Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Trishna – London, UK

After doing some research on restaurants to check out in London (there’s only a few thousand, obviously), I kept seeing Trishna on the list. It’s an upscale-affordable, but not snooty, Indian restaurant in the Marylebone area. I had walked past it on my evening stroll a few times previous, and knew I needed to check it out.

The inside is about fifteen feet wide, with six tables on the main floor, and then an unknown number of tables upstairs (I didn’t check it out). The staff here make sure you're very well taken care of. They take – and return - your coat and call cabs for you. They make sure your wine is chilled and all of your glasses don’t run out.

The menu has a tasting menu, which I think I was outside the window of availability (only served the tasting until maybe 7 or 8pm), but all of the individual items on the menu, from starters, to mains and sides, were all well described and sounded delicious.

I decided on the Dal Chawal Achar to start with – yellow lentil and rice dumplings, yogurt, papad, and pickle. For the main course, after much deliberation, I decided on the Andhra Lamb Masala with curry leaves and coastal seasonings. I also ordered a bottle of Pinot Bianco Quercus from Goriška Brda vineyards. Not a fancy bottle by any means, but I was sure it was going to be good. (I was right, for the record...)

Even before my food came out, they brought a basket full of puffed rice crisps to the table with a mango chutney and a spicy tomato chutney. Both were really good to snack on while waiting for my order to arrive. I hadn’t intended to eat the entire basket, but I looked down and it was empty. Whoops!

The appetizer was fantastic. Even better than I expected it to be. The balls were light and fluffy and went really well with the yogurt it was perched upon. The green seasoning, like a pesto, on top of each of the balls had great flavor, as well. The pickled carrots had an unusual cross between mustard and wasabi spices to them, but they were fantastic.

The lamb masala was also mind-blowing. It fell apart when you touched it with the fork – which I know is not easy to do with lamb. These folks at Trishna are experts, however. The dish is served in a small crock, so it looks like there’s not a lot there, but it’s an illusion. There is PLENTY of meat in that crock. The seasonings and curry leaves added some top-notch flavor to the already tender meat. I loved this thing. You can order it with rice or with naan bread, and I’m glad I ordered the naan. It was two different kinds of naan in the basket. One ad black sesame seeds in it and the other was a bit garlicky – perfect. I know British people call the wrong things “biscuits”, so they don’t understand the meaning of “sopping it up with a biscuit”, but that’s absolutely what I did with the naan. The crock and my plate looked like they had just come out of the dish washer.

I wasn’t going to, but I totally caved at the end of the meal and got some kheer for dessert. It’s my favorite. If you haven’t had it before, it’s sort of a cross between rice pudding and tapioca, made with rice and condensed milk and cardamom. There’s was served in a beautiful brass pan with all kinds of seasonings on the top of it – which I’m not used to seeing. Now every kheer I get from here out will be compare to the kheer at Trishna.

At one point, I had to use the restroom (or the “loo”) and when I got back, the server had taken my not-yet-empty wine glass. The manager noticed and came over very apologetically and brought me a new (and FULL) glass of something similar. He felt bad that it had been removed and he was going to make it up to me. Which they did, when they brought out these small bite-sized brownie pieces and another full glass of dessert wine. The small desserts were pretty good, but whenever this happens, I wish D.Rough were here, since she appreciate brownies and chocolate-y dessert so much more than I do. You would have loved these, D.Rough!! I also made sure neither the server nor the bus person got into trouble for removing my glass. It wasn’t a big deal at all and I didn’t want anyone to take any heat for the simple mix-up.

I love the variety of people in this restaurant. I heard conversations in French, Italian, Russian/Ukranian, Indian, and English. It’s so good, people from every place in the world love it. I can’t say enough about the staff - they took care of everything. There was a group of French guys flirting with the 23 year old server (I overheard them asking her how old she was) and she took it like a champ. Just smiled and push them aside to wait on other tables. Well done. The manager made sure I was taken care of, well beyond the point most places would have stopped. Truly. A very good job. For an affordable restaurant, it was an upscale experience.

