Fun with Truffle Fries at Crave

The night my mother and I went to Crave for dinner, it had been a bit of a long day. My mother works for a labor union that’s been trying to get her fired for about two years if not longer, due to her activism within the union that represents employees of the first union, such as herself (I know, it’s unionception), as well as the fact that she seems to be the only one who still remembers what labor unions are supposed to do: represent their members against the members’ employers, instead of going out to dinner or conferences on the members’ dime.

As you can imagine, this is not an easy work environment. My day hadn’t been as hard: I’d been dealing with some negative mood crap and mental health stuff in general, and some of my multiple sclerosis symptoms like back pain and stiffness had come back, too. However, I had tried to run our dishwasher and come back to find the kitchen floor covered in suds, some of which had leaked into our already-still-damp-from-the-last-leak basement, just in time for Mom to get home from her aforementioned long and stressful day.

We managed to get the kitchen clean and dry, and decided that even if the electric stove wasn’t possibly damp and dangerous, we still would have needed to go out for dinner. One drive into the city and police pullover later (we had a headlight out, and it was the end of the month, so quotas), and we were weaving through droves of college students, heading to parties and buying weed in front of a corner tobacco store, to the very popular Crave.

Crave is another one of those “hipster fast food” places I’ve talked about before. I’m not automatically opposed to this food craze, since I really like burgers, and it’s always interesting to see what different restaurants do with it. In Crave’s case, it was the addition of frozen yogurt, which unfortunately we didn’t end up sampling, since we were too full after our dinner.

We ordered from a menu that included sandwiches with homemade chips, featured burgers with flavors that included curry, sausage and rabe, truffle, and Kung Pao shrimp plus a “build your own” option, plus sides like fried green tomato, fried pickle, and crispy shrimp, and various types of loaded fries, which is another weakness of mine. We both got Crave burgers with cheese, and an order of the truffle fries to split.

The Crave burgers tasted good overall – like real beef and not frozen-style “Smashburger” patties – and mine was well-cooked: medium rare and not charred on the outside. And juicy – maybe a little too juicy. The burgers were greasy; every time I picked mine up, my hands were coated, with grease and juice dripping down my hand and wrist, and I must have gone through ten napkins at least. This might not have been an issue for someone without the sensory issues I have, but for me, it was just a bit too off-putting for me to immediately rush back for another. My sensory issues also posed a problem with the acoustics of the restaurant’s dining room – it was such that a table of college students across from ours laughing and chatting made it hard for us to hear each other.

The “Crave sauce” seemed to be a watery (maybe due to the burger’s grease) version of thousand island dressing, maybe with additional seasoning. The truffle fries were much more memorable, with truffle aioli, truffle oil, parmesan cheese, and rosemary. At first, I wasn’t sure about the truffle and parmesan combination – I know it’s become classic, but the truffle and parmesan have similar flavors, and at first they blended together for me. However, the more I tasted, the more I began to enjoy the fries, especially in combination with the leftover Crave sauce and ketchup. If I went back to Crave, it would most likely be to try more loaded fry dishes, maybe along with a sandwich of theirs or their fried shrimp, and maybe some of their frozen yogurt.

Crave doesn’t seem to quite have the distinctive brand of Five Guys or In’n’Out Burger, but that may come with time, and it’s popular thanks to its location in a college area, and the obvious thought and effort generally put into its food, which was overall tasty. Time will tell whether it has the staying power of Five Guys, or falls prey to burger market oversaturation.

(original post here)

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Chipotle seasoning mix

I made Chipotle seasoning mix from this recipe, with some substitutions. This one was much trickier because it required (of course) chipotle peppers, and cilantro, neither of which I had.

I couldn’t buy chipotle pepper or cilantro, or put them on our grocery list, because I decided to make both this and the cajun seasoning mix at around midnight or one in the morning, because I needed to make something and had been wanting to try these spice mixes, so that I could mix them with mayonnaise and make new condiments for myself later.

