Category Archives: Restaurant

Off Night

I had a very rare Saturday evening off.  So my wife, son and I took the opportunity to have dinner at Aquitaine at Legacy Place in Dedham MA. This is one of the three located in the Boston area.

The restaurant menu is my kind of “dinner out” menu. The food is French Bistro style. It’s the kind of food, where you want to order a bottle of wine for the table as soon as you sit, and we did. They gave us some warm bread to go with the wine. This immediately put me in a good mood.

For the first course, my son and I shared some Blue Point oysters. They were so fresh! This also made me happy! Nothing worse than having oysters that don’t taste like they were just plucked from the sea. My wife had the Tomato Fennel Bisque (not an oyster fan). What is the deal with calling any soup bisque? I thought only seafood based soup can be called a bisque? Were the tomatoes and fennel grown in the ocean?

I was glad that the wine and oysters put me in a good mood, because there were a few “off’s”. Our main course consisted of the Maple Brined Pork Tenderloin, Veal Schnitzel, and Crispy Brick Chicken.

I had the chicken. This would normally not be my first choice, but the name and the sides sounded great. Still not sure where the “brick” comes from? When I think “brick”, I think deboning a chicken, placing it flat on a grill, and placing a brick on top of it. This was a baked airline (statler) breast. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it! I especially liked the Pumpkin and Foie Gras Bread Pudding. The one “off” on this dish was the Rich Bourbon Chicken Jus. Not sure it was really there. If it was, it was less then a teaspoon and I could not taste it at all. That was disappointing because I love a good sauce. Chicken needs a sauce!

My wife had the pork tenderloin. She really enjoyed it! It was perfectly cooked. She had debated about getting the pumpkin ravioli but didn’t think it would go with her soup. She really wanted the soup!

My son had the veal schnitzel. I was thinking about ordering that too. When his dish arrived, I was really glad I hadn’t! The breading on the fried veal was really dark and the meat was tough. Not sure if the frying oil was old or it was cooked too long. My guess is a little of both. That was disappointing! A fried runny egg on top of the veal would have also made this dish better.

We all love bistro desserts so of course we each had to order one. We got the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, Crème Brûlée, and the Bread Pudding. The desserts were pretty good. My wife loved the bread pudding! She said it was the best she has had in a long time. I was really bummed about the chocolate mousse. While the flavor was good, it was not really cold or firm. They must have just made it that afternoon and it didn’t get a chance to sit and work its magic in the fridge. I wish I knew this in advance, I would have ordered something else. I really love chocolate mousse when it’s done correctly!

As with all cooking, it is the little things that make the difference. A little thing off here and off there can become memorable. You don’t want your customers to remember the “off”. Maybe they had a slightly off night? Oh well, I’m not giving up on Aquitaine. I do like their menu. Maybe I’ll try their flagship Boston location next time. That menu looks good too!

Advertisements

Passion

When you love something enough to classify it as passion, then you want the whole world to know about it. With this in mind, I am using this post as a re-launch of the Mad Good Food blog.

Webster’s defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”. The word passion also comes from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer.

I knew in high school that I had a passion for cooking. I did apply and was accepted to Johnson & Wales. Back in those days, Chefs were not “cool”. My parents rolled their eyes and said “you don’t want to be a cook when you grow up”. So I went with another passion and spent 25 years in the live entertainment business. During those 25 years my passion for cooking never left, it actually grew! To the point where it sent me to culinary school and a new career in culinary.

Working in the restaurant industry is a test of ones cooking passion every day. Ask any Chef! While the Chef may have the passion, it does not mean all his/her employees do. To most kitchen staff in the industry, it’s just a job. They come to work, do their labor, get paid, and go home.

Cooking for me is truly an art. Like an entertainer, I want people to try my food. I want them to love it. Knowing they enjoy my food is a rush to my brain and fuels the passion. Get paid for the passion and you got the perfect dish.

No matter what business you are currently in, it’s never too late to follow your passion. If your passion is what you do now, take it to the next level. Don’t let anyone stop you. If you have a passion you want to follow, do it! You want to love what you get paid for. Don’t make your career a “job”.

Lot’s of Casual “American” Cuisine Restaurants… Same Menu!

Is it just me or does it seem that all the casual, “American” cuisine, chain restaurants have the same boring menu?  They all have the same basic menu items.  Is it because no one has creativity or is it because we Americans have boring taste buds?

