We’re taking a break.

We’re taking a break until later in September, to do some much-needed site redesign work as well as to restore our Happy Mouth Classic pages. As well, our youngest daughter is getting married and it’ll be a busy time for other things.

Before we go, we’d like to talk how we approach this blog. Once in while, we get accused of being overly positive about the places we review. So we thought we’d take some time to explain our basic principles.

1. This is a diary…of sorts. We’re writing this to share with readers and followers, but initially we wanted to capture our road trip experiences and memories before they were lost to the mists of time. There’s no charter beyond curating our search for interesting and honest food experiences that we’d enjoy. We hope you enjoy them too.

2. We’re not critics. We have absolutely no responsibility to our readers to visit a place we wouldn’t ordinarily select for our own enjoyment, just to inform you of our opinion. If we don’t think it’s interesting, we won’t go. Who’s got time for eating at places that don’t look like we’d enjoy them? We’re not paid to suffer for our art.

3. Research, research, research. One of the reasons we don’t issue many negative reviews is that we search out places we’d want to visit and eat at. There’s a self-selection process involved. We WANT to eat there, and we chose it because we know we’d like it. It’s not much of a surprise then, that we turned out to like it.

4. If we don’t like it, most often we won’t write about it. (see #3 above). We’re not complainers. Too often, bloggers and review site members turn up the volume on criticism because they have a platform to be negative. We’re not a fan of that approach. We’ve written about places that seemed to have lots of promise and hadn’t met expectations, as well we do mention it if there’s something we don’t like or could be better at restaurants we’ve tried.

See you in the Fall!

 

Rob and Maureen

 

 

RT6: Lake Placid Last Stop

Left Saratoga yesterday for Lake Placid, a two hour drive thru soft pine forests giving way to deciduous hills. This area will be in spectacular colour in 8 weeks. Soon we see the Adirondacks rise on the horizon and then the clouds break. The rains are quit heavy and the views are obscured. Driving is physical though the windy wet roads.

We are glad to pull into Lake Placid, the last stop on this road trip. As is traditional, we generally choose a well-appointed resort to relax for 2 days before heading back home to real life.This time we are staying at The Whiteface Lodge and Spa. We have a beautiful suite featuring a private balcony and a view of the Adirondack Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday and today we spent a little time poking about shops downtown by picturesque Mirror Lake.

The Lodge has a very nice restaurant and lounge and we are relaxing and eating here for our stay. Thanks for tagging along. Home tomorrow.

RT6: to Saratoga Springs

Today, day seven, we leave Rhode Island for upstate New York and a three and a half hour drive.  At 10 am it is already blistering hot and muggy. We skip breakfast and hope to find road food.  Gulf stations and McDonald’s have the Mass turnpike locked up. We make do with cheesy crackers and red twizzlers and decide to wait until we arrive in Saratoga Springs.

An uneventful fairly dull drive, alleviated by The Bugle podcast with John Oliver. Eventually the highway starts to get hilly and we can see the Adirondacks in the distance. Arriving in Saratoga Springs we are already impressed. Exit 14 takes us right by the racetrack and horse stalls, as well as along a street lined with large, stately Victorian manses. Lovely. We head downtown to Broadway, a very pretty avenue lined with shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, restaurants and outdoor cafes.

Parking is competitive but we luck into an unmetered street spot and head off in search of a late lunch. We don’t go far before we spy Cantina. Hmmmmm….Mexican this far north? Bound to be crap. We have done no advance research for this town, so are really winging it here. Rob checks out the posted menu and notices Mexican street corn on it. He says this is the real deal and in we go. Inside the place looks like it was a British pub in a former incarnation. Add some Mexican pottery and some fake fiesta flowers and bam! Mexico.

Our young waitress, tattooed from neck to foot with gauged ears, all very tastefully done, brings fresh, homemade tortilla chips (the thick kind which are not my favorite) and good, finely diced fresh salsa. She answers our many questions about the menu, and the town. We are particularly intrigued by what may be going on today because we have, no joke, weeks ago by telephone, secured the very last room available in town. Even tiny outlying motels in this town of beautiful resorts proudly display NO VACANCY signs. Our young server informs us that it is the anticipated yearling horse sale, and the town will be full like this for the next five weeks.

We order well made margaritas and Verduras guacamole, fresh made avocado guac topped with lump crabmeat, mango and pistachio crumbs. Creamy and fresh. The crab is excellent and the mango lends a little sweet. Excellent. Traditional guacamole is also offered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For mains I ordered the chile relleno and Rob chose the spicy shrimp tacos. Both entrees came with refried pinto beans and well made Mexican rice in reasonable portions instead of a huge platter of filler common in so many Mexican joints. My chile relleno, a large roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with Mexican cheeses, spicy ground beef, coated in cornmeal, baked and then covered in a fresh red tomato sauce and accompanying crema.

