Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Burrito Hall of Fame

To quote my previous post:

When I think of good food in Huntsville, two places come to mind.

We covered G's Country Kitchen but it would be a sin to exclude Bandito Burrito.

I was going to say "the one and only Bandito Burrito" but there are actually three locations. A few others have come and gone over time. There was even a brief period where they served breakfast which was epic! When I lived in Huntsville, I ate at the one on Governors Drive which is still there. When I visit my hometown, I usually crash with my friend who lives in Madison, so we go to the one up the way from his place. It's bigger and has a nice bar area plus outside seating. If the train goes by during your meal, you get a dollar off of your drink of choice. FYI: They have killer frozen strawberry margaritas here!

They always bring out chips and yummy salsa along with your drink order. The queso dip was a favorite at one point but that's when I was young and reckless. If you're feeling daring, order the queso and then double dip into the salsa as well. I regret not doing that the last time I was there. It's probably for the best. As it stands, I was barely able to fit into my plane seat back to New Jersey.

Their menu has expanded over the years. I've I'm sure there's lots of great stuff that they've added but ever since I first set foot into Bandito, I've always ordered the same thing...

Two bean burritos with a 2 oz side of sour cream. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I craved this more than any other thing on the planet. I was a sour cream fanatic. Over time, I have always been able to rely on this meal to taste exactly the same as it always has. It irritates me when places change up something that was already good to begin with! You can also make it a meal with just one burrito and sides. Their beans and rice are solid so you'll leave happy. If that doesn't do it for you, the fact that you can drink a sweet tea the size of your head should hopefully work!

It's a great place to go with friends (which is usually the case for me) and the prices are still very reasonable. No matter where you are in the Huntsville/Madison area, you're no more than 15 minutes from a Bandito Burrito. They should include this information on the sign that welcomes you to Madison County.

Bandito Burrito

208 Main St
Madison, AL

3017 Governors Dr
Huntsville, AL

11220 Memorial Pkwy SW
Huntsville, AL

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

It was a bit quite out here in the blog front this past week. I wasn't even on Facebook all that much which really says something! I was home visiting friends and family in Alabama. The week was nonstop action so I just didn't have much internet time. I already have a backlog of blog posts and so I'd better get rolling.

This post is a must. When I think of good food in Huntsville, two places come to mind. This is one of them. It's a total hole in the wall that you would never hear about through anything other than word of mouth. Cracker Barrel it is not. This is the real deal.

This is soul food.

G's Country Kitchen

I was lucky enough to have a friend who brought me here back in the day when I used to live in 5 Points. I grew up with food like this but a new standard was set that day. I was a frequent customer after that. I ate here when I was pregnant with Molly and can remember bringing her when she was a tiny baby. I moved away from Huntsville a year after she was born and a long time passed before I was finally able to come back. A few years ago, I convinced a friend to come and eat lunch and I was thrilled that G's was still alive and kicking! It still looks and feels exactly how I remember it and it's one of those few places where I am able to attain a true sense of self. Where I am, where I've been and where I came from.

After you've had a seat and a moment to take in this humble establishment, you might notice the sign resides over the kitchen window: This is not fast food. It's a true statement. It's slowly cooked and seasoned and if you want something fried, it's cooked to order. Do yourself a favor, forget the scale. You can't go to G's and not have something that has been fried!

Many southern food establishments have a rotating menu of meats and veggies. G's has specials but their list of sides is set. There's nothing worse than looking at a menu on Wednesday and seeing that greens and fried okra are on the menu for Friday.

As you can see, I went with the fried green tomatoes. Speaking of greens, this is one of the few places I know that offers both collards and turnip greens everyday. I could not pick one for the life of me so they gave me both! I've always gone with the black eyed peas so I can get down to business...

Every plate is served with a slice of onion and tomato.

After every meal, I am usually way too stuffed to even think of dessert. Don't make that mistake here. This is the reason why to-go containers were invented. The desserts here are a religious experience that will have you saying Oh my GOD! after every bite!

