6/23/2014

The Bite in Martha's Vineyard


We rented a car on a day trip to Martha's Vineyard, and soon discovered just how small it was. After visiting the Gay Head cliffs in Aquinnah, we did a quick search on a place to have dinner before leaving the island. Menemsha was on the way back to the ferry, and interestingly we learned it was the site where the quintessential horror movie, Jaws, was filmed. There were a few places to eat, but we were smitten by The Bite, after seeing the tiny shack and reading good reviews.

It's a pretty easy ordering process. Someone takes your order through the screen door, and choices of fried seafood come in small, medium, and large, containers. I think the medium is equal to a pint, and large is a quart. We were not very hungry, but still we tried more fish and chips, and a medium fried scallops. Prices were really good, considering the freshness and quality of the seafood. The scallops were juicy and tender, and hands down the best I'd ever had. It also seemed like a bottomless container, considering how much they packed in there.

The big surprise was the quahog chowder. It was made with bits of salted pork. What a difference it made! We should've upsized on this one, as my kids and I are big fans of chowder. We've had just one other memorable chowder, which was in St. John's, Canada. Chowder like this is the reason why I have this blog. To put all my fond food memories in one place, like a family album!


The Bite on Urbanspoon

Baxter's Fish & Chips in Hyannis MA


The tour guide on the Hyline cruise pointed out Baxter's after taking us to see the Kennedy compound. After hearing the stories and imagining the nautical lifestyle of the Kennedy's, we were definitely mesmerized enough to make it a point to eat at Baxter's, which they frequented. We went early for lunch before leaving Hyannis, which was a good thing because the place started filling up as we finished our meal.

Baxter's is a casual waterfront spot, located in the harbor that is the home to yachts, tour cruises, and the Steamship Authority ferry. It has its own parking lot, and there are two parts to it: one at the bar for 21 and above only, and the other offering both food and drink, with seating both indoor and out. Orders are taken up front, and paid for in advance, and alcoholic drinks can be ordered separately at the bar. The menu is written on large chalkboards behind the cashier, in front of the kitchen, and thankfully there were four of us to try different items. 

The fish & chips is definitely their signature item, and I hope that this place will be around for years to come. There is something just heartwarming about food that lasts through generations, even something so simple as fried fish and fried potatoes! Everything served was plentiful and delightful, and definitely worth a visit if you are visiting Hyannis.


Baxter's Fish-N-Chips on Urbanspoon

6/21/2014

Post Office Cafe in Provincetown MA


We ended up at Provincetown because our plans for Nantucket fell through, and because my husband has a weird obsession about driving to the furthest extremes of any place we go to. Probably just so he can say we went to the northernmost part of Cape Cod? Or maybe because it looked so cool on the map... such a narrow sliver of an island with a booming community filled with shops and restaurants. And live entertainment, as we'd find. Made even more lively as the town was celebrating 10 years of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, and the party literally spilled onto the streets.

After walking up and down Commercial Street, and taking photos by the beach and the harbor, I was set on having my first lobster roll in Cape Cod. There were many options, with prices ranging from $15 to $20, so it was really down to ambiance and what else the restaurant had to offer. The 1 1/4 steamed lobster for $15 at Post Office Cafe was what brought us there, and I got my lobster roll after all. My son tried the lobster crab cakes, and it was the most pricey of our selections, but ended up being the worst dish: small in size, burnt, and not more special than an ordinary crab cake. My husband got his staple of fish & chips.

The place itself was narrow and bustling, but the ambiance was great for being on vacation.

Our only complaint were fellow diners, seated behind my husband. They assumed wrong that he could not understand them speaking in Spanish, trying to figure out if we were married, or if he was gay. They were obnoxious and kept laughing at us, but my husband didn't want to start a fight. In hindsight, I do wish the staff intervened. Our server was speaking Spanish to these diners, and so I'm sure he knew what was up.

