Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Center Street Cafe & Deli – Healdsburg, CA

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by virginia


On the morning of our friends’ wedding, we couldn’t bear the thought of stomaching another breakfast at our hotel (which admittedly was not so terrible, especially considering it was free, plus there was even an automatic pancake machine!) so we headed into downtown Healdsburg to grab some brunch. We walked around the square for a while contemplating our options and came across the Center Street Cafe & Deli, which was perfect for us because some of us wanted breakfast and some of us wanted lunch, and the diner-like menu offered both.

I was firmly in the lunch group while Josh was sort of in between, but we both wound up ordering sandwiches and splitting them. Josh picked the hot corned beef sandwich with swiss cheese on rye toast. The corned beef was surprisingly good – thick cut, flavorful, and appropriately fatty, and the rye toast was appropriately studded with lots of caraway seeds. We both upgraded to french fries, which were thin cut and looked like they were made from real potatoes. They tasted fine but were a tad soggy.

Corned beef sandwich with swiss, and french fries

Corned beef sandwich with swiss, and french fries

I selected the Thanksgiving sandwich, which featured thick cut turkey, provolone, lettuce, onions, mayo, and cranberry sauce. The turkey was tender and moist, but the cranberry sauce totally overpowered everything. I appreciated that it was made with real cranberries, not stuff that comes out of the can looking like cranberry jello, but it was overwhelmingly sour and completely detracted from the otherwise fine sandwich. Josh and I both agreed that the corned beef sandwich was the better choice.

Thanksgiving sandwich

Thanksgiving sandwich

Overall we thought the Center Street Cafe & Deli was just ok. It served its purpose, in that everyone found something they wanted to eat, and its location on the square couldn’t be beat. The food was decent. Not great, not awful, in line with what you would expect from a regular diner. Service was friendly, our glasses were always refilled, and prices were reasonable.

Center Street Cafe & Deli
304 Center St.
Healdsburg, CA

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX

Monday, July 28th, 2014 by virginia


Prior to our arrival in Texas, I hadn’t given much thought to Franklin Barbecue. Sure, I wanted to try it, but I also don’t like standing in line or big crowds. I also don’t like feeling disappointed when restaurants don’t live up to their hype. But after getting to Austin and realizing there really wasn’t that much to see around the city, we decided to bite the bullet and make the wait, the logic being that who knows when we’ll ever be back in Austin.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Franklin Barbecue or have never seen the Chase commercial featuring Nobu Matsuhisa, a renowned Japanese chef, visiting the famous Austin joint and meeting Aaron Franklin, the person behind the barbecue, it’s a much lauded barbecue restaurant that started as a food trailer and quickly grew into a brick and mortar location with a line almost as notorious as its food. People literally wait hours each day to eat this barbecue, and brisket, Franklin’s most popular item, always sells out. Once all the food is gone, usually by midday, they close up shop. And so basically, unless you’re the POTUS, there’s no way to avoid waiting if you want to taste that brisket.

Josh and I mapped out our plan of action the night before: he would leave our hotel first around 8:30 am and get in line. I would stay in the room until J woke up and get her ready for the day, including packing the diaper bag full of books and toys that would amuse her during the inevitable wait. While I was getting everything ready, Josh called to say that I should bring whatever beer we had, as the line was long and everyone was drinking. So I put the beer we had left over from the Salt Lick, as well as a few other beers we acquired during our trip, in a grocery bag topped with ice, hooked it up to J’s stroller, and soon J and I were on our way.

I’m pretty directionally challenged, so even though Josh tried to tell me how to get there the night before, I stopped by the front desk for a map and clear instructions. It was almost 10 am at this point. When I asked the nice young man at the desk how to get to Franklin Barbecue, his response was, “Well you see, ma’am, the thing about this place is, there’s this line…” My first thought was, “Yikes! Am I really a ‘ma’am’ already?” Which was quickly followed by my second thought, “Duh, of course I know about the line.” I convinced myself that the “ma’am” was just a polite Southern thing, not a reflection of how old I may or may not look, and I quickly assured him that my husband was already waiting in line; I just needed to know where to go to meet him.

It was a pretty short walk from our hotel to Franklin Barbecue, and as the restaurant came into sight, the line didn’t look too bad. Only when I got closer, and could see down the hill from the building, did I realize just how far it stretched.