The banana pudding and red velvet cake are the top players. I don't know if I want to take responsibility for picking a favorite because you really should have both. I did. I went here TWICE while I was home and had pudding one day and cake the next. If you're lucky, you might have a choice. The first day, it was made for me because the cake was sold out for the day. The reason being that this is the best red velvet cake on the planet. This stuff will make the pleasure center of your brain sing! I took a piece back home to New Jersey for Chris and it had to go through airport security. If it had tested positive for drugs, I don't think I would have been shocked. The withdrawl that I'm feeling right now is making me itchy!

Don't bother to lick the screen. I already tried that and it doesn't work.

G's Country Kitchen
2501 Oakwood Avenue
Huntsville, AL

Friday, June 18, 2010

Old School NYC

While we were in the City two weeks ago we decided to go with a light dinner since brunch was a big affair (as it should be). We also had tickets to La Cage Aux Folles (OMG! AMAZING!) and didn't want to risk being late by going to another hot spot to eat.

We decided to offset trendy with classic. Other than hitting up a hot dog stand, a knish from Yonah Schimmel is the cheapest meal you can get while still enjoying an authentic New York City experience. Knishes are like small hand pies. A biscuit like crust that is wrapped around potatoes with or without other things mixed in. They have a great selection of fillings that they combine with the potatoes (mushrooms, spinach, etc) and you have the option of adding cheese to any of them. They have other Jewish specialties such as latkes and borscht which is served cold inside of a clear plastic drink cup. Borscht is one of those things I desperately want to like. I ordered it the first time I went here but was totally put off by the temperature. If you enjoy that sort of thing, this stuff struck me as serious business! It had a good flavor and I did manage to make it halfway through the glass before I called it.

It's easy to get carried away when looking at their menu. A knish doesn't sound like much and it's difficult to believe you'll get full anywhere in NYC for less than four bucks. Lane wanted to order two but the waitress told him to start with one. He and Brooke each got a potato knish and I went with the red cabbage. One thing I love about Lane is that he was conscious of the fact that I enjoy photographing food and waited to eat until I was done without me even having to ask! That's a good friend!

If you don't think this will fill you up, you can make it a combo with slaw and (delicious) pickles. If you're still hungry, you can try one of their dessert knishes. They have chocolate and cherry/cheese which was what we went with.

The bill for all three of us to eat dinner was $21 and some change which is a serious bargain! Those things held us over through our show, while we walked through Times Square and then for our train ride back to New Jersey.

Do you want a delish knish without the trip to New York City? Neither do I but sometimes it's not always possible to get to the City. I don't know if there's an app for that but there is a relevant post! My first visit to Yonah Shimmel inspired me to learn to make them and I posted the recipe! They're time consuming but very much worth the effort!

Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery
137 E Houston St
New York, NY 10002

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ultimate Brunch Warrior

I feel like I have a bit of catching up to do. The past few months have been spent with many rerun dinners but that's not to say that I haven't been to a few great places. We went to New England in May for the weekend and I have some fun stuff to share from that trip. My recent visitors from Huntsville, Brooke and Lane, were a good excuse to step out and enjoy a sampling of what the tri state area has to offer. As you saw earlier, we went to Philly. The following day, we went to New York City for more magic.

I don't have to remind faithful readers of how much I love Sunday brunch. I am sure that there is a sea of amazing options in the City but we went to a place that I've been previously (about a year and a half ago). Ever since then, I've raved countless times about it to anyone that will listen to me. I was delighted to learn that the owner is writing a book due out in the fall (just in time for my birthday!).

I am talking about Prune.

I'd heard from a reliable source that this place was awesome so when I met up with another old friend from high school that was in the NYC for a few days, I suggested it to her and she was open to trying it out. The place, of course, is small and a crowd that made for some excellent people watching was constantly gathered around and waiting for a table. If I'd started a "Young Folks" whistle along, I bet everyone would have joined in. We waited almost two hours for a spot that day and it was worth every second. We just spent the time catching up and chilling out.