Post Office Cafe & Cabaret on Urbanspoon

6/15/2014

Bistro du Saigon in Fort Lee NJ

Chicken pad thai

My nephew's baptism lunch was held on Father's Day at a somewhat fancy Italian restaurant. We still celebrated Father's Day as a separate occasion, but didn't want to overdo it with another fancy meal. Besides, our celebrant (my husband), was working that day, and we need to go somewhere near his job that would be quick and easy. He chose Bistro du Saigon because it is a tried and true favorite of his, and I'll have to take his word for it because service was less than stellar that day. They also ran out of Thai iced coffee.

As I'm writing this, I'm getting confused myself. Saigon is in Vietnam, right? Yet, a lot of their offerings are Thai. Anyway, it's okay by me because I love pad thai and I love pho equally. And we had both that day. And whichever cuisine it was, the food really delivered. Everything was seasoned and cooked just right, if not perfectly. 

Hopefully, they will have iced coffee next time.

Spring rolls

Grilled pork chops

Bistro Du Saigon on Urbanspoon

6/07/2014

Infini T in Princeton NJ



My husband found this place while waiting for my daughter and I to get out of watching a performance at Princeton University. He had tired of sitting at Starbucks and was delighted to find a new spot with good coffee, tea, snacks, and free wifi. The decor provides plenty of eye candy, with varied seating options including traditional tables and chairs to floor cushions. The staff is also very laid back and friendly, making Infini T a real gem. It will probably be even more laid back, now that school is out for summer.

Macha green tea cupcake and shortbread cookies

Infini-t on Urbanspoon

6/05/2014

Talula's Garden in Philadelphia PA

Not Your Granny's cheese plate

The birthday celebration continued... and due to my faux pas of canceling, rather than re-scheduling, an early reservation, we ended up sitting at yet another bar rather than sitting down for a true dinner. I have no idea what we missed out on had we ended up sitting outside Talula's Garden or even just in the dining room, which was literally night and day in comparison. The outdoor seating with vines on the walls and overhead, and metallic patio furniture, under the fading yet still bright sunlight, was starkly different from the monochromatic indoor decor with giant lampshades hanging from cathedral ceilings, over velvety cushioned seats.

Then there was the bar, which seemed the most magical spot of all with its display of handmade birdhouses displayed on a shelf above the liquor bottles; colored and mismatched glass globe lanterns; and mason jars lining the bar, used as both candle holders and drinkware. And there was Vena-- who made it all worthwhile to sit in tall, creaky wooden barstools-- who mesmerized us as she poured liquid rainbows into glasses.

I'm on the third paragraph already, and only now will I be talking about the food. That tells you something about what an experience this was. We had already had happy hour bites at Garces, so we just went with the flow at Talula's. My friend had her eye on two things-- the cheese and the steak tartare-- while I had mine on the crab pasta. We had all of the above, plus salad, dessert, and drinks.

Cheese plates ranged from $18 to $24, and we opted for "Not Your Granny's: Six New Takes on Tradition"-- which included goat cheese, cow & sheep cheese, gouda, brie, manchego, and bleu. It was adorned with chutney, pear slices, strawberries, almonds, and walnuts, with a honey drizzle on top. I'd say the flavors were mild to moderate, as even the bleu wasn't as complex (i.e. "stinky") as cheese could be. My friend raved about the steak tartare, and I have to take her word for it, as raw meats and fish just aren't my thing. What I can report on is the pasta: the spaghetti with lump crab gravy was surprisingly heavy, with crunchy surprises in the form of garlic bread crumbs.

When it came time for dessert, I was hoping to hop to another place nearby, but the menu at Talula's was just so enticing. I honestly wanted to try at least three items on the menu. But alas, we agreed to share just one, and the warm sticky bun with ice cream was the unanimous winner. The bun was not as heavy as it looked, and in fact it was so light that we inhaled it.

Just like Garces, there is also a chef's tasting menu at Talula's Daily next door. It is offered only seasonally, however, and is priced at $55 per person with an optional $35 wine pairing. One of the staff, a lovely lady by the name of Sarah, planted this idea in our heads, and who knows? We may just return to celebrate another special occasion in the equally special that is Talula's.

