Morano Gelato

57 S Main StSte 101 – Hanover, NH 03755 • (603) 643-4233 • moranogelato.com
When our friends implored that we simply must go to this “amazing” gelato place in Hanover, you can imagine that this was met with a healthy dose of ferocious skepticism. I didn’t tell them this at the time, obviously, but they read the blog, so I guess the jig is up.

Well, I’ll be damned, because it just might be the best gelato I’ve ever had. The Almond Rum Crunch being an Ultimate and a firm glove across the face of lesser gelato peddlers. You heard me Grom! I don’t think I have ever tasted the presence of the rum in any other ice cream that bears its name like did at Morano. Just wow.

In fact, this place was so good, I made my friend take me back for seconds! Not on the same day mind you. I do have someself-control.

My only gripe on day two is that about 80% of the flavors changed, which has its plusses, but the loss of Almond Rum Crunch was a rough one for me, I’m not gonna lie. Still going through the loss, so I kinda don’t wanna talk about it right now. Need my space.

Fortunately, Morano crushes it on a bevy of other flavors like the Dark Chocolate which is so rich it probably doesn’t get hit with the AMT.

Equally strong, but wildly different is the Wild berries flavor, bursting with fruity brightness that leaps off of your spoon into your mouth. Same can almost be said for the Black Raspberry, but it’s a touch less unique, so I wouldn’t quite put it at the same level.

Of the nutty persuasion I gotta give it to Pistachio. Always a gelato crowd pleaser and Morano handily delivers. The hazelnut is also strong, but just not quite as flavor-forward as its greener compadre.

On par with the nutters I would place the Espresso, which manages to toe the line masterfully between creamy dessert and powerful coffee kick, paying faithful homage to the drink from which it hails.

A notch down from there would be the Stratacca or Chocolate chip. It’s still VERY good mind you, but when you are choosing amongst diamonds, gold starts to lose a bit of its luster. You feel me?

In fact, the only two flavors that were just okay for me were White Chocolate and the

Strawberry, Nutella Crunch. I know, right? Would’ve expected those to be winners too, but it’s kinda hard to complain when so many other flavors are lit.

Not too shabby for a woman who just decided to visit Italy for a few months to learn how to make gelato and winds up schooling everyone!

Oh, and if you don’t live anywhere near Hanover, fret not. She has two other locations. One in Chestnut Hill, MA and the other in Westfield, NJ. Sadly, there are none near Westport, CT, but I’m working on that. 😉

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Buca

604 King Street WToronto, ON M5V 1M6 Canada • (416) 865-1600 • buca.ca/king.html
 

I hadn’t been to Toronto in over a decade, but I remember having some great meals there. In fact, if you ever read my review of Mercer Kitchen, then you will know that it was the sushi pizza from Toronto that is somewhat responsible for finding my wife. So, it probably goes without saying that I didn’t really need another reason to love the Toronto food scene more than I already do, but then Buca happened.

An epic love story all its own, spanning across eleven rapturous dishes. It was like a scene out of Gone With the Wind- me running into the arms of antipasti, secondi and dolci… and antipasti, secondi and dolci all running into my mouth.

To start, Buca is a massive, industrial space right across the street from another strong Italian option, Gusto 101. That said, Buca is a cut above by all measures, including price tag. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth every last loonie.

From the get go, Buca served up more wow’s than Sam and the Firefly, starting with their salmon crudo with goat yogurt, zucchini blossoms, capers, cipollini and dill. Quickly followed delectable, little, warm rosemary, garlic and olive oil bread knots and a strong charcuterie board loaded with assorted cheeses and salumi.

And then Buca stopped playing around and brought the heat. Showing off in the most unlikely of places like a salad of mustard greens filled with berries from a local farm, dressed with goat yogurt and an olive oil of the gods.

This was then chased by a simple, beautiful buratta pizza. But all of this matters not, because the bigoli, aka duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, venetian spices and mascarpone came in like the second coming and stuck the landing like Mary Lou Retton, crossbred with a cat wearing spikes on its feet.

The prime rib might’ve been the most mortal of the dishes we had or perhaps it was more a dimension of comparison, because it was served back to back with the branzino which stole the show.