We were much luckier two weeks ago when I went with Brooke and Lane. We got up early that morning to go into the city and arrived in East Village right around ten which is when they open the doors for brunch. No reservations taken (for all other meals, they will reserve you a spot) so the early bird gets the table. We stood in a small line and hoped for the best. Every seat is precious so if a member of your party is not present, you will not be seated. The three of us weren't waiting for anyone else and we practically fist bumped each other when the hostess invited us in and gave us immediate seating!

I ordered the exact same thing that I enjoyed a year and a half ago.

Spicy stewed chickpeas with preserved lemon, butter crumbed poached eggs and flatbread. It's one of the few completely vegetarian options on the menu but it's a jolly good one.

All of us ordered eggs and we also splurged on a pancake to share because I didn't want to miss out! It's quite an experience! It is made from a combination of flour and cornmeal and baked in a skillet (Yeah baby!). They serve it with warm berries and powdered sugar. It is, by far, one of the more unique pancakes I've ever had. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Don't skip the drinks here. I don't usually get juice when I'm out for breakfasty foods but the Prune Juice is an amazing blend of flavors that I am sure will compliment anything on their fabulous menu. Go for it!

I know I should branch out for my next brunch in the City but it's difficult not to plot another meal here. If I lived in New York City, I'd be a regular!

54 East 1st St
New York, NY 10003

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Been a Long Time

Too long actually. I know it's been two and a half months since I've updated but it has also been over six since I've had the opportunity to eat ETHIOPIAN FOOD!!!!

I can rarely convince Chris to make the trek to Makeda in New Brunswick . Even I don't care to go for dinner because it's a bit pricy. That being said, it's still a great spot to take a date because it's dead sexy. Sometimes, however, I don't need sexy. I need functional and delicious. We had some friends who came to visit us from my hometown (Huntsville, AL) and they made it a point to mention how much they'd like to try Ethiopian cuisine. We don't have a lot as far as ethnic food goes in Alabama...especially if you're looking for an authentic experience. We have some Asian food (a great Korean place and good Thai as well) but as far as Africa goes? Fughettaboutet!

Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of Ethiopian immigrants in the country so the food is abundant. It's actually close to the top of my list of things I want to do if I ever get the chance to go to D.C. I've only driven through on the way to and from New Jersey. Luckily for me, Philadelphia also has a reasonable selection of places where they throw down with the wats! I'd never been to any of them but I know someone who lives in Philly and has is often out and about so I asked her where to go for the best. She recommended Almaz Cafe. She said the ambiance was humble but the food was top notch.

It doesn't really stick out so you do need to actively search for it. It's a small restaurant without much seating but we got there right around 5 in the afternoon so we had our pick of the few tables they have.

They have the atmosphere of a coffee shop and the offerings to back it up. They also serve breakfast and lunch of the Americanesque persuasion. My daughter ordered the berry salad and they delivered a shimmering bowl of fruit and toasted pecans on top of a bed of lettuce with a side of balsamic dressing. We all stared at her with envy for a few seconds but quickly reminded ourselves that our moment would come. Almaz didn't let us down.

This is the vegetarian sampler. All four of us ordered the same thing. The same smiling faces also brought us a huge plate that was piled high with injera. We quickly depleted it and it was immediately replenished.

For $10.95, you get to try out all four of their veggie based wats. Each one is a unique experience. We enjoyed them all but I think the across the board favorite was the tikil gomen which is the one in the separate dish. I'll probably get an entire meal of it next time. Even now, the thought of it makes me shake my head with wonder at how something that seems so simple can shock the senses with layers of flavorful pleasure.

The service was friendly and the food was full of comfort. To top it off, the prices are very reasonable which makes it a triple threat in the streets of Philly. You can top off your meal by venturing up to Artery and Salvage which is an awesome shop full of handmade arts and crafts from the locals. You can get yerself a souvenir that will beat the heck out of a bear that looks like Benjamin Franklin or a plastic Liberty Bell. I have no doubt that my return to Almaz will bring about thoughts that are similar to what is going through my head right now: It's good to be back.

Almaz Cafe
140 S 20th Street
20th and Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Artery and Salvage
108 S 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103