View while sitting at the bar
Talula's Warm Sticky

Talula's Garden on Urbanspoon

Garces Trading Company in Philadelphia PA

Happy hour beer and bites

My friend lives in the Washington Square Park area of Philly, and there are plenty of places to go within walking distance. Yet, in all the time she's lived there since moving back to Philly after living in NY and VA, we haven't tried any. So, for her birthday, I thought we could take a stroll beginning from her apartment, and start off with happy hour at Garces Trading Company.

There are plenty of seating options at Garces, and with the lovely early summer weather, the outdoor section was quite lively. We went straight to the bar and sat ourselves close to the friendly bartender, disclosing to him that Garces was the first stepping stone in our night of celebration. The happy hour menu was limited, but sometimes that is not a bad thing. It eliminates the conundrum of choice. We could have had all four items on the eats menu at $5 a pop, if we really wanted to sample all, but instead we went with a complementary pairing of meatballs with margherita flatbread. 

Select beers were $4 and cocktails were $7. The bartender suggested Weyerbacher, which was as light and bright as the decor. Overall, it was a pleasant and easygoing experience-- which I suppose is the very definition of "happy hour". It also helped that it was early enough for the place to be flooded with sunlight.

I noticed there were chef's tasting menus available, at $40 or $55 per person with an option of a wine pairing at $20. I wish I had seen those beforehand, but hindsight is always 20/20, and I suppose there's always next time.

Garces Trading Company on Urbanspoon

6/02/2014

Cafe Vienna in Princeton NJ


I was shopping for a new bike a few weeks ago, and my husband and I spotted this new place on Nassau Street. We hadn't had our coffee yet, and we are always up for discovering new things, so off we went. The literally and stylistically cool decor wasn't inviting, but I chalk this up to the place being so new. There was some jazzy music playing and the food display, while sparse, were nice touches. 

Each cup of coffee is singularly and freshly brewed, which earns this place two thumbs up. My husband's only pet peeve was that his iced coffee was served in a plastic cup. If your order isn't so quick or easy, there will be table service. Everything else-- the food and hot beverages-- is served with real  drink/dinner/silverware. Along with our coffee, we ordered a ham & cheese baguette displayed in a bouquet of sandwiches in a picnic basket and an apple strudel that called me with its siren song.

It might be nicer to return to this place when it's warmer, when we can sit outside and skip the uncomfortable indoor seating. Or maybe we won't return at all. It was nice to try it at least once, but I have to say it was too overpriced for me.

P.S. I recommended this place to Urbanspoon to get active link below!

Cafe Vienna on Urbanspoon

5/30/2014

Thai Village in Princeton NJ


Fried spring rolls and papaya salad

I have been craving pad thai for quite the longest time. My friend and I, in our boredom, had been professing our love for pad thai via text earlier in the day, and had even found some fun souvenirs to proudly announce it. There are just two places in the vicinity where I could get pad thai, but I wasn't in the mood for either one, and almost just made it myself at home but was missing some key ingredients. Finally, at 9pm, my husband said we should just go get the darned pad thai, probably because I might not be able to sleep without it.

Thai Village has seen better days, I'm sure of it. The prices on the menu must be at least 20 years old, because its location on Nassau Street would actually warrant prices to be at least $2 more per entree. Of course, I'm not complaining. Just an observation on the age and quiet sadness of the place. The places next to it, above it, and across from it, have all closed down and have been reincarnated into other establishments.

My husband doesn't like shrimp, so he ordered fried spring rolls and a papaya salad for himself, without the shrimp powder. The salad had a spicy lime sauce, which was surprising, and the crunch of the shredded papaya was refreshing. It was a rather large serving, and might have been better as small side to an entree. Alas, I got my pad thai, but it was neither here nor there, so unfortunately it did not satisfy my craving. The bean sprouts would have been better raw, and the noodles had a sad, slimy texture. Normally, I'd devour an entire plate of pad thai, but this was just so subpar...

If we didn't have such pleasant memories from our lunch here last summer-- sitting outside with cold glasses of water-- I might not have any reason to return to this place. Then again, that one visit wasn't enough to stir much nostalgia, so maybe this really was my last time having Thai in Princeton.

Shrimp pad thai

Thai Village on Urbanspoon