I was trying to replicate this chipotle aioli that you can get on a burger at New World Bistro in Albany, because I’d been craving that. I have a secret, embarrassing love of flavored mayonnaise – back at college I loved basil mayo with fresh basil leaves, and ranch mayonnaise, on my burgers whenever they were on the dining hall menu. And as I’ve mentioned before, I love hipster burger joints’ condiment bars for this reason.

Anyway, I ended up substituting cayenne pepper for chipotle, mostly since I had it out and it was easier to pour than black pepper. I had read somewhere, I guess, that coriander and cilantro could substitute for each other, so I also used that.

To me, the chipotle mix tasted good in mayonnaise, which I then spread on a grilled roast beef sandwich with Swiss cheese. However, my palate can just about recognize “sweet,” “spicy,” “fat,” and “creamy mayo,” so I’m not (yet) the best judge, and probably someone more used to cooking with chipotle peppers would be repulsed.

(Images can be found here, at the original post)

Akira

(I should preface this by saying that I have no idea how actual Japanese food is supposed to be (and that I know “Japanese food” is a broad category), and there’s some stuff in this meal, like California rolls (which are my favorite sushi), which are definitely not authentic. Other stuff, like tempura and sweet teriyaki sauce, seems questionable, but I’m not sure if it’s authentic.)

So what better way to celebrate my stomach finally starting to go back to normal than going out for dinner with my family? We went to Akira, a lounge, hibachi restaurant, and bistro that I like because it allows you to order bento boxes as dinner, rather than just lunch.

Bento boxes as they’re typically done in the US are probably my favorite way to get Japanese American food, because of the amount of variety you get. You usually get sushi (often a California roll), shrimp and vegetable tempura both, shumai, and your main dish over rice, which will usually be some meat or seafood cooked teriyaki style. In addition, you’ll often get miso soup, a house salad, or both with the order. While this is a lot of food, it means there’s a lot to taste, where you would otherwise have to order each dish individually and stack up the costs, or worry about the server forgetting something. You can always take the teriyaki or main dish home for later (what my mom and I both did with our chicken teriyaki, seen above in the top-right corner of the platter/box). The only things you really can’t take home are the tempura, because it’s fried and reheats badly, and usually the sushi, because the raw fish doesn’t last long.

Our dinner out tonight was…meh. My house salad actually wasn’t bad (I usually don’t like the dressing, but maybe they made it in-house, or just used less of it, or I was just hungrier when I ate the salad).

The miso soup was a little strange. It tasted slightly bland, and when I didn’t stir it for awhile, it separated a bit in the bowl, with the water on top and the miso broth, tofu, and vegetables toward the bottom. I have never seen miso do that before. Still, it’s pretty much the only kind of soup I like, so since it wasn’t terrible I did eat most of the bowl.

I also tried some of my dad’s appetizer, which was the Wild Lover’s Roll. I can’t find a description from the menu online, but I know it had spicy tuna, two sauces, greens, and I believe a little crab, too. I would have liked it without the slow afterburn of the spiciness, very similar to the dry burn of wasabi and horseradish, but I found out that I actually like raw tuna better than I thought.

My bento box was also…meh. The shumai was interesting because I’m used to the little shrimp dumplings getting steamed, and these were fried and had some crispiness to them. Their sauce was a little sweet, though. My tempura was bland, and so was its dipping sauce. My California roll had more greens than crab – or even avocado – and was, again, just a bit bland. My chicken teriyaki was a little dry. Generally, the sauces were a little overly sweet (except for the soy sauce, obviously).

Still, it was a nice surprise, and the right balance of “restaurant food” and “rice with other relatively simple flavors and good ingredients” for my stomach (so far).

akirabento1

(Akira site, original post)

The Warehouse Grill and Barbecue

My Dad is away so after work, Mom and I went for a burger at Warehouse Grill and Barbecue. The burger was nice and flavorful, and when I ordered it medium-rare, it was pink inside and not charred on the outside (which is a texture I hate).

