic. After checking into our hotel (make sure you never accidentally request a smoking room when filling out a reservation online!), Josh and I took a drive around downtown before meeting up with Claire, Sean, and L again for an early dinner at Chalkboard. During my usual pre-trip research, Chalkboard was one of the more heralded restaurants I read about, and the menu looked fabulous, so I had Josh book reservations for us well in advance.

We opted to sit outside on the back patio and enjoy the gorgeous weather. The menu features small plates, and our party of 4 (plus L, who picked off a little from every dish and has an incredible palate for a 1 year old) was the perfect size for sharing everything. We pretty much ordered to our hearts’ content, hitting almost every dish on the menu.

First up was the beef tartare, which had a wonderful texture to it and tons of beef flavor, as the meat was cut in larger chunks rather than the over-chopped mush we’ve seen in many other places. It was topped with a quail egg yolk that gave the beef a creamy richness, and was served with parsley, celery hearts, calabrian chile (which wasn’t too spicy), and smoked salt. We scooped up the tartare with the accompanying crunchy crostini, and it was a well balanced, well seasoned bite to start off our meal.

Beef tartare

Beef tartare

The trio of bruschetta featured duck rillete with peach mostarda, pickled beet with crescenza cheese and pistachio, and smoked salmon with smashed avocado, creme fraiche, and pickled onions. The rillete with peach was a nice combination of savory and sweet, while the tanginess of the pickled beet was mellowed out by the creamy and milky crescenza. Smoked salmon with avocado and creme fraiche is a pretty standard combination, but the pickled onions added a nice touch of acid and a bit of crunch to the mix. All three were pretty delicious.

Bruschetta trio

Bruschetta trio

The only vegetable dish we ordered was the caramelized baby carrots, which came with kohlrabi sauerkraut, caraway-dill yogurt, and rye crunch. I’m usually not a fan of carrots in general, but these were bursting with flavor. The sweet carrots were soft but not mushy and paired nicely with slightly sour sauerkraut. The yogurt was bright and fresh-tasting from the dill, and the rye crunch added a nice textural contrast. It was a great combination that I never would have thought of in a million years, nor did I think I would enjoy it, but it was a sleeper hit on the table.

Caramelized baby carrots

Caramelized baby carrots

The crudo of the day was ishidai (a Japanese fish) with pickled nectarines and fried olives. The fish was mild in flavor but definitely fresh, and the nectarines and olives added a burst of brininess without overwhelming the fish. Definitely an interesting combination, and the fried olives were a nice twist.

Crudo of the day

Crudo of the day

From the pasta section, we chose the squid ink gigli with dungeness crab, calabrian chile, black truffle butter, and lemon verbena. We couldn’t detect any truffle flavor in the dish, but we also didn’t miss it. The pasta itself had lots of depth and savoriness to it from the squid ink, and there was tons of crab meat mixed throughout. We could taste the fruitiness of the chile but it wasn’t overly spicy. My only complaint would be that the pasta was slightly mushy.

Squid ink gigli

Squid ink gigli

The lamb meatballs were another huge hit at our table. The meatballs were gamey but not overly so, and juicy and tender. They were served with charred grapes, mint, harissa, feta, and saba (a grape syrup). The sweetness of the grapes and syrup was unexpected but paired well with the meatiness of the lamb, and the fresh mint finished the dish on a bright note.

Lamb meatballs

Lamb meatballs

The dungeness crab tater tots were well executed, with perfectly crispy tots and a big heap of dungeness crab meat on top of each cube. The crab meat was sweet and fresh, while the tots had great potato flavor and were not the least bit greasy. Compared to the other dishes on the table, however, these were tasty but not as exciting.

Dungeness crab tater tots

Dungeness crab tater tots (some of the crab bundles fell off en route to the table)

The PEI mussels steamed with white wine was another more classic dish that was well executed. The mussels were plump and juicy though, and the broth had a lot of flavor from big pieces of bacon and fennel mixed throughout.