Indian food in the US can be really cheap (buffet-style) or a little bit fancy. I’ve never been to a really nice Indian restaurant like this before. It changed my mind on what it could be in the US. I’m a big fan of Trishna. I’ll likely round up some other people to come here on subsequent trips back to London.

Top 5 things about Trishna
1) Andhra Lamb Masala
2) Dal Chawal Achar
3) Super service
4) Menu has some really delicious sounding items, including some unusual game hens
5) Kheer

Bottom 5 things
1) Wish I had made it in time for the various tasting menus
2) I was sooooooo full after dinner, thankfully, I walked back to the hotel instead of using the tube
3) No pakora, which I was hoping for (everything else made up for it, though, I promise)
4) It’s a little pricey, but I think the cost is justified by the experience in this case
5) I’m ruined for Indian food at every other place now that I’ve had the best here at Trishna

15-17 Blandford Street
Marylebone Village
London W1U 3DG

Friday, November 7, 2014

Queen’s Arms – London, UK

Many people don’t know that D.Rough spent a semester in London while she was in college and we’ve talked about coming back together and sharing some of our favorite places with each other. Since she couldn’t come with on this trip, she advised me on few places I needed to check out in her old neighborhood. The Queen’s Arms in Kensington was one of those places.

The inside of this pub is lively – some might say loud, but I say lively. Lots of small and medium sized groups sitting at tables or standing near the bar. Everyone’s food looks great, so I’m looking forward to this. I took these photos when I first got to the place and shortly after, it was standing room only and a fire marshall's nightmare.

They’ve got an extensive beer and cider menu, as well as some good food, so I knew I’d be taken care of for a few hours, anyway. As in many places in the UK, you order at the bar – food and drinks, both. I checked out the menu and made my decisions – not the easiest thing to do with so many good things available. I started with an Addlestones Cloudy Cider. Good and full-bodied, exactly what I wanted. I ordered a Meat Board – which is like a sampler, and I also felt like I needed some mac & cheese.

The Meat Board is just awesome. Slices of hand crafted cured deli meats. A pepperoni, maybe a mortadella, and something else that was made from pigs. Delicious. There were scotched quail eggs. If you don’t know what a scotch egg is, you’re missing out – it’s a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage and then deep-fried. Killer. These were particularly fennel-y and I loved them. A whole batch of olives and garlic, and some tasty bread and olive oil. The olives weren’t the jarred kind from the US, either. They were the good ones. Sure it was meant to be shared, but I was really hungry and ate the whole thing. Duh.

The mac & cheese was really good, as well. It was baked in a little crock and they don’t use the kinds of cheese that we do in the US. This made it even better. It also wasn’t swimming in cheese like they do in the US – I thought I’d complain about that, but the flavor of the cheese was good enough that I didn’t even notice until I looked at the photo. I really liked this stuff.

I had to get another cider, so I went with the Aspall Suffolk cider. It was a lighter color and a little sweeter but still full flavored. Liked this one a lot. The most, in fact.

I eventually finished the Aspall and went back and asked for a recommendation for a really full-bodied cider. They gave me an Orchard Pig Truffler, a dry sparkling cider. It was heavy. Very heavy, and lots of flavor. Almost overpowering. That will teach me to ask for a really full bodied cider where they invented cider. Good, and I’m glad I tried it, but it was massive.

While finishing off my last cider, I looked around at other people’s plates. The fish and chips looked fantastic. I’m not upset at all with what I ordered, but I know what I would get the next time. The Queen’s Arms is a very active pub and the bartender reminded me of my friend Justin, from back home in Illinois (he’d be offended that I said that, since he’s technically from Texas). The server and all the bartenders were extremely nice and laid back. Also, watching weave-y people drunkenly rub their faces really hard makes me laugh. This place would absolutely be my local hang out if I lived near here. Thanks for recommending it, DRough.

