Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hot Doug’s – A Pilgrimage.

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Location: Chicago, IL

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

For those who have never heard of Hot Doug’s, let me just lay down some facts and stats for you:

  • Facebook: 4.7 out of 5 Stars (based on 4,676 ratings)
  • Urban Spoon: 88% Like It (based on 1,442 votes)
  • Yelp: 4.5 out of 5 Stars (based on 3,163 reviews)
  • Google Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 Stars (based on 364 reviews)
  • Zagat: Chicago’s 10 Best Hot Dogs
  • Anthony Bourdain:This is like the greatest thing that ever happened
  • Mario Batali:
  • Aziz Ansari: Approved (Even those who make people laugh do not laugh about the food here). See Here.
  • Book Written About It: True. See Here.
  • Has Its Own Theme Song: Yes, true. See Here.

 Now, a shocking statement:


The good news (for me, at least): I ate here.

The good news for you: I’m going to tell you about it.

I decided that the best way to document my experience would be to walk you through my journey from the end of the famous line to the legendary sausages themselves.


The Hot Doug’s lines are famous. We waited 2 ½ hours (at about 10:30am on a rainy Saturday) from the point depicted below to sausage time. The crazy part is that every minute of the wait is worth it. By about the completion of first meat roll, all memories of the line melt away like shredded fontina on your celebrity sausage.


As the 2 ½ hour climb bore on – we began noting various trail markers along the path to the country’s best encased meats. The first such milestone was the fence and the painted pig.


Down the trail a piece, you come to the infamous window. Spend time here salivating and scoping out the show schedules for various music venues around town.


So close you can smell it. Here one makes nervous small talk and shoots dirty glances at those finally crossing the threshold.


If by now you haven’t ferociously finger-poked the Hot Doug’s menu on your ubiquitous mobile device, this is the time to strategize your order.


Awww Yeah. You reached the “Game of the Week” plaque. We visited when a Pernod-infused pheasant sausage was on the menu. More on that inspiring item later.


At this stage your palms are sweaty, your legs are tired, and butterflies are going ape shit in your tummy. You are unable to think of anything else besides mentally rehearsing your order and any questions you have for Doug.


Your turn. The rest of the world fades to black and burning spotlights beat down upon your one-on-one interaction with the legendary sausage king of Chicago. But soon you realize that Doug is a chummy, down-to-earth dude who proudly stands (literally) behind every order. A 2-minute interview ensued between this food blogger and the Oracle of Meat Pipes.

Nick the Foodie: [Bowing, showing praise]

Doug: “Haha – you got the wrong guy.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what are you going to do after October 4th?”

Doug: “I’m going to take a nap and then I’m going to go out for lunch. A lot of chefs in the city owe me lunch…I heard that people were saying that I would be opening a gourmet restaurant – that is totally untrue.”

Nick the Foodie: “How about a food truck?”

Doug: “I don’t get the economics of it – I don’t know how people make any money.”

Nick the Foodie: “Well, if anyone could pull it off, I bet you could.”

Doug: [Smiling] “I’d rather sell crack to kids.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what do you eat when you aren’t in the restaurant?”

Doug: “Oh, I eat everything. We end up with a lot of extra sauces – so most of the time I cook with those. Spaghetti is one thing that I make with all the leftover tomatoes.”

Nick the Foodie: [Places order, walks away, drools in anticipation]


Our Order:

  • Game of the Week (2) – Pernod-infused pheasant sausage with rhubarb mustard, goat cheese and truffled radishes
  • Celebrity Sausage (1) – Jaymee Tigzenskee (1) – Hungarian smoked pork sausage w/ smoked paprika mustard, fontina cheese, and smoked onion marmalade
  • Hot Doug’s Cassoulet (1): Saucisse de Toulouse with fresh herb mustard, great northern beans, duck confit and black sea salt
  • The Paul Kelly (1) – Bratwurst with everything (mustard, caramelized onions, relish, tomatoes, pickle, celery salt)
  • Duck Fat Fries


There was nothing but silence interspersed with groans of pleasure for the 10 minutes that encompassed taking the initial first bites of each sausage. When I was able to formulate speech and weave together thought fragments again, I came to the following impressions:

