does it feel like not a week can pass here without a burger?  Do I get tired of them?  No.  I love handheld food.  I found myself tearing bites of na’an off this week to deliver my butter chicken instead of a fork…but I digress.  Another (?!) new burger ‘chain’ has opened recently in Orlando.  I am beginning to understand that I moved here just on the cusp of what I heard called the great recession on NPR this week and the lull in places to go that were not chains may have come of that.  With most of their locations in the Tampa area Burger 21, has now opened two locations in Orlando.  I’m not sure about the name and didn’t find a reason for the 21 on the interwebs but recall they had 21 versions of burger?  I’m not sure – they did have beers on tap but really appeared to specialize in shakes.  b21They did seem to post a lot of b. this and b. that -like, b flavorful or b juicy.  We ordered an Ybor City Double Espresso laden shake and enjoyed the buzz of sugar and caffeine.  (Ybor City is an area of Tampa-historic)  I was excited to have a Tex-Mex haystack burger topped with onion strings (can’t pass them by-ever), gouda, guac, lettuce, tomato and chipotle aioli.  I was delighted by the height and super juicyness of the burger.  I’ve only recently come to appreciate lettuce and tomato on a burger and this made it crunchy and bright.  Hits of cheesy ale fries added their saltiness and upped the crave factor.  Z had a philly cheese burger and I can’t overly comment on it.  It had a gooey melty layer of cheese, onions and peppers.  I don’t understand his ordering it as he doesn’t like green peppers at all.  But he enjoyed it.  They had a sauce bar for dipping and it drew me like a magnet.  I didn’t realize when ordering the cheese fries that if I had ordered sweet potato I could have sauces specially for them – apple cider with cinnamon and toasted marshmallow.  They might have missed a sale on that for not advertising it sooner.  But we did pick up a sauce cup of the thai ketchup – yummy with eel sauce giving it a nice umami.  We have looked in our local stores for this since and haven’t turned any up.  This may well be my new favorite burger joint-other than home of course.  That is saying something.

bang bang-terest

alright.  I know I’ve made bang-bang shrimp before based on stuff I’ve found on the internet but I recently ran across a pin for bang! bang! chicken.  So, I figured it was somewhat different from what I have tried before and also involved frying so I would try it out.  The recipe called for battered and then panko dipped chicken chunks.  The batter was super thick and goopy and had a full tablespoon of hot sauce in it-but it wasn’t spicy.  So, you’d fry them in canola, which I did pretty successfully.  Actually Z said it was the best frying I ever did.  Kudos to me for learning how my stove works and messing up the thermometer and two pairs of tongs.  On top of the chunks you drizzle this mayo and chili based sauce-but it wasn’t spicy either. Super sad about that actually.  Altogether a successful dish that we didn’t really like that much.  The chicken part was pretty good but the sauce could have benefitted from maybe a drizzle of vinegar or lemon juice and a healthy giant squirt of Sriracha.  Here’s the link to the recipe. Pinterest night three.  Check.

the meatball shop

Z asked for a cookbook.  Sort of.  Ok, well, maybe he didn’t but he did say, ‘We could cook through this one.’ in reference to a cookbook we saw during a recent trip to Barnes and Noble.  It is written by a couple of guys that started a kind of fast casual, come backoften meatball shop in New York.  They wanted accessible and affordable food.  So, all things being the same, I secretly ordered him a copy for his birthday.  He is impossible to surprise and always knows his gifts with unnerving accuracy.  He got some baking pans and a piece of Lego art from Etsy too.   He didn’t guess any of them this year.  The book is The Meatball Shop Cookbook and is chock full of meatballs of every flavor but only one shape.  Tonight we tried the very first one, the basic meatball in the basic sauce.  I oven roasted the balls and then smothered them in sauce to finish and served over spaghetti noodles finished in the sauce.  A sprinkle of parmesan and a small green salad with some bright vinaigrette on the side.  The meatballs were tender and moist (yeah, I said moist) and like their name, basic.  I followed the recipe and would add more red pepper flakes if I made them again.   I’m looking forward to the varieties and trying not to be scared.  Thai inspired, buffalo chicken or goat anyone?

rocco’s tacos

new Mexican place opened up on restaurant row last week called Rocco’s Tacos.  It is mix of chupacabra meets Día de los Muertos meets biker bar.  Filled with iron and glass chandeliers and masks that I think had some real hair (kinda freak me out a little) and the nice touch of pig shaped molcajetes on the tables we didn’t know exactly what to expect food wise.  They make guac in the pigs tableside and while I love guac, Z does not and I didn’t need to literally eat a pig of it.    We ordered chips and salsa – their salsa coming out as a diced tomato without too much heat – and I had a jalapeno margarita.  It was a bit more on the strong side and had a bite in the back of the throat.  We later found out they have a hot sauce that looks to be housemade and had some nice heat and flavor.  I ordered a combination plate of steak taco, braised beef and pickled onion tostada and cheese quesadilla.  I  The tostada was the stand out – the meat was tender and had an unexpected note of cinnamon.  The pickled onion and crema making me wish that I had that as a stand alone entree.  Overall, no real heat (again, you need the hot sauce if you like heat) but tasty.  They are fairly liberal with cilantro.  Crowning glory – the most ridiculous homemade churros.  Z is a huge fan of churros and we mark Rick Bayless at Xoco in Chicago as having the best.  These were actually pronounced his 2nd favorite which is liberal praise!  They looked just awful – clearly unpracticed hands made them – but they tasted light airy and were liberally coated with cinnamon and sugar.  The light air made them a joy to eat.  We will go back.


ok, so I got two cookbooks on preserving summertime bounty.  Nevermind that it is always summer here.  Nevermind that the idea of botulism terrifies me.  I have pretty much figured out that botulism is fairly rare if you use vinegars or are using highly acidic foods so green beans are probably out.  The recipes in the photo are all results from one of the current food world darlings, Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars and her recent book.  I am finding my way and realized that I have tried eight (!?) over the last month including:  Canteloupe Vanilla Bean Jam, Rainer Cherry Lemon Jam, Sweet & Sour Onions, Bread & Butter Pickles, Lime Curd, Blueberry Jam, Pickled Jalapenos and Lemon Cauliflower.  I have cherries at the ready for a mostarda later today which I am kind of excited about.  Z rightly called me out on the fact that I want to have a cute cupboard full as much as I want to give them away or eat them although I have eaten tiny jar of Rainier cherry lemon jam, one jar of lime curd (in yogurt-amazing!) and one jar of blueberry jam that didn’t seal.  All delicious and all made by me.