[Note: In the UK, it is very unusual to go to a pub alone. In the US, you can sit sadly on a barstool not talking to anyone for hours, but I don’t think that happens here. It IS amusing however, that it’s perfectly alright if you’re alone to come in to a pub and POUND A PINT OF BEER and then immediately walk out. I love fun cultural differences!]

Top 5 things about The Queen’s Arms pub
1. Meat Board, especially the Scotched Quail Eggs
2. Aspall Suffolk
3. Mac and Cheese
4. Addlestone’s Cloudy Cider
5. The staff general seemed happy to be there and wanted to help make everyone comfortable

Bottom 5 things
1. It’s very tucked away and you have to MEAN to find it, if you’re not from there
2. It gets very very packed inside
3. You sort of have to stake your claim on a bench or table if you want to sit, otherwise, you stand at the bar
4. I REALLY wanted to order the fish and chips after eating the meat board, but I’m glad I didn’t
5. I had to sit next to two people who were trying to get each other to leave their respective spouses and sleep with each other. Very weird

The Queen’s Arms
30 Queens Gate Mews
London, SW7 5QL

Monday, October 27, 2014

Panino Brothers – Eden Prairie, MN

We had a “new girl” starting at the office this week (it’s Trash, so she’s not really a new girl, but I do love to haze), so our team decided to go to lunch together to welcome her back to the flock. I was told to pick the place, so I went with a place close to work and someplace I hadn’t been before. I hadn’t’ ever heard anyone talk about this place, but I figured it was worth a shot.

First off, it’s difficult to tell where the entrance to this restaurant is. The restaurant itself is on the backside of a small business (restaurants and gyms) office/strip mall, so it isn’t readily viewable from the main road, and there’s no indication which door to go through once you find their part of the parking lot. No signage, no awning, no carpet out front. A little confusing. Once we got inside, there was a sort of roll-able counter top (maybe a host(ess) stand pushed back against the wall. Was this place even open? One of my co-workers (M.Giant)(yes, it’s a close-knit company consisting of only my closest friends), asked me if I had reserved the entire restaurant. So much for beating the lunch rush. Obviously, we got seated right away by a really cheerful and helpful server. She was fantastic the whole time we were there.

The menu has some burgers, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and appetizers that you’ll likely recognize as “nicer” bar food. But I wanted the reason for their namesake – a panino. I had no idea what that was, even after reading the description on the menu. It sort of sounds like a calzone, but is more like a flatbread wrap than a calzone, as it turns out. They have a ton of kinds of paninos, or you can build your own with any of their ingredients. They also get bonus points for having both Pepsi and Coke products, including Diet Dew.

I’ve been watching old episodes of The Sopranos recently, so I went with the 3-Meat Gambino Panino. It makes me laugh just to say it, but it had everything I wanted for lunch that day. Roast beef, chicken, ham, swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, and BBQ sauce. It sounded awesome.

I didn’t think the food took that long to come out, which is good, so you won’t have to wait long if you’re in a lunch rush – maybe because the place wasn’t that busy. The Panino is a large wrap. SERIOUSLY large. No one even came close to finishing theirs (except for me, but I am a big eater). Two people could have split this thing, so really consider ordering their smaller size panino – you’ll be glad you did. The meat was pretty thick cut, which I thought was awesome. There was a lot of cheese on here, and the BBQ sauce was plentiful. It was a little drippy, but the whole thing held its structure pretty well. Nothing slid out and I didn’t end up with any on my shirt. All in all, the wrap was pretty delicious and ULTRA filling. Be forewarned.

The waffle fries were pretty average, but the seasoned sour cream dipping sauce that came with it was fantastic. I really liked the combo, and I’m usually a ketchup guy.

Like I said, everyone went home with take-out boxes and were still stuffed. I saw the biggest plate of cheese fries I’ve ever seen, and a mega massive chef salad. Everyone seemed to be pretty happy with the taste of their food and I’m pretty sure people were happy with the size of their meals.