  • The pheasant sausage was bursting with flavors and perfect seasonings – totally juicy and perfect in every sense. A sweet and complex rhubarb mustard was the next thing that I noticed – were those black currants in there too? I was then hit with rich waves of  goat cheese and thin wafts of radish atop my meat.
  • The celeb. sausage was insanely good too. I ended up wishing that I had ordered two of these as well. The spicy pork sausage with smoked paprika mustard, cheese, and onions embodied everything that encased meat sandwiches should be.
  • I wanted to sample a bratwurst just to get a sense for how well Doug does a classic, basic sausage in addition to the zany “full meals on a bun” that he creates with his specials. I was glad that I did. The bratwurst was among the best that memory can recall – complete with all the traditional Chicago toppings.
  • Cassoulet: French-style sausage, herby moutarde, beans, confit, and sea salt? What’s not to like? This one was a bit more mild than I had anticipated and I found myself wanting slightly more flavor – but perhaps that’s because I had already eaten 2 lbs of pheasant and Hungarian pork sausage.

I came, I saw, and I conquered the trek to experience an iconic American restaurant before closing. After eating here, I can fully understand why Hot Doug’s has spawned such a fervent cult following and I, too, have joined the ranks of loyal followers.

Ribelle – Rebel With a Cause

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Location: Brookline, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Eating at Ribelle is not like a casual scarf-wrapped Vespa ride through Roma on a cool afternoon.

It is closer to taking part in a brow furling, hair-raising mezzanotte race between two badasses on Ducati Monsters (customized by a body shop in Beijing) darting through mid-town Manhattan.

All feigned enthusiasm for motorbikes aside, this sloppy metaphor is intended to illustrate a revelation that hit me like a hock of fine prosciutto di parma while eating at Ribelle:


As I tucked into a dish called “Green Beans + grilled veal tongue, garlic confit, squid-ink crumbs” – I started to wonder: What style of cooking am I experiencing right now?


  • The name of the restaurant is Italian
  • The chef, Tim Maslow, was raised in Dub-town, Massachusetts
  • His father ran a local neighborhood sandwich joint called Strip T’s
  • He worked under the tutelage of the great David Chang, who runs a series of (mostly) NYC restaurants starting with the word “Momofuku” (which means “lucky peach,” or “ill-advised” in Japanese) that churn out mind-bending dishes that incorporate Asian influences, French technique, and lots of pork. Chang, it turns out, worked for Daniel Boulud, a Frenchman-turned-New-Yorker who is a culinary mastermind in his own right.
  • Chef Maslow returned to Watertown and took-over Strip T’s, where he transformed the menu into a funky array of Contemporary American dishes, haute comfort food, and the latest shit that popped into his head.
  • Then came Ribelle, his second venture, and the grilled veal tongue.

I repeat: what style of cooking am I eating? With such a varied resume and mix of influences behind the kitchen, I felt as if I was cannibalistically devouring a global citizen. Wrapped in crispy pork, of course.

Indeed, one craft in which globalization has entered successfully (and for the better I might add), is in the culinary arts. I think that it is amazing that I can order a dish with so many influences behind it these days – but the key is that you need a very talented chef to bring it all together effectively.

— Tim Maslow is one of those chefs —

The food at Ribelle is rich, inventive, intellectual, and refined without being a dick about it. The menu is structured from lightest fare to heaviest fare and is divided into four clear sections: Bread, Vegetables, Fish, and Meat. There will be words you don’t know and can’t pronounce, things you will need to ask about, and dishes you’ve never thought of before.


Delightful, delicate twists of light airy pastry lightly brushed with pork essence. Dipped in a deep and hearty marinara.


This was my favorite dish of the night. While Chef Maslow’s dishes all have a high-standard of quality, I find that at each of his restaurants there is simply one plate that just blows your freaking mind and makes you wonder whether this man is a genius.

Maslow and team prove to have deft hands with offal – tenderizing, searing, seasoning, and waving a magic chef’s knife over the most politically incorrect cut of an already politically incorrect animal to be eating. The veal tongue was perfectly prepared and positively vexing.

