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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Become a Burrito Fueled WHOOP-ASS Machine!

Burritos are a great comfort food, as is fried chicken. I've often dreamt of what it would be like to bring these two titans of lunchtime into the same package, much like the bringing together of superheroes on the big screen or (more importantly) on the comic book page.

It was in that most superhero-filled of cities, New York, that this dream became a reality.


Mission Cantina is located on the Lower East side and dish up mammoth wraps worthy of the Hulk himself. Along with the standard chicken, steak and veggie options there is always a 'filling of the month' to spice things up a bit. The fried chicken burrito is a thing of beauty, breadcrumb covered meat engulfed in a combination of rice, refried beans and guacamole. The spicy salsa combined with the chicken and sour cream truly creating a flavour RAVE in your mouth.

 

The place itself has a very Californian feel, swift service and you're in a good area for bars and the like so fuel up on one of these bad boys before a night out! After finishing off this one I saw that the next special is a General Tsu's chicken burrito - it's like they've plugging into my brain for inspiration! True food to make you one of these...
 


Mission Cantina,
172 Orchard St
NY 10002
USA
Telephone: 212.254.2233



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Living On The Edge!

Located in my current digs of Harlem, the Edge is great little bar/food joint with a banging selection of burgers. Having only recently relocated, I felt it was high time I sampled the local cuisine so strolling along to this place I felt I had hit the jackpot!




With swift service when we arrived, I was greeted to a great looking menu (the beer section being a particular highlight). Shizzle really got real when my attention was drawn to the specials menu. A burger-centric list that included jerk chicken, salmon, and lamb burgers. I elected to go with the latter, washed down with a pint of Lagunitas IPA (probably my favourite beer these days).



The burger came topped with feta cheese, tomato and red onion, with both a side salad, kale, and a portion of fries. Ketchup for dipping (YAWN) but they were happy to swap this for some BAD ASS hot sauce, with temperatures so sizzling I wonder if they had this delivered straight from Texas. The perfect combination to fight the NY chill!

With a fresh plate of comfort food and beer after a day of travelling,  this was all in all the perfect first dinner in my new neck of the woods.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

THE WORST THING I HAVE EVER EATEN

PrĂȘt A Manger - in many ways the WHSmiths of food chains. Not good for anything, but pretty handy at airports. When the 'middle class McDonalds' recently started adorning their outlets with these little ads, my curiosity - as a burrito lover and conneisur - was piqued:



Today I decided to bite the bullet and sample one of these - the 'chicken chipotle burrito'. What followed was a masterclass in lunch-ruining. Behold the abomination!



I have relatively small hands, which should give you an idea of the pitiful size of this thing.

Note the cardboard packaging,  particularly apt as it I sense it probably tastes about the same as the rock hard, ice cold wrap this festering piece of slop came contained in.

The label promised a mix of peppers, black beans, avocado and spicy, smokey chipotle chicken. I bit in, hoping to pick out the taste of one of these - nothing. I bit again - more cold, flavour free mush. Usually with a burrito each bite brings a different taste - a variety of flavours to dazzle the taste buds.

With this I was struggling to taste…well anything come to think of it. In the end I chalked it down to experience and chucked the thing.

My burrito hunting buddy Riccardo and I have worked out a 2 tier system for burrito joints. Given the increasing quality of those in the UK, I recently gave thought to creating a tier 3 for the ropey ones, as tier 1 was becoming too crowded. Henceforth I want to add 'Tier Zero', to which the Pret Burrito can proudly claim as it's own.

They're OK for some things - the all day breakfast thing wasn't the worst thing in the world, and the orange spice latte was good too (tasted like ginger nuts - as in the biscuit and not the follicle based racial slur). However, if you are going to offer your customers a burrito you had better have the chops for the task. A bit like offering a huge sci-fi franchise to McG. Or something like that.

If you are ever tempted by grabbing a burrito from 'Pretentious Greggs' - do yourself a favour. Walk on by and seek out any of the other perfectly fine burrito places that are currently dotted around the capital.
Avoid this like the plague!







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tales From The City



San Francisco is my favourite place on Earth. The expression you see above is one of a very happy chappy. A man who is in a city full to the brim with some of the finest eateries surely to have ever graced the face of the planet. A decade ago now I spent a 3 month period working there, and can honestly say not once had a meal that was sub par.

Back in the year 2000, I visited SF for the third time with friend Claire. Much as I had come to expect, each meal we had was of  the highest quality, but nothing could quite prepare me for the wonderment that would end up in my digestive system on the final day of this trip.

I had become quite curious about this foodstuff know as the 'burrito' that I had seen and heard of on this trip. Sure I had tried out standard tex-mex back in the UK (fajitas, etc, or anything drowned in salsa and cheese) but had yet to get my lips around one of these tasty looking bad boys. Friend and US resident (our 'girl in the know') Tamora  took us to her favourite takeria in the downtown area of San Francisco, near Union Square. I ordered my chilli beef burrito, with avacado, cheese, sour cream and the spiciest salsa.

