Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Fat Cat Food Blog?

I've been wanting to review this place since the first time I went there. Nestled in a somewhat industrial neighborhood of Quincy, MA, I want to call this place a "hidden gem", but going during lunch or dinner times, the struggle to find a seat would say otherwise. From the outside, it looks like your typical pub/restaurant. Despite the unique sign, the inside is very downplayed, and not exactly noteworthy. That's where the food/service come in. Both times i've been, I've always chosen to sit at the bar, but I will say that the service was great, and they were very accommodating: this time around, during casual conversation I mentioned "I haven't had my coffee today..." and the bartendress put on a fresh pot and brought me a mug. It's the little things.

I had been here once before, and gotten the Mac and Cheese, (oh... we'll get to that...) so I wanted to try things I hadn't yet... everything sounded so good. I started with an order of hand-cut fries, which in itself was a struggle... they have a handful of seasoning and dip choices (curry, cajun, etc). I went with garlic parmesan. Honestly, the garlic and parmesan didn't add anything for me, but the fries were so damn good, they didn't take anything away either. So good, I always carry a few in my pocket nowadays in case I need a "toothpick" with flavor.

After asking for a recommendation, I heard the wings were good. This is where I begin to kick myself. Even for a fat slob, I'm pretty picky. I do like hot wings, but I like flavor too, so I'm not into any of those "wing challenges" where you need a gas mask and to dip your eyes in milk every 5 seconds just to eat them. The waitress offered to bring me half and half (5 "hot" wings and 5 "XXX Hot" wings). The XXX hot is made with a spicy vodka and pickled pepper base (if I remember correctly... she showed me the jar on the shelf, looking like a mad scientist's experiment) so I got a little intimidated. But you know, I don't mind the occasional wing that evokes tears and a runny nose... it's cleansing.

The darker brown wings on the left are the XXX Hot, and the orangey ones on the right are the "hot" wings. I wish I had gotten all XXX Hot. There was nothing wrong with the hot wings, but they were your typical wing sauce and didn't stand out. EXCEPT, these wings in general were great. One thing I absolutely hate is when you get wings and it's like biting into your grandma's arm flab. These wings, regardless of sauce, were crispy on the outside, to me: perfection. The XXX sauce had a good amount of heat, so I sipped my drink after each wing, but they were bursting with flavor and truly unique. They almost tasted as if they had a rub as well as a sauce. I also appreciated that these wings were obviously sauced, but not swimming in it, so I didn't feel like I needed a bath after.

Everything I've had at The Fat Cat has not only been "good" it's been special in it's own way. I'm no sucker, so after we finished our food and had a few more drinks at the bar, I put in a to-go order before we left. I mean, I'm going to need to eat again eventually, I might as well make sure it's damn good food! I got their "Philly" (which is essentially a Steak & Cheese, but you can get it with chicken or something else instead, I forget). I went traditional, sans mushrooms because well, mushrooms are gross. With the Cheesesteak, they threw in a buttload of fries (I declined any seasonings or dips). I forgot to get a picture of this when I heated it up several hours later for dinner. But take my word for it. Good meat, good bread, good flavor. Even reheated several hours later. (If you're going to do this, wrap the sub in foil, put on a pan with the fries and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15mins) it's still going to be better than any of the sub shops near you, I guarantee it.

I think this is the ultimate compliment you can give any restaurant: if their food is as good reheated the next day, you've struck gold. In the above picture, you see The Fat Cat's signature Macaroni and Cheese. A day later, and microwaved, it is still creamy and gooey and mouthwatering. I don't care how good your mama is at cooking, she can't touch this mac. I personally make a damn delicious homemade mac, spending years perfecting the creamy sauce. Even I can't deny this is different. The key to a good mac cheese sauce is variety. You have to combine cheeses. The Fat Cat uses at least 3 or 4, one of which is blue cheese. This adds a tanginess to the flavor unparalleled. They also have tomatoes in the recipe, which I didn't think I'd like, but you know what, I did... so it's basically healthy with the vegetables added. It's a creamy, gooey, cheesy salad! Oh and I almost forgot, you can get the mac and cheese with meats, such as chicken or HOT DOGS. Now I didn't do this myself, but I thought that was a pretty cool nostalgia for a place with some high end food, playing to the kid in us all.