It was like pondering the vastness of the universe – something beyond my comprehension. But I liked it a lot.


My second favorite dish of the night. I think that any restaurant that can cook a good octopus dish is worthy of praise. Yes, the contrarians in the audience may question the thesis of the article at this point: “Uhh, sounds pretty Italian, Nick.” Yet the rigatoni was concocted from some crazy combination of good-for-you-grains, and there was a level of complexity from the smoked tomato sauce, fennel, and octopus that I have not tasted at any other so-called “Italian” restaurant in the area.


There were enough buzz words in the description of this menu item to make any food nerd perk up. Definitely wins the award for best plating of the evening. Tender marbled circles of Wagyu melted in my mouth as accompanied by the richness of egg and earthiness of dollops of sunchoke sauce and seeds.


This is the most refreshing dessert I’ve tasted in recent memory. Eating it is sort of like getting a massage, sitting in a sauna, and then being rubbed down in high quality EVOO (not that rancid stuff) while nibbling on chocolates.

The dessert is served with a burning tinder of cinnamon on the side. The olive oil ice cream is slightly sweet and soothing. The chocolate is divine. The touch of sea salt finishes it all off nicely.

Do you see what I mean at this point? Have I argued my case effectively? Not convinced? Try Ribelle for yourself and try to tell me if you can put a confident finger on this place as an Italian restaurant.

So, back to the question we started with: Does the Country of Origin in Cooking Matter Anymore?

It is an important piece of our cooking, but it is becoming less important in defining the restaurants that serve us. Our culinary identities are as ever-changing and dynamic as our personal identities – they are constantly being shaped by our environmental influences, our histories, and the next cool new way to use pork. Chefs of Boston – nay, the world – keep allowing your influences to expand and resist the urge to think of your establishments as fixed entities blindly following a menu etched like commandments in a slab of stone. Let your imaginations run wild and let your evolving interests and influences shine through in your food.

Just make sure you have the skills and know-how to do it right. Like Tim Maslow, one of Boston’s best chefs.

Food for the Soul

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Words of solace for those suffering from loss and grief as a result of the events of the last week.


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~

Boston Resolution Restaurants 2013

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. That’s right – it’s resolution time. But rather than join a gym to shed that extra 20 lbs of gut weight, resolve to stop eating baby animals (veal and cabri are too good to give up), or take up a diet of strictly flax and wheat germ – I am rolling out another list of restaurants in the area that I MUST try in the year ahead.

Admittedly, I made just an ‘OK’ dent in last year’s list, hitting six of the 16 spots that I pined for. The reason for that was  my culinary attention being pulled in other directions as new openings kept hitting my radar throughout 2012. But in the end, I did sample awesome cuisine from Casa B, Journeyman, Marliave, Radius, The Gallows, and Gaslight Brasserie Du Coin. Not too bad.

Looking ahead to the year of the Water Snake – here’s my list of resolution restaurants. Hiss, Hiss, Yum, Yum.

  1. Cinquecento | This hotly-anticipated cavernous Italian joint from the Aquitaine Group has wild boar gnocchi. Gnocch-said.
  2. Giulia | A just-opened Porter Square newcomer serving more upscale Italian eats. Run by a former Via Matta chef.
  3. Tavern Road | Chef Louis DiBarcarri (Sel de la Terre, Storyville, Chef Louie Night) plans to open a space in Fort Point with the words Porchetta, Game Birds, and Rotisserie on the menu. P.S. They’ll have a street food window. Booyah.
  4. Blue Dragon | Celeb chef Ming Tsai is opening an Asian Fusion spot in Fort Point.
  5. Ribelle | Strip T’s chef Tim Maslow is coming to Brookline (Washington Sq) with a new spot next year. I’ll be there.
  6. Bronwyn | We will finally have a good German restaurant around Boston. Currywurst and Spaten anyone?
  7. Spoke Wine Bar | The guys behind Dave’s Fresh Pasta bring you a wine bar right next to their current venue.
  8. Erbaluce | This Bay Village upscale Italian hideaway will be a romantic gourmet date for me at some point in 2013
  9. Oishii | A carry-over from last year’s list, but I will make it this time around!
  10. East By Northeast | This Pan-Asian small plates resto in Inman Square has been open for a while and deserves my attention.
  11. Santarpio’s | Yes, someday I will hike over to Eastie and eat pizza. It will happen.
  12. Estelle’s | This is what you get when you combine the chefs of Poe’s Kitchen and East Coast Grill.
  13. Bon Me (the restaurant) | A popular Vietnamese food truck goes brick and mortar in Kendall.
  14. Belly Wine Bar | The owners of Blue Room and Central Bottle team up to deliver a nice wine bar concept in Kendall.
  15. Uni Sashimi Bar (and late night ramen) | More for the late-night ramen to get Oringer’s take on a dish that is all the rage right now.
  16. Lone Star Taco Bar | These guys hit the Allston scene big and then fell off my radar. They’re back on, and I WILL get their tacos in the year ahead.