For the final act, the dolci, Buca reimagined a Tiramisu with espresso soaked tapioca biscuits, mascarpone and chocolate mousse all layered deep in glass I wish was a yard in hindsight. And while the gelato was no slouch either, after that Tiramisu I could’ve just curled up in a ball and died happy.

Easily among the best Italian restaurants in the world, including Italy.

Keens Steakhouse

72 W 36th St. New York, NY 10018 (212) 947-3636keens.com

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Keens is an old school New York City steakhouse with a capital “O” and an “e” at the end, that’s how old it is. Dating back to 1885, it boasts the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world. Granted I’m not exactly sure there’s a lot of competition toward this distinction, but it does make the ceiling very cool (pictured), littered with over 50,000 pipes that once belonged to historic legends such as Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, General MacArthur and Buffalo Bill. Damn, I love New York for shit like this!

Apparently the pipes were too fragile to carry around, so they would check them in and out of Keens when they fancied a visit and some mutton chops, which is the other thing Keens is famous for.

As for myself, I forewent the mutton and opted for the burger, having heard quite the recommendation from a friend. And while I don’t think it’s in the same league as Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger, it holds its own quite handsomely for such a simple patty. It’s just seasoned to perfection and cooked with tactical precision. Oh, and be sure to get the sharp cheddar on top, it’s friggin’ badass! So sharp you could cut glass with it.

The fries on the side are decent, but nothing you wouldn’t find at a myriad of other pubs. And sadly, the key lime pie is rather lame, even though the waiter practically squealed with enthusiasm over how good it was. Well it’s not. It’s way too sweet. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I am a child.

The dessert that is worth getting is the affagato. It’s not the best I’ve ever had, but the ice cream is rich and creamy and the espresso they pour over it is very nice indeed.

3 teeth

Bar Pitti

268 Ave of the Americas New York, NY 10014 • (212) 982-3300

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No longer in its heyday, Bar Pitti is still trucking along, doing its thing and keepin’ it real. And by that I mean the real deal authentic Italian, not trying to cover things up with inventive culinary gimmicks or posh smoke and mirrors. This is just bare bones belissimo.

Now I want to reiterate that when I said “authentic” I meant it. Like as if you were in Italy. As in the specials menu is just a chalkboard that they prop up on your table sans translations. So, you either better be Italian, understand Italian, have Google translate warmed up and ready to go on your smartphone, or be prepared to be insulted by your waiter who will also ask if you know what lasagna is. This is not me trying to be clever, this is them being assy. And yes, they actually asked me this with a straight face. So not the kind of service that’ll give you the warm and fuzzies. The food, however, is.

Simple is the theme top to bottom here and the ingredients carry the day quite capably. For example the arugula salad with tomatoes and parmesan is so damn basic, merely dressed with a touch of garlic, oil and lemon, and yet it sings with simplicity.

The prosciutto toast is also deceptively plain Jane, but the prosciutto they use is so phenomenal it puts anything you can buy in Eataly to shame.

The pastas are also tremendous, both in taste and portion. Of the two we tried, I found the lasagna (yes, I now know what it is) to be the clear winner. So layered with flavors and ooey gooey goodness. The artichoke and leek spaghetti with olive oil, on the other hand, was a touch bland for my tastes.

But all of the above went down quite nicely with the Multipuciano they offer by the glass.

The only other miss for me was the affagato. I found the espresso to be too strong and bitter, as opposed to rich and flavorful. I MUCH prefer the one at Fortina in Armonk, because not only is the coffee better, but I love the textural addition of amaretto cookies. But all in all a very admirable showing from a long time NYC icon.

3 teeth

Bar Symon

1000 Airport Blvd. Coraopolis, PA 15108 • (412) 472-5067unitedconcessionsgroup.com

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I know many of you probably feel like airport food should either be removed entirely from my blog or receive some type of special dispensation, but I have had enough good airport meals in my day to respectfully disagree. Sure it’s the exception to the rule, but the purpose of my blog isn’t to review the top restaurants of the now, it’s to help you, my readers, know which places are all that, or all hype. Especially when you’re a captive audience like at an airport.

So, should you find yourself with time to kill and hunger to satiate, upstairs in the Delta Terminal in Pittsburgh you will find Bar Symon, which looks more like a burger and shake joint from the 50’s than a bar if you ask me, but I cared little about such things since I was gunning for a burger and a shake.

