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IlCuoco

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  1. While I'm not sure where I'd place it with a gun to my head, Gran Gusto certainly has to be in the running for the title of best pizza in Boston(I remain partial to the original Stone Hearth in Belmont but confess I've not been there since they've expanded so it's possible there's been some loss of quality). I'll echo pretty much all the comments given by Kelly save that i found the flavor of my pizza margherita almost overly sweet on one visit. Generally though, food is pretty good, pizza is very good and the prices, while not take out joint cheap are actually quite reasonable given it's Cambridge and it's a full service place. My only complaint is that Sherman Street is a bit of a backwater unless you live in the neighborhood. As always, just my $.02
  2. Count another vote for Giusto, I've been taking a lot of business trips to London lately and I make it a point to eat there at least once per trip. Really lovely pizza.
  3. I confess, I was skeptical that the move away from carmine would really make all that much difference but I must confess, I was just in the local liquor store and, after reading this thread I took a walk over to the Campari on the shelves; one old recipe, the rest new and I could tell that even before looking at the ingredients because the color was noticeably different (old was much darker). I even pulled the "dark"bottle and a lighter one before looking at the back. I can't speak to taste (the bottle at home is the "old style" so I have nothing to compare it to) but the colors are NOT the same... (for the record, bought the last old recipe bottle just to have a spare around).
  4. and Arm and Hammer baking powder for whatever reason....face it, between the ME shops and the Toko's, you can get almost anything...
  5. Consider this an "Around Amsterdam" update.... I recently relocated to Haarlem (from Utrecht) and while I've not really been hitting the restaurants much, I have been cooking a ton and thought I'd give a bit of an overview. As always, my personal opinion, take it for what it's worth, your mileage may vary, etc. The Good: -Fish - some lovely stalls on market day featuring fresh fish. The best is found on the botermarkt near my favorite ME/North African grocery. Great fresh fish, they'll trim it to order if you like and generally stay away from pre-sliced or -filleted portions. Not a bad selection of shellfish either (even clams some weeks). Prices are nice and the folks selling really seem to want to be helpful. -Produce - from the ME markets to the stalls on Saturday, there is a ton of lovely, fresh produce. Some places even bring in some interesting stuff (found both blood oranges and meyer lemons the other day, been using them to sauce all that lovely, fresh fish). -French wine - I'll list a couple of spots below but I've found several wine shops in the center that all have both good selection and very knowledgeable staff. They all deliver, which is nice and they generally have a bottle open on any given day for sampling. If I have a general complaint, it's that special orders are...um...not welcome (I know, I know, welcome to Holland. Still I was spoiled by the service in Utrecht). The "neit so lekker": -Italian groceries and wine - Apart from one ME Grocery store and a VERY expensive stall on Saturdays, it's pretty hard to find nice canned tomatoes, Italian dried pasta, polenta, etc. on a regular basis. As for Italian wines...good luck. This place is French central as far as grapey goodness goes (onomatopoeia. I love it). -Chocolate, baking stuff - can't find good chocolate (in a form for use) anywhere in town. It's sad, really. Also, not much available in the way of good vanilla extracts, etc. Some spots I've found, should you find yourself here.. Wine -Okhuysen (Gierstraat) - Outstanding selection of French wine from all over with a staff that, for the most part, knows their business. I particularly like the fact that they'll make good selections based on your budget (unlike some places that either always try to upsell or constantly assume you want the least expensive wine possible). They specialize in Bordeaux and their selection is formidable. -Wijnkelder de Bergplaats (Koningstraat) - This place is really fun. A small cellar shop that specialized in Burgundy (indeed, my very unscientific review of the place puts a good 75% of the total stock being strictly Burgundy with the rest either Loire or