Steamed PEI mussels

Steamed PEI mussels

The hamachi crudo featured summer squash, kimchi, and crispy quinoa. It was a surprisingly large portion, which was not a bad thing, and I liked that the hamachi was cut into large chunks rather than the thin slices we were expecting. The kimchi flavor on the summer squash was present but mild, and I liked the textural crunch of the quinoa. It was definitely a more rustic dish than the crudo of the day, but both were tasty in different ways.

Hamachi crudo

Hamachi crudo

Last, but definitely not least, we had the pork belly biscuits. The pork belly was glazed with maple and perfectly cooked so that it was crispy on the outside and meltingly tender on the inside. The biscuit itself was fluffy and delicate, and pickled onions and chipotle mayo rounded out the little sandwiches. The salty sweet flavors were spot on, and I could have eaten all four of them by myself.

Pork belly biscuits

Pork belly biscuits

Overall, Josh and I both thought our meal at Chalkboard was one of the best that we’ve had in recent memory. The company was definitely part of it (it’s always a pleasure dining with Claire and Sean), but the food itself was well executed, and most of the combinations of flavors were innovative and exciting. The restaurant tries to use local produce and ingredients, and the care taken with each individual component was evident on the plate. At about $9-$16 per dish, the prices were very reasonable for the quality of the food and the portion sizes. We all walked away satisfied but not overwhelmingly full. Service was attentive, and the back patio area was just lovely. I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you’re ever in the Healdsburg area.

29 North St.
Healdsburg, CA

Carpenter & Main – Norwich, VT

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by virginia


Josh and I recently spent our first weekend away from baby J, to attend a wedding in New Hampshire. While Josh has been away before for work, I’ve never spent a night apart from J and I was obviously a bit apprehensive about the situation. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to a responsibility-free weekend and spending some quality time with the hubby. We drove up on Friday and spent a few hours hiking Mount Cardigan in the afternoon, then got ready for what we hoped would be a nice, romantic dinner at Carpenter & Main in Norwich, Vermont.

The view from the top of Mount Cardigan

The view from the top of Mount Cardigan

Norwich is a picturesque, quaint-looking New England town. We didn’t have time to walk around but we drove past a lot of old colonial-style buildings along the way. The restaurant is located on Main St. and, as the name implies, the corner of Carpenter St. We had a reservation and were seated immediately, in a smaller room to the side of the entrance.

Our waitress seemed a little bit harried but stopped by our table to check in while we were looking over our menus, promising to return soon to take our drink order. Josh selected a bottle of Zinfandel that was wonderfully full-bodied and spicy once it opened up. We were served dinner rolls to start, which were warm, fluffy, and soft throughout.

Soft dinner roll

Soft dinner roll

The menu is divided up into three sections – morsels, small plates, and larger plates. We wanted to taste several items and so we decided to mix and match from the morsels and small plates to start, and then finish off with the larger entrees. We asked our waitress to bring the food out in whatever order she thought would be best.

The soup of the day and two morsels showed up first. Since the soup was chilled, it was set in between our plates while we tasted the morsels. I started with the braised short rib bruschetta. It was pulled short rib meat piled on three toasted rounds of bread and topped with horseradish gremolata. The short rib was a tad on the dry side but I really enjoyed the gremolata, which had a nice kick to it from the horseradish and really bumped up the flavor of the bruschetta – I just wished there was more of it.

Braised short rib bruschetta with horseradish gremolata

Braised short rib bruschetta with horseradish gremolata

Josh got the caramelized tofu triangles first, which were served with charred broccoli rabe. He was intrigued by this dish when he saw it on the menu but I was a little wary. Turns out that I was right, as the tofu was mushy and completely drowning in a soy marinade. It must have been sitting in the marinade for a while, as the inside of the tofu was completely brown and it was incredibly salty. It was a bit more balanced when eaten together with the broccoli rabe, but overall, we thought the dish tasted like bad Chinese takeout.