So there it is. Another 16 places to run to in an effort to continue eating my way through all that Boston has to offer. In case you haven’t noticed, the restaurant scene in the area is bumpin’. Lots of these places haven’t even opened yet, but when they do it promises to be an exciting year. See you there…

Strip T’s – A Beautiful Enigma

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Location: Watertown, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends






This place is an enigma. A beautiful enigma. It’s also one of the most unique dining experiences you will have around Boston.

How do you manage to order at a restaurant that can be described by the following attributes?

  • The name is Strip T’s, and the spot is located in a homely corner of Watertown.
  • For 25 years, they were a friendly neighborhood shop serving a lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, and soups. Think Greek Salads, Po’Boys, etc.
  • Recently the owner’s son returned from his gig as Chef de Cuisine at the one-and-only David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC to take over the menu.
  • The dinner has been revamped and includes an incredibly eclectic array of upscale Asian influences, down-home Amuuurican fare, and New England favorites. Now think things like haute burgers, fried chicken, banh mi, oxtail, maitake mushrooms, etc.
  • An emphasis is now placed on locally-sourced ingredients – think chalkboard list of suppliers, fish caught by spear (seriously), farms incorporated into menu item descriptions.

As someone who usually makes a beeline to a singular menu item that sings straight to my foie-gras clogged heart, I was more stumped with my selection at Strip T’s than anywhere else in recent memory.

I mean – do I go with the traditional grub like a burger, thinking that the son added a little Momofuku magic dust to a classic dish?

Or, do I swing East, thinking that our new chef wields a Shun well and shuns the old Strip T’s food in favor of inventive Asian cooking?

Or, do I try something zany and not particularly in line with either of these lines of thinking – like smoked trout with corn, 5 minute egg, rye, and chanterelles; or creole boudin “etouffee” with shrimp, scallops, and root vegetables?

Really – it all sounded good.

Here’s how the food thing went down:

  • First: Grilled romaine with succulent braised oxtail, perfectly poached egg, and a zingy chili ‘vin’ (which is apparently a cool way to say dressing). This dish really had a little bit of all the flavors and textures I most appreciate: meaty, smoky, charred, rich, spicy, complex, juicy, and crispy. Best dish of the night.
  • Second: After much, much agonizing I settled on the creole boudin, which was an incredibly tender sausage stuffed with creole rice and split down the center with plump little scallops and shrimp perched atop. The sausage wonder was swimming in a light stew with finely julienned root veggies, and man did it all have a nice flavorful “kick” to it. In the end, I loved this deconstructed slice of Nawlins.
  • Second (part deux): No, I did not gluttonously eat two mains. My dining chum ordered the much more dainty and Eastern-influenced roasted tautag, which was a spear-caught mild white fish in a bowl with kohlrabi “noodles,” lightly fried clams, eggplant and pistachio. Though a much different mouth-feel (yes I’m a fouchebag) than the boudin, it was sophisticated and well-executed (yes I watch too much Food Network).
  • Third: We were treated to some sort of special ice cream with coconut cake and sweet cream topped with cacao nibs. Felt nice and cooling on my tongue after the whirlwind of flavors hitting my buds all night.