At first glance, the line doesn't look too bad

At first glance, the line doesn’t look too bad…

Upon closer inspection, you see just how far down the block the line stretches

Upon closer inspection, you see just how far down the block the line stretches

When I located Josh, who was about three-quarters down in the line, he told me that the line had actually been longer, but they had just given out the “last man standing” sign to someone only a few people behind him, and so a bunch of people who were at the very end of the line gave up and left. The sign indicates that the person holding it is the last person guaranteed to get brisket. Basically, a worker at the restaurant takes a poll of what each person in line is going to order, and then based on that, they estimate at which point they’re going to run out of brisket. There is also an informal rib count, and I was alarmed to hear that the people right in front of us were the last ones guaranteed ribs.

Our position in line

Our position in line

The restaurant officially opens at 11am, and so we still had a bunch of time to kill before the line would even begin to start moving. Looking around, most people were a lot more prepared than we were, with folding chairs, umbrellas, and coolers of drinks set up. One rowdy group behind us (who we later found out was the crew from Uchi and Uchiko, two of Austin’s top restaurants and where Top Chef Paul Qui honed his skills) was drinking endless cups of bloody marys and seemed to be having a great time. I guess if you think of the wait as sort of a pre-bbq tailgating party, it’s just part of the fun. I still didn’t think the wait was fun, but at least we had a few cold beers to help us pass the time. And if you don’t remember or know to BYO, someone comes around selling cold beers and drinks from a tray.

To kill some time during the wait, Josh went to check out where the magic happens - the smokers out back

To kill some time during the wait, Josh went to check out where the magic happens – the smokers out back

At long last, the line began moving at 11, but at a snail’s pace. The pair in front of us, who were students at the University of Texas, were experienced diners and told us that the line moves slowly because they’ll only serve as many people as they can seat in the restaurant. That way, you are guaranteed to find somewhere to sit and eat your food immediately. It made sense to us, but as the line eventually crawled up towards the side of the building, there looked like a few tables were always empty at any given time.

When we ultimately made our way up the ramp and inside the restaurant (a triumphant feeling, 4 hours after Josh first started waiting), we could finally see what was going on. There’s still a decent wait from the time you get inside until you reach the counter to order, and the reason for that is the man himself – Aaron Franklin. Not only was he taking everyone’s order and personally slicing every brisket, he was greeting and chatting with each person that came up. When it was finally our turn, he asked us where we were from, gave us permission to take pictures, and then made fun of us for not ordering enough food (I guess most people order a lot and take home leftovers, which wouldn’t have been practical for us).

When we ordered a quarter pound of brisket, he asked if we wanted fatty or lean. We’re no fools (or so we thought) – of course we wanted fatty! Then he asked if we were sure, and he sliced off a hunk of a lean burnt end for us to taste, which may have been the single greatest bite of barbecue I’ve ever eaten. Seriously.

The master in action

The master in action

The burnt end, which is the end point of a whole brisket, is probably the most flavorful part of the meat. It’s usually fatty and has lots of bark on it, and even though this was a lean end, we literally had juices dripping down our arms when we bit into it. The end had a nice bit of char on it, was smoky but not overly so, and ridiculously rich in the best way possible. Those ends alone were worth the wait, and we were pretty lucky to have gotten to try them. We wound up changing our order to half lean and half fatty because of that.

The lean brisket was still nicely marbled throughout, though it had a meatier texture than the fatty brisket. The fatty brisket was so tender it practically melted in our mouths. I think it’s just a personal preference – it you like to chew your meat, go for lean. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not tough or chewy at all, but it’s definitely got more bite than the fatty. Some people might find the fatty end too fatty and soft, but for me, there’s no such thing when the meat is prepared properly. The char on the outside of all the slices was just great, imparting lots of concentrated meat flavor.

Brisket up close - look at the glorious bark

Brisket up close – look at the gorgeous bark

The rest of the barbecue was no slouch either. Fortunately, they did not run out of ribs ahead of us, so we were able to get a quarter pound of those. The juicy ribs that were meaty and well seasoned. They weren’t falling off the bone but yielded easily to our bites.

Ribs up top, brisket, pulled pork, turkey on the left, plus bread and cole slaw

Ribs up top, fatty and lean brisket, pulled pork, turkey on the left, plus bread and cole slaw

Cole slaw was the only side we ordered, which we used as a crunchy counterpoint to all the rich meat we were eating. It was perfectly fine – fresh, crisp, not overdressed – but nothing to write home about.

