I'm a bit of a burger snob. People mention Shake Shake or some trendy burger joint, and all I can think is, "Why bother?" Yes, I've got a soft spot in my heart for Good Stuff in D.C., but at home I can literally count the number of times I've made a burger in the past 5 years on one finger. Then I met the Moroccan Spiced Turkey Patties in From the Ground Up by James Villas, and that all changed. This is my new standard for burger goodness. If you'd asked me before what I thought of ground turkey, you would have gotten a blank stare. In general, I don't find turkey to be all that exciting. Again, that's all changed.I guess turkey is one of those foods which takes on the flavor of the other ingredients. Then there's the sauce, just yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and cayenne -- a simple but amazing combination. I've raved about From the Ground Up and other books by James Villas before, but this is a must-try recipe. Maybe it's a bonus that it's probably relatively healthful because the turkey is lean, and it's super easy to prepare even on a weeknight. Let me know if you try it.Morrocan Spiced Turkey Patties--From the Ground Up by James Villas, reprinted with permissionServes 41 1/2 pounds ground turkey1/4 cup seedless dark raisins (these really make the recipe -- do not omit)1 tablespoon tomato paste1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/8 teaspoon ground gingerSalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste2 tablespoons olive oil1/2 cup plain yogurt2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice1/8 teaspoon ground cumin1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper1. In a bowl, combine the turkey, raisins, tomato paste, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and pepper and mix with your hands till well blended (do not overmix). Gently form the mixture into 4 patties about 1 inch thick.2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat, add the patties, and cook for about 6 minutes. Turn the patties over and cook the other sides till lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and cayenne and mix until well blended. (Of course you can add a little extra cayenne if you'd like, but don't go too crazy.)4. Serve the patties hot with equal amounts of the sauce spooned over the tops.
If you know me in real life, then it's no surprise that I'm going to be visiting the Northampton/Amherst, Mass region every now and then for the next few years. Lucky for me, because it's a cool area. I didn't take as many photos as I should have during my last visit. For example, I wish I'd gotten a photo of the "Sushi Love Boat for Two" I shared with Jen at Osaka one night -- total sushi overload. And I definitely should have snapped some photos at Atkins Farms in Amherst. Here's a recap of some other highlights.First, if you're driving north on 91 to Northampton, whatever you do, please do not forget to stop by Donut Dip in West Springfield. If you're into old-fashioned donuts, seriously, I can't imagine a more perfect place. Yeah, I love the crazy donuts at places like Doughnut Plant in NYC and Voodoo in Portland, but I'd trade those in a minute for a perfect cruller from Donut Dip. No food photos because I ate everything too fast.Speaking of old-fashioned doughnuts, The Donut Man in Hadley is absolutely worth a visit, assuming you're driving of course.Onto Northampton -- now I can't even mention this town without giving a shout-out to my new buddies at the coolest shop in town, Essentials. Colette and Sydne, it was great meeting you.Lunchtime -- all burger lovers have to eat here. Something tells me that Local is a mad-house at certain times of the day or week, but we missed the crowds by going a little late. These guys do burgers right. Honestly, I'd take this place over anything in NYC. No, really. But as good as the burgers were, the sweet potato fries and these onion rings were even better, not to mention huge.Visiting Hungry Ghost Bread was almost an after-thought. And as you can see, it's easy to miss. Phew, thank goodness I found it. They make just a few kinds of bread, and they had only two types of cookies for sale, but it's all about quality over quantity. Don't misunderstand me -- the breads and cookies were actually gigantic. I just mean that some bakeries do a few things really well, and they don't have to flaunt it. One try and you'll be hooked. You should have seen me driving home, grabbing handfuls of the challah. Now a trip to the Northampton/Amherst area won't be complete without a visit here. Did I mention how big and awesome the chocolate chip cookies were?