I also can't go without mentioning the portion sizes. The mac in that picture is only HALF of the order! Supposing I can exercise a small amount of willpower, the other half will come to work with me tomorrow. I will weep when it's all gone.

Honorable Mention:
I'm not huge into seafood, but I did try some mussels that my friend ordered (look at that massive bowl for $10 bucks!). She chose the mussels in the Fat Cat tomato sauce (they have another sauce, but I forget what it is... clearly I do my research). They were pretty good if you like that sort of thing. I won't condescend to you folks as if I eat enough mussels to critique these vs others I've had (I go years in between mussels), but good flavor and I kept 'em down... so thumbs up? Also, barely pictured, Fat Cat "Haystacks" which are their onion strings, which are also divine.

Review by Dave James, who lives in Cambridge, MA and possibly died of heart disease immediately after writing this....

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mainely Burgers in Central Sq, Cambridge MA!

Dozens, possibly hundreds of us working in or around Cambridge’s Central Square recently bid a bittersweet farewell to a mostly unknown joint called Four Burgers. The aptly named restaurant featured four types of burgers: turkey, salmon, black bean, and grass-fed beef. While the food was of great quality, it was a bit overpriced- a typical lunch time order of rosemary chips (which were, admittedly, nothing short of fantastic), a double cheeseburger, and one soda cost a dime under $15 without tax, and they never advertised any specials to my knowledge. So with a shrug, we watched them shutter their doors.

It wasn’t long before the murmurs and whispers of a new burger joint rose above the collective din of grumbling office worker tummies. A co-worker came to me asking if I had heard of the popular food truck from Scarborough, Maine, that was going to permanently park its business a few streets over. When I learned the name, the grumble didn’t come from my stomach.

The “Mainely Whatever” thing. Can that stop and go away forever please? It might coax a chuckle from a tourist the FIRST time, but as someone who lived in Maine for five years, this bit gets old fast. Sadly, just like so maine-y things in this region of New England, it’s time for change. But hey, then again, I’m a city slicker now- maybe I just can't wrap my head around the way life should be. 

this is in central square?

At first glance, MAINELY BURGERS felt suspiciously like a rebrand of Four Burgers, but I succepted to the ruse after taking in the restaurant’s wood-panel-everything décor, which was strangely comforting- like the square womb of a Tolkien Ent. There’s also a nice mural of the food truck driving from Portland to Central. All in all, the simple and polished atmosphere is a welcome juxtaposition to the Square. 

Two items on the list quickly caught my eye. The first, THE BEAST. On a list of menu items like the MB CLASSIC, THE SHROOM & SWISS, and THE ARRIBA!, this one seemed like the only choice for a Fat Guy Food Blogger. Also, the name reminded me of my favorite autumn themed protagonist- THE BEAST from Over The Garden Wall. Look it up and thank me later! 

However, the second and plainly named item I ordered… WILL SHOCK YOU! #clickbait

First thing’s first, THE BEAST. A burger with BBQ sauce, sautéed onions, cheddar cheese, pickles… and the much needed ingredient to make it seem substantial, bacon.

The most important thing, as I learned from reading many a FGFB post before I joined in, is the preparation of the only supplemental ingredient that would justify its name. This ingredient is, of course, the bacon, which was expertly cooked in my meal on at least two different occasions. The combo of crispy and chewy is surely enough to blow any so-called connoisseur of this sweat meat treat right into the middle of Mass Ave, to be quickly run down by an indifferent bus driver.