On the menu you will find loads of options, mostly in the way of burgers, two of which apparently won awards at the SOBE Food & Wine Festival. So, naturally I went straight into the eye of the storm, ordering up one of the two, the Fat Doug Burger (pictured), topped with pastrami, Swiss, coleslaw and stadium mustard, all on a challah bun. And while it sounds hillacious, it is more SOSO, if you ask moi. However, I got a little tip for ya… On your table is a bottle of their homemade coffee barbecue sauce and if you put that on your burger, look out! Hell, if you accidentally get some on your finger look out, because you’re liable to gnaw the thing off. Easily one of the best BBQ sauces I’ve ever laid buds on. Goes on everything. Even the rosemary fries, which are good, but in the BBQ sauce- amazing.

But Symon says don’t stop there. They also make a crazy good homemade ketchup with some serious heat to it. Another worthy addition to both the burgers and the fries, but not quite at the same level of wowness as the coffee sauce.

And while we’re on the subject of coffee, the other thing I had was their espresso chocolate shake mixed with a little vanilla because that’s how I roll. The good news is that it’s served up insanely think. So much so that they need to use a straw so big it’s like wrapping your lips around a PVC pipe. Sadly though, both the creaminess and sweetness are a bit lacking, making it surprisingly bland, which is not something you want in a shake. After all, if you’re gonna be putting your waistline out there, you want it to be worth the ride.

So I am quite torn here. Without sauce this is undoubtedly a two knifer. But with the sauce it’s easily a three. Decisions…decisions…  Am I feeling generous today? Or ferocious?

2 teeth

 

Espresso House

Vasagatan 22, Gothenburg, Sweden • espressohouse.se
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I believe this is a Swedish chain, or perhaps a Nordic chain or maybe even a European chain, but having seen more than one location, I know it’s definitely a chain. Basically a Starbucks with local flavor.

I had a chai latte which was milkier than most, but still managed to do the trick. Guessing a 60/40 chai to milk ratio is a part of that “local flavor” I spoke of.

The other thing I tried was a bagel and lox sandwich. Risky I know, but if there’s anything the Swedes know how to do, it’s smoke fish. Now obviously it was a Swedish version of the New York City staple, accented with the nice addition of mache on top. And truth be told, it held up, bagel and all.

That said, I’m not saying you should trip over people trying to get to an Espresso House, but if it’s convenient and you need a fix, consider this your Starbucks away from home.

3 teeth

Marta

29 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016(212) 689-1900martamanhattan.com

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So, while Danny Meyer is busy reconstructing Madison Square Park to accommodate a bigger and badder Shake Shack, apparently he decided to take up thin crust pizza as a hobby in lieu of burgers.

Located in the Martha Washington Hotel lobby, hence the origin of the name, the restaurant feels a little homeless, not being its own thing. Granted it takes up about 95% of the lobby, so perhaps it’s the lobby that’s truly homeless? All of that aside, they do a nice job with décor. Open and contemporary with a sizeable amount of seating. But don’t let that fool you. You practically have to sell a kidney to get a table for dinner. Fortunately for my internal organs, lunch reservations come much easier.

A quick bite, however, it most certainly is not. The service runs at an escargot pace, so if you’re doing a business lunch, I recommend blocking a good two hours, because two Diet Cokes took over 30 minutes to hit our table. Lucky for me I went with a glass of Brunello, which only took about a third of that.

The pies also take quite a while, nearly 45 minutes, but I’m happy to report that most of them were worth the wait. Especially the Testa made with pig face and celery. It’s so inventive and just as scrumptious. A close second was the carbonara. Just as the name implies, it’s topped with bacon and egg and fontina. And it’s damn fine.

The least impressive of the three was also the least inventive, the funghi, made with hen of the woods mushrooms. It’s certainly good if you have your heart set on shrooms, but compared to the likes of the funghi at Oenotri in Napa, this tastes like something you can get in the freezer section at Whole Foods. And I mean that with all due respect.