My Philly cheesesteak post is coming soon, but first up, a bunch of everything else. Yes, this post is kind of random. By the way, thanks to everyone for the tips on where to eat in Philadelphia!First, could Philly be any cuter with its cobblestone streets and old-fashioned flags? I don't think so.Next, Jose Garce's awesome tapas restaurant, Amada. I don't talk a lot about fancier restaurants in my blog because I'm usually all about the cheap eats, but I splurged here for a sort-of birthday celebration for myself. So amazing -- I suggest you order a tasting menu, sit back and enjoy yourself (and don't miss out on the great cocktails before you're seated). Sorry for no pics of the food. I love the style of this place, and I didn't want to ruin the mood with my camera.Now onto the awesome Reading Terminal Market. Everyone told me to check out Termini. This banana thing was insane. It's a big slice of banana on some kind of cake/cookie, with a fruity layer, dunked in chocolate and I don't know what else. Yeow. You gotta try this once.Speaking of bakeries, you have to stop by the Beiler's stand for sticky buns, cinnamon buns, pecan buns, every kind of bun. If I was driving straight home that day, I might have ordered one of everything.Speaking of sweets, let me just say that the Reading Terminal Market is like heaven. This post is just scratching the surface. Cookies, ice cream, candy, you name it!Thanks to everyone for the tips about DiNic's. This is their roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe -- so simple, and so perfect. There is so much hype in NYC about roast pork sandwiches, but I think DiNic's wins. The best part is that after a little while, the juices soak into the bread, which then reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Maybe that sounds weird, but DiNic's rules. Period.For me, a trip to the Reading Terminal Market would not be complete without one of those crazy Amish breakfasts. I'd drive to Philly just for this French toast.Jen ordered her Amish pancakes with scrapple. It's pretty freakin' tasty, but trust me, if you don't already know what's in scrapple, you're probably better off.We stopped by 500 Degrees almost on a whim, because it was about a block from our hotel. What a lucky break. I'm sure someone will tell me I'm crazy, but I'd take this place over any burger joints in NYC, hands-down. I ordered a special of the day -- I think it had some guac on it. And this local batch birch beer tastes even better than it looks.Last up, Isgro. It's over in that old Italian part of Philly. If you're from out of town, you'll definitely want to cab it or drive. Yes, it's a little pricey, but this is Italian dessert perfection. I don't really care for eclairs, but that treat on the right changed my mind pretty fast. And cannolis... well, I've had some weird ones in my life, and I thought I knew what a really good cannoli was. Apparently I was wrong, because Isgro takes cannolis to a whole new level. The filling is ridiculously light. Depending on where you're from, that may be considered sacrilegious. If you've got to have that super-dense ricotta filling with the little candied things in it, then skip Isgro. If you're open to experiencing what might just be the best cannoli ever, then Isgro is a must-try. Next up, the cheesesteak showdown.
This foodie recap of my trip to D.C. is so totally subjective, uncomprehensive, and unauthoritative, you almost have to stop reading it right now. But please don't!The whole trip was planned around going to the pre-opening party for Spike Mendelsohn's brand-new We, The Pizza. It's located next door to his wildly popular Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania Avenue, and if you're lucky enough to live in the D.C. area, be sure to stop by for the official opening next week on July 19 (update -- July 26)! At the party we got to sample some of the pizzas, sodas, ice cream, and more, and I think this place is gonna be a huge hit.Of course I also had to visit Good Stuff Eatery while I was in town. It starts getting busy even before noon, so consider yourself warned about the crowds. Let me highly recommend the Obama Burger. As I was saying the other day, Spike's burgers rule. I'm no burger aficionado, but I have tried a lot of burgers that people rave about, and I can't think of anything that even comes close to how good this is. (Don't let the smooshed look deceive you -- it's part of the charm of Good Stuff that they wrap the burgers in wax paper.) The fried onion petals are a treat, and that dulce de leche shake is pure creamy heaven.Here's a photo of the inside of the Capitol. It's so close by Good Stuff, we had to take a tour.I have to give a shout-out to Hello Cupcake over by Dupont Circle. This lemon cupcake is just so perfect!No trip to D.C. would be complete without visiting the legendary Ben's Chili Bowl. I stopped by twice. Yes it gets crowded, but I love this place, I love the people, I love the way it seems to never change, and I love the chili.Unfortunately not all of my fancy dining choices in D.C. were good ones, but Bar Pilar on NW 14th Street is definitely on my short list of favorites now. Great cocktails, even better atmosphere, and a really interesting menu of small plates. It's packed during the earlier hours of the evening, but I was able to sneak in just before the kitchen closed one night. In fact, it was so good I came back the next night to try the desserts, and you'd be wise to do the same. Pilar can get a little pricey compared to most places I'm talking about, but it's totally worth it for food this good. One downside, if you can call it that -- some of the dishes are so yummy, they might be sold out if you come too late. Sorry I didn't get any photos of the food, but this place has a great moody vibe to it, and flash photography would have not been cool.My bakery searches turned up Super Tacos & Bakery. It's a bit out of the way if you're a tourist, but absolutely worth a trip. You can't get Mexican pastries this good anywhere in San Francisco -- absolutely perfect texture. Honestly, that second treat literally brought a tear to my eye, it was that good. If you're haven't tried these kinds of pastries before, they're impossibly light and flakey, making them fun (but messy) to eat, and the sweetness is subtle.Of course I had to try their tacos first... chorizo, carnitas, and, ummm, something else porky. All winners. They make a great mango drink too. I would never have expected to find an amazing Mexican spot like this in D.C., but I'm sure glad I did. And the prices are insanely low.I guess it's kind of odd, but I went straight from Super Tacos (aka, meat heaven) to Sticky Fingers to try their vegan cupcakes. Besides being so great-looking, these taste pretty awesome too. I'm not complaining or anything, but I know when I'm eating a vegan cupcake. There is something about the texture and aroma that gives it away. But you're not going to mind much whether your a veggie or not -- these are a total delight. You can see a bit of the retro-style decor in the background, which I liked too. So there it is, my totally random recap of foods I tried in D.C. If you're a local, then you probably think this is a weird round-up, but if you're visiting D.C. soon, you might want to give some of these places a try.