We stood outside the place and Tamora and Claire began to chat about our trip, what had been the highlights, when we would be back. When I think back on it their voices seemed to fade with every mouthful of Mexican meaty goodness that I gobbled down. Pretty soon, around the time the heat from the spicy salsa kicked in, I was having a food epiphany:

This was truly the most amazing thing I'd ever eaten! Seriously where had these things been all my life? Why oh why had I left it until the LAST DAY of my trip to try one? I had truly opened a door that could never be closed. 

'James, James?Are you OK?'

Voices seemingly in the distance (as if being shouted down a manhole) reached my ears. I snapped out of my trance-like state and responded 'this is incredible!'. I had not prepared myself for the inevitable 'food coma' that can result from a burrito. After getting through about half of the thing I felt like I had eaten two Christmas dinners. In a move that I regret to this day, and with our cab to the airport about to arrive, I discarded of it and threw it in the bin.

Cut to about two hours later. Claire and I are seated on a British Airways flight back to London, and are trying to decided on what entertainment to watch. I was debating between Disney's 'Tarzan' and old episodes of 'The Young Ones'. Out of nostalgia I plump for the latter, but as the episode begins (the one where Neil can't stop sneezing) a chilling realization crept over me. When would I eat something so glorious again? This was the butt end of the nineties, when Mexican dining in London meant Chiquitos or a plate of nachos in a pub (if you were lucky). Not only would I have trouble tracking them down at home, but WHY OH WHY did I throw that thing away?

This is America -  they're 100% cool with you bringing leftover food onto planes! (At least they were back then, this may have changed now). Having recovered from my food coma I was now jonesing for that burrito like there was no tomorrow - and I just had images of my dear, wonderful bundle of food joy crumpled up and decaying in that San Francisco trash can. I learnt a valuable lesson - a burrito is for (at least) a day, not just for lunchtime.

This story has a happy ending. I returned to SF many times and never again did I waste a meal with such reckless abandon. Not only that but since 2006 burrito places have been springing up around London like Gremlins multiplying in an ocean. Good times!

This is just one of many great food memories I have of San Francisco. Below are some pictures and details of some other great places you should hit up if you ever lucky enough to set foot in this fine city:


The Cubana Sandwich, That's It Liquors, 2699 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone number

From the outside this may appear to be simply an (admittedly awesome looking) off license. However the place also does food - and the near legendary Cubana sandwich. This thing was quite the talking point when I visited back in 2010 so I had to go and see what the fuss was about. Combining tons of avacado, egg, frankfurter, ham and mayo, it was damn tasty. Just so you know the above pic is of just one half of this mighty sarnie (I had to share it with a friend).



Philly Cheesesteak, Busters, 366 Columbus ave, San Francisco, CA94133Bus

Busters is a wonderful little cheesesteak place located in the bustling heart of  the North Beach area. The yellow and black stylings of this deli  are adorned with images of old movie stars (chief among the Buster Crabbe) and there are plenty of guides and flyers so you can read up on what sights to see on your trip to the city. Prior to visiting Busters I had only had a cheesesteak from Subway. This was the real deal. Succulent streak piled high and drowned in delicious melted jack cheese, spiced up with the addition of jalapenos and peppers. Walking home from work this was a great meal to pick up on the go. It tasted even better after a pub crawl on Haight Street ;)

They have a rather splendid website, check it out:




The Super Burrito - La Cumbre, 515 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA94110

Having sampled it elsewhere, I still believe that no-where does Mexican cuisine as good as SF. The Mission is like mexican munch Disneyland, from what I've experience it's actually pretty difficult to get a bad burrito in these parts. Hence I am going to highlight the last one I visited, La Cumbre - as featured on 'Man Vs Food'. Like Adam Richman I sampled their 'super burrito', a real big daddy of tortilla wrapped goodness. The chicken contained was fresh and succulent, the rice was soft, and the guacamole acted as a good cooling counterpoint to the spicy salsa. Whilst being inferno level heat you can also really taste the flavour of the salsa, it doesn't just act as paint stripper for your mouth. Last, and by no means least - it passes the ultimate burrito wrapping test, it stands on it's own:



The Milf - Ike's Place, 3489 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114


'Ike's Place' is kind of a sandwich place on Steroids. Located towards the Castro District, this deli serves up subs of legendary proportions. Ike also has gone the distance and given the sarnies names as colourful as the many fillings of the subs themselves. Here are some examples:

Brutus
Captain Kirk
Al Bundy
Backstabber
Fat Bastard
Green Goblin
Hot Momma Huda
Jessica Rabbit
Lizzy's Lips
Lex Luthor 
Doomsday

For more of their awesome names head over to http://ilikeikesplace.com/

On my visit I went for the Milf - chicken escalope, spinach, ham and mayo. It took awhile for them to serve it up (I think as the couple next to me had ordered the giant mofo that is the 'Doomsday') but when it did it didn't disappoint. The perfect way to fuel up before a day of squandering money on clothes, movie tickets and coffee in the Castro!