 

Rob’s shrimp tacos (three) come on soft, spectacular, house made corn tortillas filled with sauteed shrimp, jalapeno, shallots,  chipotle mayo,  shredded cabbage and pickled onion. Very good tacos.

Cantina on Urbanspoon

Bellies full, we think we should head to our hotel and secure our reservation so we don’t have to sleep in the car. The Hotel Calif – I mean Roosevelt Inn is at the edge of town. We check in and find our “suite”. Mmmmm…smells cottagy. It is very dark but has the basic necessities. The carpeting is dark forest green and is probably hiding a multitude of sins. You could murder someone in here and the blood would not show. It’s fine though….really.

Not much point hanging around the “resort” which I have noticed is up for sale. We drive into town to Union street to go backtrack at the Saratoga Racetrack to take some pics. Traffic is mental. Saratoga is an extremely well done town. We pass a beautiful park with a carousel and fountains. Would love to stop and photograph many points but parking although mostly free, is hard to get today.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After tooling around a bit backtrack, we head over to Hattie’s for dinner. Hattie’s dates back to 1938 and is down home New Orleans cooking. On this particular unrelenting evening Hattie’s was more like Hades, cooled by a few ceiling fans, and perfectly recreating the steam bath that is New Orleans in August.

You enter through an ancient screen door and make your way to the front to ask for a table. The small dining room is packed so this takes some effort. We are informed there is a 15 to 20 minute wait and are sent to the bar in the rear, which is really a mardi gras tent over a patio. Coloured lights and chandeliers, masques and beads and dolls all contribute to the cheerful party vibe. We order Purple Haze beer from Abita which we first had at Coop’s Place in New Orleans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon as we drain our beers we are seated in the homey dining room, with cobbled together cupboards, red checkered picnic table cloths and handmade curtains. Hot sauce, vinegar with sport peppers and tiny lamps decorate the table. Fresh cornbread, biscuits and butter are brought over.

We order the fried chicken which we have seen being carried by because it looks amazing. It comes with two sides. I get the mashed potatoes and cucumber salad, Rob gets the cranberry coleslaw and butter and sugar corn. It takes some time to get our order. Everything is homemade. Shortly though our heaping helpings arrive. We will be taking half back to our room for breakfast.

The chicken, a wing, a leg, thigh and a breast, is crisp, crunchy, deliciously moist and succulent inside, and not the least bit greasy. Thin slices of cucumber, vinegar and a little sugar make a very tasty salad. The mashed potatoes are classic, creamy mashed spuds. Rob’s corn is sweet and not over cooked and the cranberry slaw is tasty and unusual, a nice balance of sweet and sour,  with dried cranberries and a nice vinegar bite.

I finished the evening with a perfectly made sazerac and then we literally melted away into the evening.


Hattie's on Urbanspoon

RT6: to Providence, RI

This morning is our last morning in Boston. We are moving on to Providence, RI.  Before we go we are going to have breakfast at Mike’s City Diner, a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-featured joint. We once again luck into parking out front but have to hunt down American change for the meter. Boston still resides in the dark ages regarding meter technology.

Mike’s is clean and homey. A classic no frills or kitsch diner. Black and white and checks. Comfy, padded, armless chairs and tables. No banquettes. Banquette seating takes away some of the versatility a place has to seat parties of different sizes. The busy kitchen is visible from the seating area. The restaurant’s various and many accolades are posted everywhere. President Clinton has been by.

Rob goes out to feed the meter and I peruse the menu. A very good breakfast menu. Good variety. Our server delivers excellent coffee and a humongous glass of grapefruit juice. Rob gets back to the table and we place our orders. I’m getting the Mike’s Special – ham carved off the bone, two eggs over medium, grits, toast – coffee included. Rob wants Mike’s Famous Pilgrim Sandwhich – turkey, stuffing and cranberries only to be told they don’t serve it until eleven. “I know – we suck!” says our waitress…lol. He settles for a Southender omelette stuffed with corned beef hash and cheese with home fries and rye toast.

Breakfast arrives quickly and piping hot. My eggs are perfect but the grits while creamy, are unseasoned. I add butter and salt but they really need to be cooked with LOTS of salt. So I would pass on them. My ham is plentiful and very tasty, sliced thin and grilled on the flat top for a little carmelization. It’s not over-salty. Perfect. The toast is decent, white and buttered. I ask for jam and she delivers really good homemade strawberry. “It’s all we have, except for packets of grape jelly” she says. It is wonderful.

Rob’s omelette is huge. The eggs are perfect and buttery good and hash inside is amazing, with large chunks of meat mixed with potato, while the cheddar flavour ties it all together. A very well made omelette. Mike’s home fries are very good as well. Some of the best we’ve had. They seem to be simply spiced with seasoned salt. Delicious.