Everything else in the Beast fulfilled its expected it role in a satisfactory manner except for the sparing use of BBQ sauce. This is the second review in a row I've had to critique lacking condiments, but if there's no sauce on the table or at least packets in the bag, it's totally justified.

Which leaves the unexpected usurper to the Mainely Burgers claim o’ fame- grab something stable- BRUSSEL SPROUTS.

That’s right haters! Leave your ill-conceived notions in the 90’s cartoons your feeble belief system was conceived in! Doug Funnie and I will look upon your helpless husks and cackle! YOUR WRAITHS ARE DOOMED TO HAUNT A CROOKED PAST FOR ALL ETENTINTY, NEVER TO SEE THE FRUITS OF TRUTH TO BE BORN PAST THE INCEPTION OF YOUR WICKEDNESS!

Much like the Loch Ness, aliens, and Bigfoot (sorry Josh), it’s time to lay this urban legend to rest because FINALLY and WE NOW HAVE IRREFUTABLE PROOF (gotcha there tho) that brussel sprouts, when prepared CORRECTLY, are A TOP TIER AND FGFB NOTEWORTHY VEGETABLE. Suck it kale! You've had your day, now go back to whatever San Francisco vegan bistro and weed dispensary you crawled out of. 

This gluten-free breadwinner (I assume? Who knows anymore) commands the delicious flavors of garlic, brown sugar, and one unseeingly yet unmistakable overpowering other. The distinct taste of soy sauce adds the necessary salinity to deem this veggie snack-worthy, and yet I feel it was too heavy-handed, and distracted too much from the distinct brussel sprout flavor that distinguishes this snack from any other lightly-fried green vegetable. That being said, these were absolutely delicious, and I look forward to having them within walking distance on a lazy-afternoon workday then I do a hundred cheeseburgers.

The Beast: B-

While this was surely a well-crafted sandwich, it didn’t do enough to satisfy the savage urges one naturally feels when indulging upon a good-sized cow-puck. Two patties are an absolute must, which takes money from my wallet and points from my grade. However, all the usual flavor superstars come together to save the day, which left me with enough satisfaction to ward off buyer’s remorse.

Brussel Sprouts: A
Baby cabbages overshadowing meat is no small feat. This one truly earned the A.

Despite the slightly underwhelming burger, I’ll be headed to Mainely again soon. There’s a few other eye-catching items on their menu I’m keen to try- the Coop burger, their “truckmade” chips (we're supposed to believe a truck is driving these down daily?), and… here's another odd one- fried cauliflower?! Hey, like I said, they nailed the sprouts. Might as well see if they can glamour up another healthy food. My doctors would be so proud of me if I told them I ate two vegetables in the same week! 

Review by sl33zy

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Remembering Wonka with British Candy

Discover a world of pure imagination. After the sad passing of Gene Wilder, most of us had a moment remembering our favorite scenes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was no exception. Tim Burton can suck my EverlastingGobstopper, there was only ONE WONKA. Now it's true, I'm probably the worst of the Fat Guys for trying out new snack treats on the market. But my friends took me to an Irish store, which had two huge aisles of British candy and other treats... and I'm here to say: The Candyman Can!

Let's get the easy ones out of the way. Yorkie and the Dairymilk Bars were straight up chocolate bars. UK chocolate is just better. I love Hershey and wouldn't dare badmouth them. But even as a lad, I loved going to Grandma's house, because she had the Cadbury... and that was always special. Now the Cadbury Shorties are shortbread cookies with one side painted in chocolate. They're decent but not as good as I'd hoped. (If you're familiar with UK treats, McVittie's are better).

But the Cadbury shortcake SNACK! is exactly what I was looking for. It's somewhat similar to Keebler Fudge Grahams, without the graham flavor... ish. I mean, I know these were just "shortcake" but they had more flavor than just butter cookie with chocolate... and oh that Cadbury chocolate. Mmm...

The Double Decker is described as "milk chocolate with a soft nougat and a crispy cereal bottom" so I wasn't sure what exactly cereal they meant. It's similar to a milky way bar but with rice crispies and more chocolate. It definitely was nice, but won't be my go-to the next time I stock up.