Cole slaw

Cole slaw

We also got a quarter pound of pulled pork, which wasn’t the pulverized mash that we’re used to seeing. This was roughly chopped meat, still in identifiable chunks, with a good mix of fatty and lean bits.

Pulled pork

Pulled pork up close

The pulled pork was the best vehicle for three barbecue sauces on the table – Texas-style, espresso, and sweet vinegar. Texas-style was the standard thicker, darker, sweet and smoky sauce. The vinegar sauce reminded us of Carolina barbecue, with its signature tang. The espresso sauce definitely had a strong hint of coffee flavor, but was a bit too out of the box for us to really enjoy the barbecue with; it seem to overpower the flavor of the meat. And we used the other sauces sparingly, as this barbecue was good simply on its own.

Barbecue sauces - espresso, sweet vinegar, Texas-style

Trio of barbecue sauces – espresso, sweet vinegar, and Texas-style

Instead of sausage, we decided to try the turkey, which people in line told us was really something special. The slices we got in our quarter pound order were surprisingly moist for breast meat, and packed a punch of smoky flavor. Josh declared it the best turkey he’s ever eaten, and he desperately wants to try smoking a turkey for our next holiday meal. I’m generally not a turkey lover, except maybe on a club sandwich slathered with mayo, so I probably didn’t appreciate the smoked turkey as much. Compared to the other meats we had, it was much drier in texture, and the smokiness was a bit too strong for my taste. We saved a few pieces of it for J to eat later, as she had fallen asleep while we were in line. She was a definite trooper during the wait – reading books, eating snacks, drinking milk, toddling around, and generally charming the people around her. Aside from a younger baby in a carrier, she was the only kid we saw in line.

Smoked turkey

Smoked turkey

Overall, I have to say, Franklin Barbecue definitely lived up to the hype. We haven’t tasted better barbecue anywhere else, and for us, it was worth the wait. The line itself is an adventure – if you come prepared for it, time passes quickly. The people we met in line treated the wait like a party. They planned their whole day around this. For them, it was a time to drink, laugh, and hang out with friends before eating amazing food. And the barbecue is absolutely amazing. The flavors of the meat, the textures, were all outstanding. Aside from the turkey (which Josh loved), I thought nothing was too smoky but everything had a wonderful savoriness to it that was imparted by the smoker. We ate until we were stuffed, and then continued eating because it was just too good to stop. Besides, we had burned off plenty of calories standing in line for 4.5 hours. And you know what? We would do it again.

Franklin Barbecue
900 E. 11th St.
Austin, TX

Sold out! The sign on the door when we left the restaurant around 2:30 pm.

Sold out! The sign on the door when we left the restaurant around 2:30 pm

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

Secret Santa Dinner

Sunday, January 10th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I hosted our first dinner in our (not so new anymore) apartment, a gathering with some friends to do a Secret Santa exchange. Our menu was somewhat of a traditional holiday meal, which featured a roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. We also made marinated and broiled London broil, sautéed green beans with garlic chips, roasted asparagus, Caesar salad, and potato zucchini kugel.

Our full holiday dinner table (not a great shot unfortunately because we were too busy setting everything up)

We’ve never roasted a turkey by ourselves before and knew that we wanted to brine it first, since we’ve read that it really helps keep the meat moist and flavorful. Finding a non-kosher, non-butterball turkey was actually kind of hard, and we went to several supermarkets before we finally found one that suited our needs. I forget what brand it was but it was frozen and cheap, weighing in at almost 13 lbs. Following a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, we let it defrost for a day, then soaked it in a simple brine made from two gallons of water and two cups of salt. Seriously, that’s it. It was really easy – the hardest part was finding a tub big enough to hold the turkey and brine but small enough to fit in our refrigerator.

Turkey brining in salted water

After brining the turkey for four hours (that’s all it needed!), we set it on a v-rack uncovered in the fridge to dry out the skin. This helps the skin get more crispy during roasting, but you don’t have to do it if you don’t mind soggier skin.

Turkey hanging out in the fridge to dry over night (for some reason our turkey was missing a chunk of skin on the breast!)

To prepare the turkey, we simply put carrots, celery, onions, thyme, and melted butter into the body cavity, then tied the legs together. We put the same mix of vegetables into the bottom of the roasting pan with some water. Then we brushed melted butter over the entire turkey.