Za Pizza, 1919 Hyde Street@Green, San Francisco CA 94109

Za Pizza is the perfect place to stroll on down to when cooking is out of the question and a great spot to just hang out and people watch. It's a stone's throw from my normal place of residence in 'Frisco so I became quite the regular there for a period. Check out the pic above - that's just one slice! About the same size as a regular pizza in the UK and for a very reasonable price. So reasonable in fact that after getting through it when the waitress asked 'would you like another sir' I went for it. Hence:


This was an olive and mushroom slice. Really tasty and helped soak up the two pints of Sierra-Nevada I had in there (there's a great range of beers on tap). If it's your bag they show sports on the TV, overall a great little establishment to hang out. More info on their website: http://zapizzasf.com/

These are just a few examples of some places to check out in this glorious city. Every time I go I seem to discover a new aspect to the city, it really is the gift that keeps on giving. I'm hoping to make my 11th visit in 2014 so be ready for more posts on Californian cuisine adventures!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making Airline Food Look Good - Case#1 Pret-A-Manger

I hate it when TV show 'jump the shark'. That point when you can tell the creative team has simply run dry of ideas and you're now being subjected to ideas that are so clearly scraping the barrel that you can almost feel the splinters digging into your skin.

I'd wager that the same can be said of food chains. They spring up, lure you in with some kind of USP and then after a few years of good business begin slumming it like no tomorrow, apparently safe in the knowledge that they have enough of a customer base to stay afoot.

That in mind I present you with my own 'List of Shame' - some places that used to be cool but now are now crap: Pret A Manger:

Remember when Pret first sprung up way back when? In the days when options for a fast quick lunch in a high street were either your standard fast food of McDonalds, KFC or a sausage roll from 'Chav-feeder' Gregs?

Here was a chain that down from the name, to the nicely thought out colours and style of their branding, seemed to be emphasing quality - fresh sandwiches (allegedly made that morning) and coffee, all for the working person on the move.

(True we all knew they were owned by McDonalds, and their sandwiches fattier than a Big Mac, but we kept that quiet ;)

Recently on my way out for the evening I needed something quick so dived into my nearest Pret branch. They were offering a new 'Halloumi Wrap' - being a huge halloumi fan this seemed ideal.



I wish I still had the list of ingredients that had gone into this thing. I could list them here and mark and 'X' next to them as I was barely able to discern what was present in this monstrosity.

The wrap itself had that hard, cardboad feel I associate from early noughties-attempts to create burritos from chains like Chiquitos and various supermarkets. The taste of the worst kind of ready meal.

As I bit into this wrap, and the it more or snapped and crumbled, I got to taste the halloumi itself. Or should I say what halloumi? I could barely taste anything resembling cheese let alone the lip-smacking yummy goodness I think of when I think of that wonderful cheesy treat.

Instead I got a flavour-free mush. A veritable 'taste-free paste' inserted into a hardboard wrap.

The coffee was OK but that's not saying much - the damage was done! If this is the best new stuff they can serve up then it will take me a lot of convincing to darken the door of Pret again.

More in the list of shame to follow as and when!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bad Ass Coffee (The Blue Danube San Francisco)

San Francisco:



Easily my favourite city in the world. I've been visiting there since the age of 3, and every time I go I seem to discover some new aspect to it, some new cool area or food outlet. In much the same way I feel you can 'stumble upon' the weird and wonderful in the big smoke of London, SF itself is a city of cool colourful places.

One of the best of these is the Blue Danube, located on the lively Clement Street:


Located just a stones throw from the truly awesome Green Apple bookstore, this is the perfect place to stop and put you feet up with hot cup of coffee before embarking on a day of shopping (something my bro and I do on almost each visit). Inside you'll find a warm inviting atmosphere, decor adorned with renaissance art, and - MOST IMPORTANLY, an incredible sandwich menu!


When I mean sandwiches I mean proper sandwiches. Not a pathetic triangular, white bread sans crusts - cut with cucumber and maybe some ham. I mean proper, home made subs. Bread so fresh it feels it was just baked, filled with cooked to perfection turkey breast and topped with avacado.

Upon my last visit there I more or less headed straight to the Danube, and was still tuned into 'UK mode'. After ordering the fear of not being satisfied by a mere sandwich gripped me, but when this truly heroic sub was put on my table I knew there was zip to worry about (put it this way - it doubled as dinner!).

Lastly - and by no means least the coffee. What coffee it is - my bro and I ordered Mocha's. These things had a smooth, creamy taste, and managed that fine balance of not being too strong a taste but being sweet enough so that no sugar was required. Truly the best 'pick me up' to have before an afternoon of shopping until dropping.

Be warned - do not add sugar. The coffee here is pretty powerful, below is a pretty good reconstruction of what we were experiencing on the bus after:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CglvOos2bA

The Blue Danube can be found at:

06 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Opening hours: 


Monday7:00 am – 10:00 pm
Tuesday7:00 am – 10:00 pm
Wednesday7:00 am – 10:00 pm
Thursday7:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Saturday7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday7:00 am – 10:00 pm

Telephone: +1 415-221-9041

The Sky Canteen Playlist

These are the songs I hear in my head upon entering my work canteen....