For a palette cleanser, I had to try something fruity...

If you've ever wanted sour patch kids without the sour, then Jelly Tots are for you. Sugary and chewy, these tasty little treats can be crammed down your candy-hole by the fist full. No wonder the British are known for bad teeth... remember to brush, because these little suckers will about as far from your teeth as Mike TV is from his cowboy costume.

And last, but oh certainly not least, the star of my little shopping trip to the candy store...

Cadbury Choc Chip Cookies... lord help me.

There is nothing to say. Do you still need convincing? REALLY? They are exactly what you think they are. They are Chips Ahoy cookies with GODDAMN CADBURY CHOCOLATE CHIPS exploding through them. They are magic. No store bought cookie will stand up to these, no chocolate chip ones anyway. Pepperidge Farm? Put out to pasture. Chips Ahoy? Sunk. My only complaint? There's only 12 cookies per package. Three round bays, each with a stack of 4 cookies. So really, I just wish I had bought a few of these cookies because sadly over the course of a couple days, they left my life as whimsically as they entered it.

If you think that any chocolate treats, cookies, candies, whatever beat out the Cadbury crew... I have only one thing left to say:

RIP Gene Wilder... you will never be forgotten, you will be celebrated.

Review by David James, who died doing what he loved, drinking from a chocolate river.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Boston Burger Company Freak Frappes (and more burgers!)

So, some of you may remember that Josh and Rich did a review of Boston Burger Company a couple years ago. I've been going there since their opening in Somerville, so I was happy as the day is long when they reviewed it. Since moving to Cambridge, near Harvard, I was even more excited when they opened a Harvard Square location on Mass Ave. I made sure I went back to re-read Josh and Rich's blog from before, so I didn't step on well-worn territory.

Initially, I didn't go in for the burgers, I went in specifically to review their new FREAK FRAPPES. But, its not like i'm NOT gonna get a burger. It's also worth mentioning, I have a problem with extremes. I tend to lean towards "this was the best!" or "this was the worst!" In true fat-guy fashion, I'm sentimental about food... and I think i'm often surprised that something doesn't suck. For a fat guy, food is supposed to be a substitute for all that love and approval you never get elsewhere.

Let's start with the Freak Frappes. Oddly, despite my mission of solely reviewing the beverages, I had less to say about them. I went in excited for these, not only because of the cool flavors, but also because who doesn't love a good shake with their burger? What I didn't know going in, they're alcoholic! I've tried two of the four offered Freak Frappes: The Bulleit Bourbon Blizzard (pictured above), and the Nutella Cream (pictured below). Firstly, I feel like I got screwed over. Twice. The pictures I've seen (and ones being brought to tables while I awaited my own drink) have all kinds of toppers (one being a slice of cake, what looked like rice krispee treats, and one with MnMs?), I got none of that (some nilla wafers and not-quite-pirouettes). And the presentation of the Bourbon Blizzard above is somewhat lacking. Also, mine wasn't made with Bulleit Bourbon. I was seated at the bar, half-watching it being made, and observed a different bourbon being substituted. When I asked the bartender, she stated they were out of Bulleit. I then pointed out the bottle on the bar (which was with the label facing away). She offered to make me a second one, but I declined. Presentation aside, I loved the Bourbon Blizzard. 

Now, clearly the presentation of the Nutella Cream Frappe (Nutella, Bailey's Irish Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream) is better executed. It was okay. It had a decent flavor, but the flavor of Nutella didn't really come through, not as much as I expected it to. It was also not very cold, perhaps could've used more ice cream. It was thicker than the other one, slightly, like drinking a thin pudding. What I will say for both, the booze to sweet ratio was perfect. I thought that both had just the right amount of alcohol coming through into the frappes, obvious but not overwhelming. I'm assuming in a general way, all 4 Freak Frappes are essentially the same. But out of these two, the Bourbon Blizzard was better. I wish I had tried the Guinness Frappe instead of the Nutella, and they also have a "New England Mudslide" which sounded good. Even though the flavor does come through while you're drinking them, it's easy to forget they're boozy, when washing down a nice burger. So tread lightly, sweet children.