Overall, Panino Brothers is better than fast food, and more affordable than a fancy restaurant. They’ve got a bunch of beer specials (since it’s sort of a sport bar sometimes, and they have bands, so there’s definitely reasons to come back. It’s worth a visit if you’re in this neck of the woods, or if you’re at the Eden Prairie Mall for shopping or a movie. You might fall asleep in the movie because you’re too full, but at least the food is good. I just wish the outside of the place was more inviting.

Top 5 things about Panino Brothers
1. 3-Meat Gambino Panino
2. Seasoned sour cream dipping sauce for fries
3. Pepsi and Coke products
4. Really nice server
5. Pretty quick for lunch

Bottom 5 things
1. Confusing and uninviting entrance
2. It’s pretty dead inside, even during the lunch rush
3. TONS of different paninos to choose from
4. Maybe a photo of a panino on the menu would help
5. Just a little bit too hidden for easy finding

Friday, September 26, 2014

McDonald’s Off-Menu Monstrosities – Eden Prairie, MN

One of my favorite co-workers, #1Fan, is a food challenge guy. If there’s a food item people can’t eat or finish, he’s up to the challenge. He even won an eating competition on his honeymoon when he walked past a competition and decided to join. #1Fan got a group of co-workers together to go have lunch together and try the Air, Land, and Sea Burger from McDonald’s. It’s considered an off-menu item, but really it’s an item you have to assemble yourself with multiple items. I told another one of our co-workers who knows #1Fan. The last thing he told me was, “Don’t let him make you eat two of them. You know how he is.”

Air=Chicken in McChicken form
Land=Beef in Big Mac form
Sea=Fish in Fish Fillet form

When one person orders all the makings for two of these, the counter people WILL look at you funny. But I’m used to that, so I simply don’t care. I ordered 2 Big Macs, 2 McChicken Sandwiches, 2 Fish Fillets, 2 Fries, and 2 Diet Cokes (because we’re watching our figures).

This is what you get.

To assemble, take the Big Mac and split it apart. You put the fish on the bottom half (since they’re underwater), then you put the chicken on the top, since they fly (sort of). Then for garnish, you throw some fries on top.

The thing is enormous.

And honestly, it’s not terrible. Sure, it’s difficult to get your mouthhole around this thing, but it’s got a lot of flavors going on. There’s some beef, there’s some fried, and there’s some mayo. There’s no bad part. It doesn’t stay together very well structurally, so you have to eat it quickly. And then, of course, #1Fan dropped a bunch of it on his tie (he was headed to a big meeting after lunch), so I’m hoping he had to explain the food spots on his tie during the meeting.

After we finished it, I told him about when HotGirlsBrother and I ate the Big Mac Chicken and the The 10:35 and the KFC Double Down. He said, “How about a McGangBang?!” (After my initial shock at such a forward offer, he explained a McGangBang is a McDouble with an entire McChicken shoved between the patties, bun and all.) I said I hadn’t tried it. He asked if I was still hungry – THIS was what my co-worker was talking about when he told me NOT to let #1Fan talk me into eating two. The guy is smooth. …and I cave easily.

He got up and ordered us the making of two McGangBangs. Two McDoubles and two McChickens. He also scored us some ketchup to lubricate the thing.

We assembled them and snapped a photo.

Then we put these bad boys DOWN. They were really good, surprisingly. They even held together much better than the Air, Land, and Sea Burger. I was glad I had the ketchup though – it helped.

After we finished, #1Fan mad a last ditch effort to get me to then try a Monster Mac (FOUR McDoubles – a Big Mac with 8 burger patties). I could tell his heart was into it though. I bet he could have choked one down if I had agreed, but I didn’t think I should do that to myself. Though, I will admit, I THOUGHT about it.