And you know, now that I mention it, there was a veritable whirlwind of flavors being served up at Strip T’s. Chef Tim appears to have the rare ability to magically transport his diners through the rustbelt, the deep south, and the Asian subcontinent while still weaving in a lil’ bit of Watertown, MA.

Is this the beginning of a new trend in the restaurant biz? Has the pop-up been replaced by the all-out takeover? Will our local Greek gyro joints, college pizza shops, and fried-rice-slinging Chinese buffets be reinvented by inspired chefs who add a bit of their own influence while staying true to the roots of the kitchen space they have now inhabited?

What should we call it? Burgers and macquisitions? Muncher capital?  Perma Pop-Ups? Private Chef-quity?

Bad Polish Cyber Food

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Dear Readers:

Along with lots of other blogs, this website was recently hacked by an unhappy person from Poland. My heart goes out to people who choose to spend their days in a dark basement listening to techno and trying to wreak cyber-annoyance across the web. The problem hit many innocent bloggers. My sincere apologies if you tried to access the site from Facebook, Google Search results, or other search engines and were re-routed to bogus web pages.

I have been assured that all malicious code has been removed and we are continuously monitoring the site to ensure everything is secure. The problem now appears to be fixed but to avoid any potential issues please try to access the Foodie directly or using your bookmarks. Also make sure you have antivirus software installed.

Your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly – I’ve got  Italian food, pastries, sammiches, and fine dining reviews coming your way soon.

Keep eating,




Boston Resolution Restaurants 2012

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

I see lots of food peeps rolling out their top picks for 2011 as they look back on eating through the last 365, but not many folks talking about their aspirations for the year ahead. Well, as your fearless eater continues to blaze new culinary trails – I present to you my “Resolution Restaurants” for Twenty Twelve.

These spots have either been around forever and just escaped my reach, or they’re relatively new establishments that are hot on the food scene. Either way, the dishes promise to be tasty. So here it is -16 places that will tickle your c-spot starting 1/1/12.

  1. Casa B | Yelp – 5 Stars | A new tapas joint in Union Square brings new spice to Somer-villains
  2. Journeyman | Yelp – 4 Stars | A coterie of chef “friends” have apparently been killing it since opening.
  3. Sportello | Yelp – 4 Stars | As the Barbara Lynch empire expands, so does the list of her restos that I’ve got to try.
  4. Marliave | Yelp – 4 Stars | A downtown mainstay and “hidden gem” with a great, diverse menu.
  5. Oishii | Yelp – 4 Stars | Routinely raved about for authentic sushi and my top sushi-spot-to-sample next year.
  6. Fuji at Kendall | Yelp – 4 Stars | New upscale sushi joint in Kendall that I’ve walked by for months watching take shape.
  7. Tasca | Yelp – 4 Stars | This local tapas treasure in Brighton (of all places) has hit my food-dar several times.
  8. Vee Vee | Yelp – 4 Stars | The food at this Jamaica Plain establishment is supposed to be as cool as the name.
  9. Radius | Yelp – 4 Stars | Burger. Burger. Burger. Will it make the Top 10 in Boston?
  10. Menton | Yelp – 4 1/2 Stars | Yes, Barbara again. When I’m in the mood to spend $100 on a prix fixe.
  11. The Gallows | Yelp – 4 Stars | One of the last remaining Gastropubs I’ve yet to try in the city.
  12. Gaslight Brasserie Du Coin | Yelp – 4 Stars | An enormously popular French spot that’s been on my list.
  13. Union Bar & Grille | Yelp – 4 Stars | Lots of good meat on the menu. Comfort meets haute cuisine. I’m sold.
  14. KO Pies | Yelp – 4 1/2 Stars | Australian Meat Pies and Sausages in Southie? Yes please!
  15. Santarpio’s | Yelp – 4 Stars | Ok, I’ve seen enough “Best Pizza in Boston” ads to finally trek to “Eastie” for a feastie
  16. Hammersley’s Bistro | Yelp – 4 Stars | A high-end south-end bistro beloved to Bostonians