Alsace). It's clearly a labor of love as the owner (one Mr Frans Tegel) is more than happy to reminisce about where he found a given bottle and is enthusiastic in his recommendations. It's also the kind of place where he'll open a bottle or two just to let you try out something interesting (he opened up a Grand Cru Pommard just because I was curious and was not at all put out when I didn't buy it). It's a sideline business (upstairs he and his wife run a shop selling vintage glassware) and it's a lot of fun. I buy all my burgundy there now and always enjoy it. They also sell a couple of Marks and a nice Creme de Cassis if that's your thing -There's a lovely place for beer and whiskey right by the Botermarkt but the name is lost to me right now. I'll update later. Suffice to say that it's selection is both vast and wonderful (although no match for Bert's Bierhuis, the best beer shop I've been in on this side of the Atlantic Ocean). Meat -Broekhof (Kruisstraat) - Small, family owned, incredibly expensive. This is considered the best butcher in town with good reason. You order it, they cut it. They can give you the history of any piece of product they sell. Also, they sell home-made stock and demi (frozen) and will custom order specialty items. The downside (apart from the prices) is that things like flank streak are considered custom cuts. All things being equal, I suspect I'll be heading back to my butcher in Utrecht once I get may car sorted... -Mabrouk (Botermarkt) - ...except when I go here. This is a small middle eastern grocery which features an in-house halaal butcher. They are VERY proud of their meat (when I first went in and asked if they provided meat, the man at the till placed my purchases to the side and walked me over for a tour). Good beef, lamb and veal, nice chicken and lovely rabbit. Also, as a bonus, really nice produce and a fair selection of Mediterranean dry goods. One of my favorite all-purpose grocery stores in town. Cooking Gear -Huismuis - expensive, staffed with folks who, for the most part, consider customer service to be on par with cancer (i've never gotten an answer to any request beyond "this is what we have" it's almost Soviet) but pretty well stocked (missing some obvious stuff). I personally don't like the place and, for the prices they charge you could probably simply pay to have your own pots and pans custom crafted. Avoid. -Koekstyl (Zijlweg) - Small and cramped and run by a friendly couple. Not the greatest selection but they have all the basics and will happily point you towards places in town that have what you need (it is thanks to them that I found both the good fish place and a couple of tokos), it's not bad and it's probably the best in town but, honestly, either head to Amsterdam or to Betsie's in Utrecht if you need serious gear. Still, this place will do for most of your basics. Coffee while you shop -I'm sure it's a chain but Anne and Max's makes a great coffee, lovely sandwiches and some pretty fair cake. The crowds attest to it's quality but the wait is worth it. Anyway, I'll share more as I learn.
  6. Another Utrecht update.... Amberes on the Burgermeester Reigerstraat. I had the opportunity to eat there a few weeks back with some friends. A great meal. The menu trended towards light meats (rabbit, pork) and fish and everything was both fresh and very tasty. Decor is clean and modern, ambient noise is quite reasonable (soft jazz on the stereo, walls are warm enough to soak up the sound of other diners). Their cheese selection is amazing (they get it from Hoofdt across the street, those guys know their cheese). All in all, a very good meal and well worth a trip out. Also, any place where the chef where's a Velvet Underground shirt is ok with me.
  7. And for my next question.... Is it possible to find cider (sweet, that is to say non-alcoholic) in Amsterdam? It's just not fall w/out some nice, fresh cider... ------------------------- Oh, and please all join me for a moment of silence. Last Sunday was the final Gelato day in Utrecht. All the good stands are closed for the winter. Farewell Roberto, until April/May...
  8. The best baked beans I ever had came from a small convenience store in Tyngsboro MA. They were home made and (I believe) available only on Saturdays. Good stuff. Don't remember the name and it's been years since we last had them but if you're ever near the Nashua border and feel like driving around, the place may still be there. I know it's not much help but, gosh darn it, I miss those beans.