Well fed, we hit the road for Rhode Island. Providence is a quick, forested, one-hour drive from Boston. We are there in a blink pretty much. We settle into the hotel and set out to explore the Brown’s University area which is kinda dead. We grab a beer, watch some Olympics, argue about whether the women’s beach volleyball uniforms are discriminatory as the men are not in skimpy suits and then head back to the Downcity Arts area where we are staying and explore a bit more. Providence seems a bit dead today. It’s 90 degree out. Is everybody at the beach? Inside? Not returned for school yet? The Hotel Providence where we are staying is old and beautiful, but the surrounding area is a bit sketchy. There is a mission two doors away and the only other people in the street appear to be homeless. Nobody is begging though. Weird vibe. Something just seems a little off.

For dinner tonight we choose the Providence Oyster House. Tomorrow we head inland so we want to have a last go at fresh seafood. The Oyster bar is half full with people celebrating the end of their work day. This area of town, Federal Hill is busier but not bustling on a Friday night. There’s live music somewhere and the night is pleasant.

After handing the car off to the valet, we are quickly seated. The restaurant is dim, with lots of wood accents, paper covers the white table cloths, and the kitchen is open. Nice atmosphere for a slow meal and good wine.

Good rustic bread is brought to the table accompanied by a very nice dipping oil with a hint of chili. We decide to try some local oysters along with some of our favorites, Umami from Rhode Island, Pepperell Cove, Maine, and Malagash from PEI. Since we are having oysters we go with beer instead of wine for the evening. The oysters arrive on ice with cocktail sauce and a very nice migniotte. We slurp them down. Fresh and briny. I did get shells in three of the twelve. This should NEVER happen. Especially when you have the words Oyster Bar in your name. One again we’re reminded how absolutely spoiled we are by the Whalesbone in Ottawa.

For mains we both order the lobster mac and cheese at $30 a pop. Fabulous! (say with jazz hands). Perfectly cooked penne sauteed in a decadent white cheddar cheese cream sauce, very lightly truffled, with thin, tender-crisp asparagus pieces, the meat of a whole lobster covered in buttery ritz cracker crumbs, and finished under a salamander. Scrumptious. Tomorrow we leave lobster land. It has been a treat.

This pic does NOT do their lobster mac justice. It was very dark and this has been heavily corrected.

RT6 Boston: Ghosts & the North End

Today we visited the very touristy Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. This is also the the start of the Freedom Trail. Many points of historical interest in regards to the American Revolution are within walking distance of each other.

We are most interested in the Granary Burying Spot, home to the remains of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and many more, known and unknown. It is a fascinating trip through the history of the region, and the country itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner tonight is in the North End, famous for Italian food. We have 7:00 reservations at Al Dente. The North End is quaint with narrow streets and small tratorrias and gelaterias.

Al Dente is a small place seating about 60. It is busy, very loud and cramped. It feels like you are eating at a big Italian family event. Classic white Italian loaf and butter packets arrive with menus. Service is understandable harried but friendly. Our Barolo is delivered to the table and poured into cheap red wine glasses. I kind of expected tumblers but this is typical.

We want to try a few things so we order the lobster ravioli starter and  the caprese salad. Both are large portions for starters. Four large lobster and ricotta stuffed ravioli swim in a decadent cream rose sauce with more chunks of lobster and fresh garlic and tomatoes…and Parmesan cheese. Take that Scott Conant, of the school of “it’s wrong to serve cheese with seafood”. The caprese is almost classic but has the addition of red onion which does not add to the delicateness of this already perfect combo. The tomatoes tonight are average, the fresh mozzarella is thick cut and rounded out by a balsamic syrup reduction and a chiffonade of fresh basil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For mains I order the shrimp and calamari fra diavolo and Rob orders the gnocchi with sausage. My linguine is perfectly cooked and there is a very nice heat from chili peppers. The calamari is plentiful, the shrimp are not. The portion is huge. I can only eat about 1/3.

Rob’s gnocchi is served in a plum tomato sauce with sundried tomatoes, capers, basil, pecorino romano and parmesan cheese, mushrooms and white wine with addition of plentiful 1 1/2-ince slices of sweet sausage. The richness of the cooked-down tomatoes is multiplied by the sun-dried tomato and cheese. The whole dish is meaty, hearty and substantial. So substantial, that he could manage only half.

After dinner we sit and relax with a shot of on-the-house limoncello which is delicious and creamy. We pay the bill and head out into the busy North End evening. We stroll over to Hanover Street for gelato at Gigi Gelateria, stopping to say hi to Lucia the kitty at the local confectionery. Gelato is creamy and refreshing and a perfect topper to a perfect day in Boston.