All in all, a billion calories, but in the words of #1Fan, we had a great time “taking on the Communists who are bent on defiling our fair land.” (You know, the Sea, Land, and Air attack!) All I can say is I’m glad I don’t have any sort of medical biometric screening anytime soon…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fox and Goose Public House – Sacramento, CA

D.Rough and I found ourselves alone for breakfast in Sacramento, so we hopped a cab to the number two-ranked restaurant in Sacramento. It had to be good, right? Well, if the line out front was any indication, the answer is yes. The line was extensive, but they really set you up near the bar, so you’ve got something to occupy your time while you wait. I occupied myself with a nice Belhaven Scottish Ale…

The menu has a whole host of distinctly British items on it (bangers, Full English, etc.), as well as omelets, waffles, pancakes, and some healthy items. I went with the corned beef hash with a crumpet and D.Rough got the Benedict Arnold. We also needed to split an olallie berry scone.

Despite the packed house, we really didn’t wait long for our food, which was fantastic because we had waited a little while to be seated. We were hungry.

The scone was sooooooooooooooo good. Not the dry biscuit-style scone you find at Panera or Starbucks. This was light and soft and fluffy and filled with berries. Absolutely perfect. It also came with a little dish of Devonshire cream which made it even more delicious. We should have both ordered our own…

The corned beef hash had great corned beef flavor, though I had hoped for more veggies mixed in with it. I saw very few green peppers and potatoes in here. Thankfully, the flavor was still pretty delicious. The basted eggs I got were perfectly cooked and I was able to get the yolk into almost every bite of the hash, just the way nature intended. The dish was above average, to say the least. The crumpet was also delicious with the assortment of jams and marmalades on the table. Fluffy without being chewy. I was pretty pleased with my breakfast.

D.Rough’s Benedict Arnold came with corned beef on English muffins and a side of English country potatoes. Basically deconstructed corned beef hash. So yes, we ended up getting almost the exact same dish, just built different. Hers also came with a dish or rarebit cheese sauce, which is a very tangy thick cheese. It wasn’t her favorite breakfast condiment, but I didn’t mind eating it on various things. Her poached eggs were also cooked perfectly, which isn’t an easy task. She was also pleased with her breakfast.

While this may not be the first place we’d head if we come back to Sacramento, we would definitely go back here. The food was good, you can get breakfast alcohol, and it’s got a great lively atmosphere without being loud.

Top 5 things about Fox and Goose Public House
1. Olallie Berry Scone
2. Benedict Arnold
3. Corned Beef Hash flavor
4. Bar in the waiting area
5. The dinner menu looks killer

Bottom 5 things
1. Not enough veggies in the corned beef hash
2. Long wait time for breakfast/brunch
3. If you build your own omelet, it can get pricy very quickly
4. Warning, they won’t seat your party unless you’re all there (not uncommon, I’m just warning you)
5. When the Uber driver (from England) picked us up afterwards, he immediately told us we should have gone to another British Pub for breakfast - hahahaha

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gyropolis – Minneapolis, MN

This place had continuously popped up on my radar when searching for food place and I was finally in the neighborhood to check it out. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I pulled into the parking lot, it was packed. When I tried to get in the front door, it also was packed. This place does phenomenal business during the lunch hour.

Thankfully, standing in line gave me ample time to check out the menu thoroughly and make up my mind. …which I changed right at the exact moment I was ordering. Hahaha.

I went with the spicy gyro sandwich. It was enough of the basics to be able to compare it to other places, and then with enough zing to make sure it was going to have some flavor. I also upped it to the meal deal they had and got some seasoned fries and a drink (can or fountain pop).

There wasn’t any place to sit, so I got it to go and headed back to work to eat in the parking lot sunshine and listen to music. I apologize for the photo looking green – it is the sun tinting at the top of the windshield that I didn’t notice until after I had wolfed down the sandwich and looked at the photo with tzatziki-covered fingers.

The gyro itself was really good. The meat was fantastic and had some crunchy bits on it – my favorite. There were some red and green peppers on it, as well, which I love. The pitas are fried a bit on the flat top, so they have some more flavor. But the real gem of this was the spicy tzatziki sauce. I thought it was going to be like sri-racha mayo or something, but it isn’t. It actually has some heat and amazing flavor! Best spicy tzatziki I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed this gyro and will now try to find a reason to trick A-Wow or M.Giant or FlameRetarded into going there with me.