  9. The quote is even better when translated as "Tonight Lucellus is feasting Lucullus". He's a sort of tragic figure in that he was never really appreciated for his victories in the east. His own 2nd in command (Clodius) helped stir up a soldier's strike and later worked to deny him a tribute and finally he was humiliated and replaced by Pompey. When he returned to Rome, he basically dropped out of politics and devoted himself to the pleasures of the flesh, particularly of the table. Not only did he throw lavish feasts more suitable for a day of thanksgiving than a private party (and certainly not suited for dining alone in the eyes of Roman society; they expected patrician restraint and flintiness from the upper crust), he also invested in giant, salt-water fish ponds to engage in breeding his own dinner (although they were more for show than sustenance). Basically, in his feasting and soft life he was giving a big F*** You to Rome (in Rubicon, Tom Holland calls it "the most flamboyant sulk in history"). Oddly, I've done something similar at times. When I was working as a consultant, it was generally expected that the team would dine together when traveling (especially during long stretches away from home). When folks really did something to piss me off, I'd inform them at the end of the day that I'd be dining alone that night. While I wasn't feasting myself per se (although I did try to eat well), I was using the same communal activity to deliver a very similar message (bet now they wish they granted me my tribute through the streets of Rome). I have too much time on my hands.... ----------------- Just saw the question re: table or bar. Count me in as a table guy (although I was a regular at one place where they essentially held the first barstool for me on nights they were booked solid).
  10. While I'm sure this topic has been discussed before (perhaps ad nauseam), I, being lazy as well as antisocial, couldn't find one in the first couple of pages of new stuff and so decided to start my own. I like dining alone. Much like natto or the song stylings of Mandy Patinkin, it's not something that I'd want every day but now and again there is something satisfying, even soothing about dining alone. It's quiet alone. In the more casual joints I can catch up on my reading, keep an eye on the game without being rude or people watch at my leisure. In places a bit more upscale I can catch up on my inner monologue, focus on the food or simply go to my happy place while I consume. After days of meetings, client events and other times of heavy non-optional interaction, the sheer luxury of being able to dine well without making conversation is a salve to my soul. I don't have to worry about sharing or choosing the wine that everyone likes. It's often faster. I can eat at the bar if I want. I also like the feeling of happy loneliness at times. It's almost the opposite of being alone in a crowd, I'm with no one so I'm with everyone, grooving on the vibe of the place. Sure, eating alone every day would suck indeed and I would never deny the bonhomie and pleasure that comes from sharing food with friends but sometimes, there's nothing like a table for one.
  11. I struck out with my butcher (he's very good, can get me bones but no stock. More's the pity). I think I'll take your advice and try the poultry guy next door. Thanks Chufi. As always, you're a star
  12. I hate to admit it, I'm ashamed but... I'm out of stock. There I said it. I am out of stock. Normally, I'd just make a batch and be done with it but I won't have a full day for the kitchen for a few weeks (this weekend is packed and next weekend is the end of Baseball Week in Rotterdam which is, as we all know, the happiest week in the Dutch calendar this side of Carnival). So, I ask those who have been here longer, what's your best option for stock when you can't make it? The cubes? The jars o' fond? Is there a shop selling boxed or frozen stock? Your help, as always, is appreciated. IlCuoco
  13. I need some last-minute advice... We have friends in town from the US and we're all off to Amsterdam on Saturday (tomorrow). Any thoughts for lunch, near the Museumplein would be ideal but we're up for anything. These folks like good food but are laid back and up for most anything. Any advice?
  14. I had induction forced upon me (flat that I rent has no gas hookup. It's not bad. Certainly the performance is "gas-like" in terms of temperature response (although as Fat Guy and others pointed out, there is no infinite temp adjustment). My biggest pet peeve (and this could be a function of the HoB the landlord installed) is that the rings can fault if you place very hot items (say a roasting pan from the oven for deglazing) on them. I now have to deglaze off heat and then put the roaster back on when it cools a bit. Annoying. It's not bad but I prefer gas. It is MILES better than everything but gas.
  15. IlCuoco

    The Food Loop

    Got some as gifts a couple of years ago. They're nice but so is butcher's twine....
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