Tag Archives: restaurants

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!


The Burger 

Well, I’m back from my long sabbatical of blog writing. I’ve been busy with my Executive Chef position at Showcase Live. I was thinking about what would be a good return topic? I went with my favorite food subject; the burger.

The original hamburger was called the hamburger sandwich. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century when Americans went to work in the large factories and needed quick and easy food. No one is exactly sure who created it. Louis Lunch in New Haven CT has put in the claim as the first. I have been there and it’s a very small cool place. They cook their burgers vertically in the original cast iron grill and serve it between two pieces of toast. They only allow cheese, tomato, and onion on their sandwiches. No ketchup or mustard is allowed!

In the Boston area where I live, the best high-end burger is at Craigie On Main. This French inspired restaurant makes a VERY limited amount each day. When they are gone, that’s it! It’s a secret what goes into Chef Tony Maws burgers, but they are fucking awesome!

In the fast casual category, my favorite is Shake Shack. They make amazing burgers, crinkle fries, and shakes. Next on my list is Five Guys. The burgers are always juicy and you can get tons of condiments on them.

The West Coast has In-N-Out. They are what McDonalds and Burger King wish they could be. When I go out to visit my brother in L.A., I always drive thru In-N-Out for a Double-Double.

My least favorite is Smashburger. I have tried so hard to like them. We have one right around the corner from my house and my wife likes their burgers. They smash their meat onto the griddle, hence the name. This goes against everything I was taught about making a good burger. Smashing them makes the meat tough and they lose the juice. It also doesn’t help their cause when they screw up my order every single time I’ve been there. On the positive side, they have good chocolate shakes!

Of course making burgers at home is always a good choice. Make sure you use nothing higher than 80% lean. Use 75% lean if you can get it. If the ground beef is too lean, it will not be as juicy and will taste different. Fat has flavor! Don’t mess with it too much. Just form it into the desired size patty and leave it alone. Don’t mix seasoning into the meat. Put all the seasonings on the outside of the burger. Try not to mess with it during the cooking process. Flip it over only once. Don’t press down or smash it! Keep the burger simple. I like mine on grilled bread (not buns) with cheese, onion, and ketchup.


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”.