Trussed turkey ready to go into the oven

We cooked the turkey according to the directions from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for classic roast turkey. This involved rotating the turkey every so often so that it cooks more evenly. The total cook time is approximately two hours, so it’s really not that difficult or time consuming to make a roasted turkey!

The result? A golden turkey that was super moist and flavorful. The skin didn’t get as crispy as we would have liked but the rest of the bird was perfect. It was really juicy and the meat was seasoned the whole way through. Seriously, everyone should brine their turkeys from now on! Our cheap bird ended up tasting divine, and we were both thrilled with the results.

Golden turkey right out of the oven

Although there weren’t enough pan drippings to make a gravy, fortunately we had saved all the giblets and innards, which Josh sauteed with some onion to develop the flavor. He made a gravy using those giblets, the vegetables from the turkey roasting pan, some chicken stock, and white wine. The gravy was thickened with a simple roux of butter and flour, and it was one of the best gravies I’ve ever tasted.

For the London broil, we bought two steaks that were a little less than 2 lbs each. We marinated each steak separately in large Ziploc bags overnight. First we liberally sprinkled salt, pepper, and garlic powder on each side of the steaks and rubbed it in a bit before placing them inside the bags. Then we just poured the marinade ingredients into the bags directly. The marinade for each steak included a 12 oz bottle of beer (any kind, we used a cheap one so that we wouldn’t waste a good beer), a healthy drizzle of soy sauce, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a squirt of sriracha (we like a little spice but you can omit this if you don’t want any heat), and two crushed cloves of garlic. Close the bags and leave a bit of air so you can squish everything together until the marinade is combined and coating the pieces of steak. Then open the bag a tiny bit, squeezing excess air out until the marinade sticks to the steak more closely. At that point, reseal the bag the whole way and place the bags in a container to catch any leakage and place it in the fridge to marinate overnight.

London broil marinating in ziploc bags

To cook the steaks, place them on a big flat sheet pan that’s covered in foil for easy cleanup, pour some marinade over the top, and place it directly in the oven under the broiler. The steaks cook for about 10 minutes on one side and slightly less on the other side (we like our steak to be rare). When you flip, pour some more marinade on the other side. They’ll form a nice brown outer crust and are still pink in the middle. Slice it thinly on the bias, against the grain. This is a cheap cut of meat so it can be a bit tough, marinating the steaks overnight and slicing it thinly really helps make it much more tender.

My proudest contribution was the potato zucchini kugel. I followed this recipe, and it really was so simple to make and very delicious. I grated the potatoes, zucchini and onion by hand, which was the part of the recipe that required the most work, but I thought it was easier than using a food processor and trying to do everything in batches.

Grated potatoes, zucchini, and onion

I had made kugel only once before, a potato kugel for Rosh Hashanah dinner at Josh’s house, but I thought the zucchini really added a lot more to the dish. The zucchini made the kugel taste lighter and fresher, and this is the version that I’ll be making from now on.

Potato zucchini mixture ready to go into the oven

The other sides were pretty much no-brainers. Mashed potatoes = easy; boil peeled potato chunks + butter + cream + salt + pepper.

Cranberry sauce = 1 can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce + 1 can Dole pineapple chunks, crushed; combine and mix together.

Sauteed green beans = sautee a few cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil + throw in washed green beans with ends trimmed; sautee until tender but still crunchy.

Roasted asparagus = washed asparagus with tough ends snapped off + drizzle of olive oil + chopped garlic + salt + pepper + grated parmesan cheese; rub the oil and seasonings over the asparagus and spread out the spears on a large flat baking sheet, roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until tender but still crunchy. Remove from oven and grate parmesan cheese over the top.

We also made a Caesar salad with homemade dressing, but I’ll do a post on that at a later time. Caesar salad topped with homemade croutons and some sort of protein is one of our favorite quick suppers.

London broil, asparagus, green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, potato zucchini kugel, turkey

In the morning, Josh and I had created of schedule of when we needed to start prepping certain dishes and when they needed to be cooked. It got a bit hectic towards the end but we managed to finish on schedule. Our tiny kitchen was a disaster, but we really had a fun time with the dinner and the Secret Santa exchange. Both of our Santas knew us all too well. I got a gift certificate to Becco, my favorite restaurant, and Josh received a bottle of wine and a Vinturi wine aerator. All of those will be put to good use, for sure. Thanks, Santas! And we hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season!