Last night I went to one of the typical casual cuisine chains.  I’m not going to reveal the name because it doesn’t matter.  It could have been any of them.  On their menu were all the typical items you would expect.

The appetizers had the usual shrimp cocktail, nachos, boneless Buffalo wings, and crab cakes.  I live in a seafood state so I was happy to see at least one local shell fish on the app menu. It was mussels.

Of course they had burgers!  I love burgers and I’m always searching for the best.  Have you ever noticed that every restaurant claims they have the best? How many times have you been disappointed? The burger menu read:  Classic cheeseburger, which was followed by the classic bacon burger, followed by the classic blue burger, and don’t forget the mushroom burger. Very original, don’t you think?

The main course entree’s included chicken piccata, grilled salmon, ribs, chicken fajitas, fish & chips, and roast chicken. Is this the only kind of food that the average American wants to eat? I spent 15 minutes staring at the menu trying to decide what to order. Nothing was getting me excited.  I decided to be like the rest of the clones and went with the ribs.  The menu claimed the ribs were a “full” rack.  So when the food arrived I expected something that looked like a plate Fred Flintstone would be waiting for.  You know it’s sad when the pile of fries takes up more plate real estate then the ribs.

The main reason I went to culinary school was to learn how to put my creative flow into food.  Anyone can make chicken marsala.  Where are new, exciting and soon to be American classics?  The foods these chains make today were recipes made by our grandparents in the 50’s.

Don’t get me wrong I love comfort foods and that is what these type of restaurants offer.  But do we have to settle for the same old, same old?

Awesome Food In The Burbs!

Every summer my wife and I get two weeks where we have no kids as
they are off to summer camp. We use these two weeks to eat out. Last week we
had dinner at Maxwell’s 148 in Natick, MA. We are members of their email club.
Once a week they send out their last minute dinner special. In the past, we
have never been able to take advantage of these great deals. So last week we
finally did and it was awesome!

The best way to describe Maxwell’s is that it’s a Boston
restaurant in the burbs. The cuisine is an interesting mix of upscale
Italian/Asian. We have eaten at Maxwell’s several times and have never had a
bad meal. Each time we have tried to eat something different. The last minute
email special they sent us was a 1/2 Maine Lobster & Shrimp Skillet with
Spicy Fra Diavlo Sauce & Pasta. All this for the special price of $19.99
per person. It’s like getting the prize in the Cracker Jack box! It reminds me
of Boston’s Restaurant Week.

The bar at Maxwell’s is into creating new and exciting cocktails
to wet your palate and grab just a few more bucks from your wallet. One of
their exclusive drinks is the fig martini. Maxwell’s has created and now
distributes its own fig vodka. It’s really good! My wife was the first to try a
new drink they introduced that night that had a tropical feel. It included coconut
water and rum. It was not a Pina Colada!

For our appetizer we had the Moo Shi Duck. This was pulled duck on
a scallion pancake with a hoisin glaze. It made for a wonderful small plate
dish. Chef Mitchell Maxwell then sent us out another app for us to try. This
was a dumpling filled with chicken and other chef inspired stuff. At this point
we were already full and we hadn’t even had the main course yet.

The main course special of the half lobster and shrimp Fra Diavlo
skillet was a dish for your mouth. The several elements of the dish sent all
the flavors throughout the palate. Each flavor seemed to be on its own. It’s
like they got in line your mouth.

Half Lobster & Shrimp Skillet with Spicy Fra Diavlo Sauce & Pasta

After we finished off the main course, we could barely move.
However, we are not ones to pass up good desserts and I know they have those.
My wife and I agreed to share the Chocolate Espresso Terrine. This flourless,
very rich, chocolate delight put us over the edge. I didn’t know if I was going
to be able to get up from the table. Just when I was trying to get our waiter
to give us the check, Randy Nason (Mitchell’s biz partner) brings over another
new drink for us to try. This was a dessert drink. He called it a
“strawberry milkshake”. My wife and I spilt the drink (it came with 2
straws) and spent the time trying to figure out what was in it. We do know it
had strawberries and alcohol.

Once we got home, I had to take a nice long walk with the dogs. I
had not eaten that much in a long time. As a chef, you tend to not eat big
meals because you graze a lot. So my stomach can’t hold that much food.

Can you tell I really like this restaurant?