The real stars of BBC are obviously the hand-made, never frozen burgers. My usual staple here is the "Killer Bee", which is a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings stacked on top in the shape of a beehive, with BBQ sauce all over it. In the previous BBC review, Rich mentions the BBQ sauce, and how good it is (reminiscent of gold-fever wing sauce at the 99). I whole-heartedly agree, it's the best. I've also tried the "Green Monstah" and the "Artery Clogger" (which Josh reviewed). Now, after refreshing my memory before writing this, the only thing I don't agree with those guys on is the chips vs fries. I love Boston Burger Co. chips. They're airy, a little soft, but still crunchy. They're special, and a great side to the burgers. I never once missed having fries on the side. I also am not a fan of the fries at BBC. They're potato wedges, and they ARE good, and have a variety of flavors/seasonings. It's just not my thing, I stick with the chips. Always. (Dipping the chips in their BBQ sauce is also recommended). I do wish they had some  "more traditional" skinnier hand-cut fries, but it's merely an afterthought.

This time around I went outside my "Killer Bee" box and ordered the "Porkasaurus". This is a burger, TOPPED with pulled pork, cheddar jack cheese and pickles. At first glance, I thought it looked a little dry. "Where's the sauce?" I asked. The bartender brought me a side of BBQ. LUCKILY, I didn't just dump it on my burger. I needed to learn to trust. I tried the burger first with no sauce, and then with a little... and guess what, it was better the way they handed it to me. They know what they're doing. It was incredible. The burger was cooked to perfection (always at BBC), and the flavor and texture of the pulled pork (which look like strips vs shreds) really made this burger. All that coupled with the pile of pickles, it was perfection. (I ended up using my side of BBQ sauce for dippin').

During my round-two visit, since I was trying a different frappe, I figured I'd continue trying other burgers they have to offer. I decided to go with the Mac Attack burger (which was featured on Diners, Drive-in's and Dives... hosted by that idiot who puts his sun glasses on the back of his head). Mac Attack is simple, it's a burger with frickin' macaroni and cheese on top... oh and BACON. Duh. It's almost as if someone said "Hey you know hamburger helper? What if we threw some bacon on top and stuck it between two buns?"

At first glance, it's magnificent. Beautiful. A work of art. They aren't stingy on the mac (look at the pictures, can you even see the burger?!), which means the burger is not lacking in the cheese aspect. Love the flavor of the mac, it stole the show. Suddenly I was forgetting all about the burger, and just wishing I had a giant bowl of that mac'n'cheese. I wouldn't think all the carbs would go so well together, but it really did, no texture took away from another and the taste was good. The bacon does add some much needed flavor, because most of the taste is cheese (not that there's anything wrong with that!). The bacon adds balance. Oh, and since this is BURSTING with cheese, I love the flavor of the "burnt" cheese that touched the grill.

If  I did have a complaint about my Mac Attack, it's that I had ordered the bacon "extra crispy" (yeah, i'm high maintenance, deal with it). Though the bacon was adequately cooked, it was not EXTRA crispy, it was barely crispy.

But bacon is bacon and it was delicious, none being spared.

The moral of the story is: Boston Burger Company makes my favorite burgers. They are huge, hot, juicy and full of flavor. It doesn't matter which one, you will leave fat and happy. I will definitely be back to try the other frappes I haven't explored yet, and maybe i'll work up the cajones to try The King (Elvis) Burger, which has peanut butter and caramelized bananas on it.