The seasoned fries were good. Not great, but just good. The seasoning was a little sparse and they needed some ketchup. But they were still good to have with the sandwich. I’m really happy with this place and look forward to heading back!

Good showing, Gyropolis!

2325 W. 90th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55431

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company – Tahoe City, California

A-Wow, Stü, and I took a road trip to the mountains of California. It was lunch time and we all like drinking beer in picturesque locations. So we decided to hit up Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company. It’s a nice little brew pub overlooking Lake Tahoe, right on the main road that runs through the small town there.   They’ve got some upscale bar food and of course, a great beer selection (both brewed there and around the region). I got some beer battered cod tacos and a South Pacific Provisions farmhouse ale.
Right off, the beer was pretty delicious. It’s got some lychee flavors in it, but it isn’t sweet. Very interesting without being weird. I ended up getting a couple of these…  
The Cod tacos had great beer batter flavor on them. The cole slaw was a bit bland, but the chipotle aioli saved it. Great light snack before we headed back on the road.
…well, AFTER we put out feet in the waters of Lake Tahoe, of course… Great little brew pub that I’d hit again the next time I’m in town.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hot Indian Foods - Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I decided to meet for a quick dinner before we headed to various commitments we had agreed to separately. Thankfully, she's a genius and wanted to go to Hot Indian Foods in the Midtown Global Market. We had heard about these Induritos (basically Indian-themed burritos) and had been dying to try them.

Her and I share pretty well, so we decided to get a Curry Lamb Indurito and a Vegan Channa Indurito. We also caved and decided to get the IndoFrites (yup, you guessed it - Indian-flavored french fries). The people working there were super helpful and gave us samples of the insides of the burritos so we could decide. Really awesome and helpful.

The Curry Lamb Indurito was really quite flavorful and D.Rough liked this one the best. Lots of Lamb meat and plenty of other filling. This one held it's shape/construction really well while eating.

The Vegan Channa Indurito was my favorite. Tons of veggies (duh) and filled with my favorite - chick peas. The thing was a little juicy and became messy quickly - not a complaint at all, just commenting. It simply makes you eat the thing faster. Absolutely amazing.

The fries were the real winner of the show. Super breaded and had both sweet potato and white potatoes. The seasoning on them was perfect and the spicy mayo dip that came with them was incredible. We should have gotten our own orders of these, and probably will next time. Make sure you get these.

Delicious dinner and I can't wait to go back and try the other Induritos (which also come in bowl form, if that makes you feel any better). Wonderful little shop in the Midtown Global Market (and also operates a food truck around the cities).

Top 5 things about Hot Indian Foods
1. Indo-Frites
2. Vegan Channa Indurito
3. Curry Lamb Indurito
4. Amazingly friendly and helpful staff
5. The mobile food trucks comes to YOU

Bottom 5 things
1. Nothing I can think of...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bad Movie Night - Japanese Weapons Theme - St. Paul, MN

This month's Bad Movie Night had a Japanese theme - specifically Japanese weapons that are outrageous.

  • Robo Geisha - Geishas are turned into robots and given weapons under their skin and then trained as assassins
  • Tokyo Gore Police - People are turned into "engineers" when various weapons are bolted onto their bodies
People brought some pretty creative Asian food items for the potluck portion, as well. All kinds of snacks were purchased from asian grocery stores and lots of Chinese take-out places were exploited for their various deliciousness. All in all, a pretty awesome night, and one of our best turnouts EVER.  We had 40+ people in the basement yelling along with the film!

(And photo credits go to my lovely wife, D.Rough. She's the best.)

LooseChange and LooseChangesBrother made me a crab rangoon pizza special just for me! Delicious!

Sometimes, people come in costume for these things - and we encourage that wholeheartedly.

Tickles brought Mango-Ritas, bubble tea powder, and pearls to make bubble tea. Super trashy and tasty!

Soooooo much ramen/noodle cups were consumed...


Psy's Sujo! Yes, it's a thing.
We also had 6 bottles of sake to drink. We didn't make it through all of them, despite our best efforts...