Caramelized tofu triangles with charred broccoli rabe

Caramelized tofu with charred broccoli rabe

In between bites of the morsels, Josh and I both tasted the soup, which was made from three melons – cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon. The puree was refreshing and sweet, though not overly so. I thought it was a nice mix of flavors, including a citrus note in the background, but Josh thought it was a bit boring. He was looking for some more acid and perhaps a savory component, like olive oil, to break up the sweetness of the melons.

Soup of the day - cold cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon soup

Soup of the day – chilled cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon soup

The next course was when the meal picked up a bit. I received the Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze, which packed a punch of flavor. I was actually expecting something more Mediterranean, like kofte, but the spices actually skewed more Indian in flavor to me. The tomato sauce was creamy with lots of spices, reminiscent of tikka masala, and the lamb was coarsely ground and gamey, which I liked. The meatballs were definitely under-seasoned though, but it was an easy fix with the salt shaker on the table.

Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze

Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze

Josh got the vol-au-vent of escargots, which was snails piled in a puff pastry basket. The escargots were plump and tender, and the puff pastry was nicely browned and flaky. The garlic-herb cream sauce on the plate was fantastic. There were visible slices of garlic but it wasn’t overpowering. The garlic flavor was nicely balanced by the taste of fresh herbs, and the sauce was lighter than a traditional garlic butter. However, it also desperately needed more salt, but once I sprinkled some on, the dish really came together and popped.

Vol-au-vent of escargots with a garlic-herb cream

Vol-au-vent of escargots with a garlic-herb cream

For our entrees, we shared the crispy duck confit and trout ala meuniere from the larger plates section of the menu. The duck was a confit leg with tender meat and crispy skin. It was served with warm potato salad and mesclun greens. The meat was slightly under-seasoned, but when eaten with the whole grain mustard vinaigrette, the dish came together nicely. I enjoyed the lightness and brightness of the dish, and it was a good counterpoint to the heavier appetizers that we had been eating.

Crispy duck confit with warm potato salad and mesclun greens with whole grain mustard vinaigrette

Crispy duck confit with warm potato salad and mesclun greens with whole grain mustard vinaigrette

The trout dish was a huge portion of fish, definitely the biggest plate of food we had all night. The fish itself was nicely prepared – lightly dredged with a delicate crust. The sauce was classic – lemon, parsley, and brown butter – which paired nicely with the flaky fish. It was served with wild rice and the vegetable of the day, which happened to be green beans. It was a homey yet refined dish, but once again, I had to make liberal use of the salt shaker.

Trout ala meuniere with lemon parsley brown butter wild rice medley and green beans

Trout ala meuniere with lemon parsley brown butter, wild rice medley and green beans

Overall I really enjoyed our dinner at Carpenter & Main, although I think I liked the food better than Josh did. While the under-seasoning was a problem for both of us, it was easily rectified by adding some salt to finish off the dishes. I thought the flavors were good otherwise, although I would pass on some of the morsel plates next time, like the caramelized tofu (which was surprisingly too salty), and the short rib bruschetta, which was a bit boring compared to some of the either items we tasted. I absolutely loved the escargot vol-au-vent, which was a refreshing take on a classic dish, and both of our entrees, the duck and the trout, were superb as well. Prices are on par with the food, with morsels ranging from $4-$6, small plates from $8-$14, and larger plates from $12-$29. Service was warm and friendly, and the ambiance was casual but subtly polished. The best part though was that Josh and I were able to have a delightfully romantic meal, just the two of us, which is something that we’ve been missing.

Carpenter & Main
326 Main St.