We got two barbecue sauces for the table – a red one that was there when we arrived, and then a brown one the waitress brought over in a jar. I didn’t like either of them, but Mom and I both thought the red one tasted better. It seemed more vinegar-based, while the brown one might have been molasses-based.

The Warehouse fries, which had been called “seasoned” on the menu, were very salty but otherwise not especially seasoned. I don’t know, when I think of “seasoned fries,” I think of not just salt but also stuff like pepper, maybe garlic, even stuff like rosemary maybe. Certainly something more interesting than just “a lot of salt.”

My Crisp Apple cocktail was also delicious. I wouldn’t have expected apple juice to go with vodka.

Service was kind of disorganized – it took awhile for a server to come over, and when our waitress came we learned that no one had told her she had a table. Despite the restaurant being nearly empty, we got rushed a bit, with the waitress asking at least twice if we were done with our plates. Still, it was almost closing time, so I’m sure everyone was tired.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad dinner at all, but it wasn’t the best thing I ever ate. A great after-work treat, though.

warehouse bbq and grill

(original Tumblr post)

Manny’s Deli and Cafeteria at Chicago’s Midway Airport

So our flight for Phoenix, Arizona took off around 7, or so it seemed like – some equally ungodly hour. As a result, my sleep the night before was more of a “nap,” and we didn’t eat much before going to the airport – I think I had some cereal, or maybe yogurt. By the time we stepped off the plane at Midway to change over, we were all really hungry, and when we saw a place serving breakfast food, we decided to go there. That place was the Manny’s Deli & Cafeteria counter at the airport, which serves an abridged menu and listed “egg sandwiches” and “home fries” on said menu.

Now, I’m used to egg sandwiches where the egg is fried and put on an English muffin, bagel, or similar “breakfast” bread product, often with a slice of cheese and maybe some type of meat, often bacon or a sausage patty. In short, I’m used to the Egg McMuffin model, though I’ve never actually eaten that McDonalds product.

I ordered an egg sandwich with American cheese, and was asked about bread and meat preferences. I asked for white (my stomach is sensitive to grains these days, and I was getting on a plane) and turkey sausage, assuming that they had several kinds of muffin or bun, and two types of sausage patty (the choices were pork and turkey). I also asked for a side of home fries because it had been a stressful morning and potatoes soothe me. I asked for ketchup packets, and the workers were generous with them; I should mention they were also patient as we tried to make our order clear through the chaos (the counter was crowded).

My egg sandwich was a literal sandwich – it was a helping of scrambled eggs with cheese, between two slices of white sandwich bread. The turkey sausages were two literal sausages pressed into the sandwich as well. My home fries were a stack of potato slices served in a covered soup cup along with my order.

Now, I have no actual objection to a scrambled egg sandwich, because I’ve actually made those for myself, and even made them from breakfasts I got at diners sometimes, using the toast that comes with most eggs on the side. But then, that’s the problem – I can make that myself at home. In fact, I make it better, because I toast the bread so it’s less liable to fall apart in my hands, like this stuff did, especially when I added ketchup. It didn’t taste bad, but it was a really odd presentation that I’ve never seen from a restaurant before, and it got my hands pretty messy trying to eat it. I needed a fork to finish it.

The home fries were more of a disappointment. The potatoes were barely fried – not undercooked, but nowhere near crispy – and I couldn’t find any onion slices or other nice alternate textures to find in a potato dish (I’ve seen peppers used like this sometimes, too). Onion also would have been a good idea because the home fries were incredibly bland – I don’t know whether they needed more salt, more pepper, more butter, or what, but they needed something. All I tasted was white potato.

So this was an odd, somewhat mediocre, but ultimately acceptable rushed brunch while we tried to figure out where our actual gate was and how to get there without my dad’s back and my own back breaking down completely.

(Manny’s home page, my original Tumblr post)