Other Cuisines

I’m Screaming…

…for ice cream, that is.  Summer started out with dreary drizzle and cool temps, but I was still craving the sweet stuff.  So, now that the weather actually turned, well, summery, it’s really all I feel like eating some days.  I try to temper my cravings with other hot-weather foods, but I always find my way back to the real deal!

I have several favorite ice cream stands, but the other night I ventured out to try one that I hadn’t yet tried – Maggie Sundae in downtown Amesbury, MA.  My husband and I immediately felt welcomed into this homey coffee shop/ice cream store.  They have a bright, open interior with a friendly dog theme, and lots of offerings including dog treats, desserts, coffee and espresso-based drinks, ice creams, frappes, and of course, sundaes.  At breakfast time, they also offer baked goods such as scones.  There’s something for everyone within - whether you’re a person or a pup!

My husband tried a flavor called Tiger Paws that was a vanilla based ice cream with peanut butter cups and chocolate swirl, and he added hot fudge on top.  I didn’t try it, as I am sadly allergic to peanut butter, but my husband, who can take or leave ice cream most days, loved it.  I also loved my Chocolate Lab, a chocolate based ice cream with brownies, chocolate swirl, and chocolate chips.  (Can you tell that I like chocolate?)  I ordered marshmallow sauce on top and I couldn’t have been happier.  The ice cream was incredibly soft and creamy; it was the perfect texture.  It had a wonderful, deep chocolate flavor with lots of nice contrasts in texture.  Marshmallow sauce can sometimes be too sugary or too sticky, but Maggie’s was soft and creamy and perfectly sweetened. 

I’m already dreaming of my next Maggie Sundae!

 

Eggscellent Memories

Gourmet’s website has an eggscellent slide show right now on several varieties of eggs, including the ostrich egg, which brought back fond memories of my honeymoon in Aruba.

Before visiting Aruba, I did a lot of online sleuthing in preparation – I  especially wanted to discover the best spots to grab a bite to eat.  I was really excited when I discovered that there is an ostrich farm on Aruba!  For one thing, my husband and I had never seen an ostrich in person, and they’re pretty fascinating on their own.  Even better, the ostrich farm has a gift shop and a restaurant where they serve dishes made with ostrich meat and ostrich eggs.

If you’re not familiar with ostriches, they’re giant!  They look like giant, ambling, prehistoric birds that came straight off the set of Jurassic Park.  We opted not to go on the open-Jeep tour when I found out that they might Aruba Ostrich Farmbe attracted to my glasses and would peck at them, me, and anything else shiny including jewelry.  However, we didn’t need to go on the tour, as the ostriches were perfectly happy to strut and pose for us from the other side of a chain-link fence.  And we were perfectly happy to have the fence there.

In the Savanna Lodge Bar and Restaurant at the ostrich farm, they serve a unique African-Caribbean fusion food.  We were able to sample an ostrich shoarma which is a pita sandwich filled with ostrich meat and an African spice mix.  It was delicious and the meat tasted very much like steak.

We were also lucky enough to try an ostrich omelette.  Since the ostrich is a very large bird, they lay very large eggs – so our ostrich omelette probably only used about an 1/8th or a 1/10th of an egg.  It tasted basically the same as a standard omelette made from a chicken egg, but the novelty factor was fun.

I also sampled African milk tart for dessert, which was sweet and very good.  I remember it being a bit like flan.

The gift shop even sold ostrich egg shells; unfortunately, stock was low and most had been broken by previous tourists.  It’s unlikely that we would have managed to get one home unscathed anyways, but they really are interesting conversation starters!  If you get the chance, ostrich meat and ostrich eggs are worth sampling.

 

Tasty Tapas at Tasca

Tasca is one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, so it was just inexcusable that I hadn’t been there in years and hadn’t introduced my husband to this great restaurant.  Tasca serves Spanish cuisine which I love for its robust flavors and Meditteranean ingredients.

Tasca is known for their delicous tapas, but they also offer full Spanish entrees and great Spanish wines.  Tapas, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, are small plates of food and are traditional Spanish fare (although many American restaurants are adopting the notion).  It allows you to try small amounts of several different foods.  In Spain, the locals hop from tapas bar to tapas bar to try specialties at different restaurants.  This isn’t an option in Boston, but Tasca offers more than enough delectable options to keep you happy and full.

On our recent visit, my husband and I ordered about 8 or 9 tapas dishes – a little too much for two people, but it was so difficult to choose!  Our tapas included chicken and ham croquettes, patatas bravas (fried potatoes), a petit filet mignon in a mushroom sauce, a timbale (or tower) of vegetables, a leek quiche, and herbed goat cheese empanadas.

Everything was flavorful, cooked appropriately, and delicious.  Many of the dishes were augmented with tasty sauces.  The croquettes, for example, were lightly fried and served in a Romesco sauce.  They were soft inside and each bite revealead a delicous combination of meats and herbs.  The petit filets were served with crispy onion strings and a  hearty red wine mushroom sauce that was able to stand up to the rich meat.  The leek quiche had two cheeses including Manchego, and it was soft and almost creamy, but never mushy.  The timbale of vegetables was a tower of grilled vegetables including eggplant, zucchini and tomato and was our only disappointment - it wasn’t bad, but was very basic compared with most of the tapas we received.

I ordered a glass of Vina Perguita from Navarra Spain.  The wine is a mix of tempranillo, cabernet and merlot.  It was fruity and full-bodied with a slightly dry finish.  It was incredible.

We split two desserts, the Pastel Vasco which was ensconced in chocolate cookie crumbs and filled with soft banana and milk toffee.  It was very sweet and rich and everything I could ask for in a dessert.  We also had a piece of cheesecake – a special on the day we visited - which was made from goat cheese and covered in a blackberry topping.  It was a little tart with a creamy texture – much less firm than a traditional New York style cheesecake.  It was good but didn’t come close to the Pastel Vasco.

Insiders know to sign up for e-mails to get a birthday coupon worth up to $15 off your bill (or a free entree of a lesser value).  E-mails also notify customers of prix fixe menus, holiday specials, flamenco dance performances, wine dinners, and more. Even without the birthday coupon, the meal would have felt like a good value for the quality and quantity of food.  Valet parking is reasonable at $6.  I don’t plan on letting another few years pass before revisiting one of my favorite tapas restaurants!