Norwich, VT

Yankee Stadium – Parm

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by virginia

Josh’s cousins had two extra tickets to the Yankees/Orioles game last Saturday so we were lucky enough to be able to tag along. It was the night game of a day/night doubleheader, and the earlier game must have taken a toll on the Orioles, as the game we witnessed was a completely lopsided match-up. The Yankees scored 12 runs in the first inning, a franchise record, and I think everyone in the line up got on base and scored during the hour-long inning. It was pretty incredible, and lots of fun to watch.

The beginning of the first inning

A record 12 runs in the first inning for the Yankees

Because the first inning took so long, Josh and I were pretty hungry by the end so we immediately headed down to get some food after the third Yankee out. We knew exactly where we were headed – the new Parm stand in the Great Hall. The stand is run by the people behind Torrisi Italian Specialties down on Mulberry Street, a restaurant I’m really eager to try. They plan on opening up an actual Parm restaurant soon right next door to Torrisi, so this stand is almost like a trial run for them.

The menu is incredibly basic. You can either get a turkey sandwich or a meatball parm, both of which cost $14 each. Kind of steep, especially since the turkey sandwich is only $9 at Torrisi downtown, and $11 for a larger hero. But this is a ballpark so a markup is expected. I was pretty surprised though by the calorie count on the meatball parm, not that it really deterred me from ordering it.

The menu at Parm

Josh and I got one of each sandwich and asked the person behind the counter to cut them in half for us. The turkey sandwich had mayo on it, but Josh doesn’t like mayo so we compromised and asked for light mayo. Turns out, it didn’t need any mayo at all. The turkey was incredibly moist and flavorful, some of the best turkey I’ve ever tasted. In addition to the mayo, there was a spicy sauce slathered on that really had a great tangy kick to it. If you really don’t like spicy sauce though, ask for it light or without because it packed a surprising amount of heat. There was also lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion on the sandwich, which added a nice freshness.

The famous Torrisi turkey sandwich

Autopsy shot

The meatball parm featured a thick meatball patty that was soft and flavorful. The meatball had a wonderful texture to it, and it was also one of the best that I have ever tasted. There wasn’t a lot of cheese on the parm, but the tomato sauce was zesty and well seasoned. My major complaint was that the sandwich was lukewarm. I think it could have been even better had it been served hot, but the flavors were still pretty spot on. I really liked that they put fresh basil leaves on top of the meatball. My minor complaint was that the roll was slightly too sweet for the meatball parm. It was the same roll they use for the turkey sandwich, but it didn’t work as well with the parm. It is sort of like an eggy brioche bun. I liked that it was soft and squishy but it was really just a tad too sweet for my taste.

Meatball parm sandwich

Autopsy shot

Overall we really enjoyed both sandwiches from Parm, and I was happy to be able to try the turkey sandwich that helped make Torrisi famous. I’d love to go there for dinner sometime but the no reservation policy makes it kind of difficult. One of these days we’ll just have to suck it up and stand in line. As for the Parm stand at Yankee Stadium, it’s a welcome addition. Yes, it’s pricey, and the sandwiches aren’t huge, but the quality can’t be beat. I’m still thinking about that wonderful turkey.

It was really hot out so we also decided to grab a lemonade from one of the many lemonade stands in the stadium. At $5.25 a cup, it’s also pretty pricey. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the cost. The lemonade tasted incredibly watered down. It wasn’t too sweet, which I liked, but it also lacked the tanginess that you would expect from lemonade. As a result, it really wasn’t very refreshing, and I’ll pass next time.

Not very lemony lemonade

The rest of the game wasn’t as exciting as the first inning, though the Yankees still managed to tack on a bunch more runs. We started out the game sitting in the upper deck, in left field foul territory. Josh’s cousins also had two field level tickets behind the Orioles dugout, and after the fourth inning, we were allowed to move down and sit with them there because the stands were pretty empty. It was a nice upgrade, and we finished out the game with a pretty great view of the field.