Now, assuming you’ve cleared your calendar and venture on towards dessert, here’s what you should know- it’s nowhere near as great as other reviewers claim. The affagato was easily the better of the two, but be warned, it’s very untraditional, made with honey and kumquats as opposed to espresso. The ice cream is incredible, however, and truly makes the dish shine. On the other hand, the chocolate and pistachio ice cream sandwich with mascarpone ice cream was significantly less radiant. About as basic as it gets, tasting like something you could get at TGI Fridays… back in the 80’s.

All in all Marta is certainly good for lunch, I cannot tell a lie. But definitely don’t sell off any vital organs to get in. There are droves of better pies all over the city.

3 teeth

Sherry B Dessert Studio

65 King St. Chappaqua, NY 10514(914) 238-8300 sherryb.com

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Apart from their ridiculously inconvenient hours, this place is perfection. From coffee to chai lattes to brownies so good you’d swear they were laced, like the dulce de leche.

Even the decor is incredibly well done- something you’d expect to see in Manhattan. Sleek, with interesting touches like using muffin pans as a decorative element. Sounds weird, but looks great. And the staff, as well as Sherry, are always very friendly and equally skilled.

The only miss for me is the ice cream. It’s just okay. Wish it lived up to the rest, but that’s a pretty high bar.

5 teeth

Fortina

17 Maple Ave. Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 273-0900fortinapizza.com

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Fortina has a great vibe about it, especially in the Summer with its large outdoor seating area. And even the inside is so open that it’s basically like sitting outside as well. Unfortunately you aren’t overlooking much, unless parking lots and strip malls do it for you.

On the inside, it has some nice touches as well, including a well stocked bar. And service was very friendly and attentive, which is good when you have two small children in tow. They were a little slow the second time around, but compensated generously by comping both our glasses of wine as well as two desserts. Class act.

To start we’ve had the arugula salad with toasted pistachios and parmesan, which was good, but nothing you can’t make at home. As is the bibb lettuce with avocado.

The farfalle pasta with peas and mint was very good. Bright with lemon and perfectly al dente. In fact, the second time we went we had a different pasta and it too was impeccably prepared. These guys nail there pasta as well as anywhere I’ve eaten.

The only miss for me, and the entire reason we went, was the pizza. So many pies on the menu sounded great that we ultimately asked for a reco from our waitress, going with the second most popular, the funghi with bone marrow and black truffles. Like I said, sounds awesome, right? Well, I actually found it quite bland. Granted once you put red pepper flakes on it, and eat it with the salad, it helps bring it back from the dead, but I most certainly won’t get it when I return. And I will definitely return, because the crust is solid and everything else we had showed has some serious chops. But to those who call it the best pizza in Weschester, I would ask that they try The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry, Polpettina in Eastchester or Frankie & Fanucci’s in Mamaroneck and then let’s talk.

*Okay, crow eating time. I may be ferocious, but I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. Well, not that I was wrong about the funghi per se, just wrong to judge the place by one pie. Upon returning, both the Margherita pizza and the Tenderoni were excellent. The former simply being a dimension of incredibly fresh tomatoes and basil. The latter being the result, most likely, of emulating one of my favorite pies on Earth, Roberta’s Bee Sting. Spicy soppressata, honey and chili oil.

But let’s get back to those serious chops. Especially when it comes to dessert. We shared two the first time; the ciocolata with amaretto cookies and the affagato with espresso poured over it. Both were delish. But I don’t think you can fully appreciate how monumental it is for me to say such a thing until you’ve had a little deeper insight into the Ferocious Foodie. I actually hate the taste of coffee. It is in fact the ONLY thing in the world of food I don’t consume. And it’s pretty categorical. I don’t like it as ice cream, in desserts like tiramisu, as sweet drinks like Cappuccino. With a fox in a box. You name it. That is until now. Yes, after 44 years of hating everything I’ve ever tried that has to do with coffee, an espresso smothered dessert finally showed me the light. So praised be Fortina! I can see!

P.S. Their bread pudding is damn tasty too!

P.P.S. Having been back now over a dozen times a few other shout outs worthy of note would be the Bisteca (rib eye), the Totes Ma Goats pizza and the sweet corn polenta. Three of my favorite things on the menu and the rib eye is probably the best steak I’ve had since the French Laundry, and that’s some insanely high praise right there.

4 teeth