*I also really respect BBC because they send out emails with recipes and tips on making great burgers at home. None of that "it's our secret" horseshit. It's like the owner was fed up with the state of burgers in this country, and decided to bestow upon us these culinary gifts. And for those who need a little extra help, you can check out BurgaBox (by Boston Burger Company) which is similar to those mail order meal services, but without the chia seeds and crap like that; you get all you need to make dope burgers in your own kitchen. I thought about ordering one so I could add it on to this review, but since I live a 10min walk from a BBC, it wasn't cost effective to cook my own dinner.

Review by Dave James, who currently lives in Cambridge, MA... snoogans.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Limited Edition "Boo-tterscotch M&M's!

Well, it's summer, so obviously it's time for Halloween themed candy to drop. Just like in March, when there's still snow on the ground, it's the perfect time for Sam's Summer to grace the beer aisles.  Just like when Egg Nog hits your local grocer just in time for the holidays...later this month.  Yep, nothing is sacred anymore. Instead of being happy that we have seasons and holidays to look forward to, people just want to enjoy the parts of these times longer and earlier than ever. At this rate, in about ten years, people won't take down their Christmas trees at all anymore. They will just leave them up and the holiday season will no longer mean anything. But let's face it, there's no use getting upset about what other people do, right? I just stand my ground and never sip a Pumpkin beer until October first. Never let a Pumpkin Spice English Muffin cross my lips until I'm in the same month as Halloween. 

But when it comes to candy I have to review here, I guess I can make an exception! Our first Halloween candy review this year comes from M&M'S! You can bet your ass if there's a holiday coming that M&M's have some wild flavor to debut (Remember Candy Corn M&M's?) and they didn't disappoint this year! Let's take a look at White BOO-tterscotch M&M's! 

First off, I love the package. Huge Red M&M terrified of the BOO-tterscotch candies in front of him, while ghosts and bats fly around him. You'd be scared too!

You'll notice that they are colored in a strange manner. There's brown, a dark-ish yellow, which the painter in me wants to guess would actually be Yellow Ocre, and then there' that's kind of flesh colored. Which, is a little gross.

"I swear these aren't people flavored M&M'S!"

I do have to say, once you tear open the bag the room does fill up with a butterscotch smell. At first it's just an unknown sweet smell, but once you eat one of these your brain realizes what it is. I never would have suggested a butterscotch M&M in a million years, but they definitely nail the flavor here! They pretty much taste like the M&M version of butterscotch pudding. I think it's the white chocolate base they use, and in this case it directly made me think of that pudding flavor and texture once you crush up the candy coating. The weirdest part of this, is that I probably haven't had butterscotch pudding since I was a kid eating one of those little plastic cups out of my bag lunch. But the second you taste these it rushes back. It's like a fat kids version of a Vietnam flash back.

This gif was too perfect to pass up. 

So we can definitely confirm that they nail the flavor they were looking for. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they are great. I found that I liked these more than I expected, BUT unlike other flavors, I could only eat a small amount of these before I had to fold the bag over for later. The butterscotch flavor is pretty strong and I found them to get very rich after a certain amount. Unlike, say, Peanut Butter M&M's. I'm pretty sure I could just eat those until I died. Right up until the final second I would be pushing another one through my pursed lips. BOO-tterscotch? Not so much.

If you're a fan of Butterscotch, don't miss these. You'd absolutely love them. If you're like me, and have butterscotch so infrequently that you have pudding flashbacks to your'll probably think these are just okay. But either way, you gotta applaud them for once again trying something new!

In the end I give BOO-tterscotch M&M's a solid C+. If I was a big butterscotch fan I'm sure it would be higher, but since there aren't even that many butterscotch flavored items out there on the shelves, I'm guessing the fan base might be small. That being said, these could be a hit at your Halloween party, so perhaps scoop up a bag and let them haunt your cupboard until it's time to don your costume and start partying.

Or hell, eat them right now and wash them down with some Egg Nog while basking in the glow of your Christmas lights. Screw tradition!

Review by Rich Brunelle, who once again resides on the East Coast, but for how long? Nobody knows!

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