The great view from our new seats

Jeter at bat

The Yankees ended up winning the game 17-3 and had a whopping 24 hits during the game. We had a great time watching the game and hanging out with everyone. Plus we really enjoyed our sandwiches from Parm, and I would definitely go back there if we make it to another Yankee game this season. I hope the stand sticks around, as it’s really worth a visit!

The final score

The Yankees lining up to celebrate their win

Re-visiting Fat Sal’s Pizza

Saturday, June 11th, 2011 by virginia

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written about delivery pizza. Anyone remember our quest to find the best delivery pizza in our neighborhood? So that quest kind of stalled out, mostly because we never did end up finding a go-to place. We did settle between two options, La Traviata on West 68th St. and LJ Pizza on 10th Ave. La Traviata seems like a higher quality pie but the crust is a bit thicker than we’d like. LJ’s sauce is a bit too sweet but they have great sandwiches and are a bit cheaper as well. Either way, nothing really stood out as the best delivery pizza in our area, and believe me, we’ve pretty much exhausted our options at this point.

So a few weeks ago, we got a very interesting email from a person saying he was the owner of Fat Sal’s and that he only recently read our original post from August 2009 where we got a pizza delivery that looked like this:

Our first impression of Fat Sal's pizza

Obviously, we were horrified by the state in which our pizza arrived. There had been a mix up with our address on the order, so given the circumstances, we decided to give Fat Sal’s another chance. The pizza arrived a bit disheveled, but nothing like the first time. Still, we weren’t really impressed with the pizza, and decided to write the place off as a lost cause.

So coming back to the email that we got from the owner, he said he wanted to apologize and correct the bad impression that we had even though it was a delay of a year and eight months since our original post. He also offered us a free dinner and hoped that we would be happy with the way the food arrived, as well as the quality. Needless to say, Josh and I were pretty shocked to receive such an email, especially after such a long time since those posts. We were impressed that the owner still saw the need to write us an apology, and his offer of a free dinner was very generous.

While we decided against taking him up on his offer, we did decide to give Fat Sal’s one last shot, to see if the pizza had improved since our last order. We placed the order online, making sure to put in the correct address this time, but we didn’t give any indication of who we were or reference the owner’s letter. The pizza arrived pretty promptly, and we popped open the box eagerly to see how the it looked. To my shock, as I flung open the top, a slice of pizza went flying through the air and landed on the floor. I grabbed the slice (5 second rule!) and quickly replaced it, all the while laughing hysterically. Apparently the box had been accidentally closed on the slice so that the lid was stuck to the cheese. If I had opened the box a bit slower, the slice would have just fallen back into the box, but because I had opened it so exuberantly, the momentum caused the slice to fling into the air. It really wasn’t a big deal, but given the circumstances and our past history with Fat Sal’s, it was pretty funny.

Where the slice stuck to the box

Once I replaced the slice, the pizza looked pretty good. The crust was thin and properly browned. There looked like a good ratio of cheese and sauce, and the pizza was still hot, which is always important.

A slight pie mishap but no harm done

The pizza was pretty good, better than I remembered. The crust was thinner and crispier, but still had a nice chew. The cheese was not too thick and the sauce had a zippy tang to it.


Slice up close

The bottom of the crust had a nice char but wasn’t overcooked. I like a good amount of browning but I hate it when there are black spots that just taste burnt. This was a nice balance and made the crust delicately crispy rather than crunchy.


Underside shot

We also got a meatball hero, which I was a big fan of the last time we ordered. On the ordering website, I forgot to select the “parm” option so it came without cheese, but the meatballs were still flavorful and pretty tender. The red sauce on top was great, not too sweet with just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the meat. The bread was toasted so it was crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside.

Meatball hero

Lastly, we got an order of garlic knots. They were a bit chewy and slightly cold but were covered in lots of tasty garlic. Popping them in the oven to reheat briefly really improved their texture.

Garlic knots

Overall we were actually pretty pleased with our order from Fat Sal’s. We could see that it had improved in quality since the last time we ordered, back in December 2009, and the food arrived pretty quickly. There was a slight mishap with the slice stuck to the box but nothing major like the first time we got a pizza from there. The food is very reasonably priced, on par with most of the pizza places around here, and we found a $3 off coupon on their website that we were able to print out and use without any issues. I’d definitely consider Fat Sal’s the next time we have a pizza craving. Kudos to the owner for sending us that email because if we hadn’t heard from him, we probably wouldn’t have ordered from there ever again, and we wouldn’t have known their food had improved. In the end, we were glad that we decided to give the place another shot.

Fat Sal’s Pizza (multiple locations)
730 1oth Ave. at 50th St.
New York, NY

Foodie Futbol

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I hosted a World Cup party at our apartment to watch the final between Spain and the Netherlands. We had decided long ago to cook foods from the competing nations, not knowing who would be in the championship match. We were rooting for Spain from the beginning so we hoped they would be one of the teams, and luckily they didn’t disappoint, but the other side of the bracket was a complete toss up. When the Netherlands prevailed, we were at a loss as to what to make to represent Dutch cuisine.

Planning the Spanish side of the menu was easy, as Josh and I both love Spanish food and he had done a semester in Barcelona during college. For the Dutch side of the menu, I ended up doing a few google searches, and although we couldn’t exactly pronounce the names of any dishes, we got some good recipes of stuff to make.

While Josh and I both like to entertain, we don’t exactly know how to do it without going overboard. We both love to cook and to share our cooking with other people, so when we have parties, we tend to make a million things. Most of the time we end up missing out on most of the party because we’re in the kitchen still cooking. We didn’t want to miss the soccer game though, since this was the whole point of our party, so we made sure to plan dishes that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated.

We had our planning done ahead of time, complete with detailed shopping lists and who would make what, but I think we were a bit overly ambitious and wound up pulling an all nighter – cooking, that is. We did all of our shopping on Saturday morning/afternoon in NJ, got back to the city around 7 pm, and promptly started prepping and cooking. 11 hours later, at 6 am, after the sun had set and risen, we finally went to bed. We got up three hours later and finished cooking, then set everything up for our party, which started at 1:30. It was a hectic and tiring process, but we did get everything done, we didn’t miss the game (hooray for Spain!), and everything turned out better than we hoped.

Since the theme of the party was the World Cup final, we kind of planned our menu to pair Spanish and Dutch dishes head to head. First up was our cheese board, which featured Spanish manchego cheese versus Dutch gouda. We paired the gouda with apple slices, and the manchego with membrillo, which is quince paste. The gouda was declared the winner, though the membrillo turned out to be a surprise hit. Silva and Felipe also brought a different kind of Spanish cheese that was milder than the manchego but still quite tasty.

Gouda/apples vs. Manchego/membrillo

Next was the battle of the breads. On the Dutch side, we made Boerenkaas Puffs, which were cheese puffs made with gouda. The recipe we followed came from here. They were pretty similar to gougeres, very easy to make, and really delicious. On the Spanish side, we made pan con tomate, which is simply tomato bread. All you need to do is take a baguette, slice it in half length-wise, rub a clove of garlic on each side, and sprinkle each side with some salt and olive oil. Then you take some ripe tomatoes, cut them in half, and rub the juicy pulp all over the bread. Easy and really tasty. Both breads were a hit, so I think this may have been a toss up.

Boorenakas puffs (cheese puffs with gouda)

Pan con tomate (tomato bread)

For the potato dishes, we had tortilla espanola on the Spanish side. The tortilla is basically a giant frittata with layers of potato, onion, and egg. To make the tortilla, we gently roasted potatoes and onions in the oven, layered it in deep dutch oven, and covered the layers with lots of scrambled eggs. We baked the tortilla in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until it was cooked through and had set. For the Dutch potato dish, we made Boerenkool Stamppot, which is a hodgepodge with mashed potatoes, onions, kale, and smoked sausage. This was the recipe we followed. The potato/kale mixture turned out to be a surprise hit, helped mostly by the smoked sausage we spread around it.

Tortilla espanola

Boerenkool Stamppot (kale hash with sausage)

For the main courses, this was where we showed our true colors. Since we were rooting for Spain, we made two Spanish entrees and only one Dutch entree. In actuality, we couldn’t decide on which Spanish dish to make so we made both. First was pollo ajillo, or chicken in garlic sauce. To make the chicken, we first brined it in salt water for a few hours. In the meantime, we gently cooked a whole head of minced garlic in olive oil to make a super flavorful garlic oil. Then we seared the chicken (we used bone-in thighs) in that garlic oil and placed them into a dutch oven with minced onions that had been carmelized in garlic oil. We deglazed the pan with white wine, poured that off into the dutch oven, and tossed in the garlic from the garlic oil into the mixture as well. To add even more garlic punch, we added slivers of garlic from an entire additional head of garlic. Then we added the zest of three lemons and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken. We cooked the chicken in the dutch oven, in the oven, at 350 degrees for several hours. Right before serving, we added the juice of the three lemons to brighten up the flavor. By the time we served the chicken, it was super tender and falling off the bone.

Pollo ajillo (chicken in garlic sauce)

Our other spanish entree was albondigas, or meatballs. To make the meatballs, we mixed together ground beef, a puree of onions and garlic, and fresh pieces of diced onion. We used salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika to season the meat. We rolled and shaped the mixture into bite sized meatballs, then seared them off in a large pan. In a large pot, we sauteed some onions in garlic oil and added a big can of crushed tomatoes. When the meatballs were all seared, we added them to the pot of sauce and gently simmered them for a few hours. They were also super tender by the time we served them, and the flavor of the spices really shined through.

Albondigas (meatballs)

Our Dutch entree was Gestoofde runderlappen (try pronouncing THAT!), or braised steak. It was essentially a beef stew cooked entirely in beer. Simple, yet deeply flavorful. The recipe we followed came from here. The beef fell apart with a touch of a fork, and the carrots and onions added a nice heartiness to the dish.

Gestoofde runderlappen (braised steak)

We didn’t forget about dessert! For the Dutch side, we tried to be a bit playful and decided to make herb brownies. The herb? Mint, of course. Josh and I had an argument about the brownies because I just wanted to use ones from a box, but he insisted on making them from scratch. He won out in the end by convincing me that it would be embarrassing to say on the blog that we made brownies from mix. It was kind of a victory for both of us, as he ended up being the one to make them at 5 am while I sulked on the couch nursing my aching knife arm. He used the cocoa brownie recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years, which is similar to the recipe posted here. The mint was our own addition (add a handful of fresh leaves to the butter as it’s melting, then strain). The brownies were intensely chocolatey, had a fudgey texture, and just a hint of mint in the background. They were super rich but I thought they were really good, so kudos to Josh.

"Herb" brownies (with mint)

Beauty shot of the rich, chocolately, minty deliciousness

The Spanish dessert was all Josh as well (he’s the real baker in the family). Using another Alton Brown recipe, but substituting real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, the flan was a risky endeavor but a huge success. He also made his own caramel sauce, courtesy of Mr. Brown as well. The flan had the perfect texture, creamy and smooth, and the caramel sauce was thick and rich.

Flan with caramel sauce

Beauty shot

So the verdict? I think based on the entrees, Spain had the narrow victory. And not because we’re biased or anything. But the Dutch food was surprisingly really good, and I’m eager to try it for real next year when we head to Amsterdam in honor of Josh’s 30th birthday. Aside from the food, the game was really exciting as well. La Furia Roja eeked out the win in extra time, and we’re glad it didn’t end up going to penalty kicks. All in all it was a successful day, and totally worth the lack of sleep we endured. Plus we have oodles of leftovers to feast on for the rest of the week!