Louis’ Lunch and Ashley’s Ice Cream

The story goes that a man entered a small restaurant and asked for a meal that he could eat on the go. The restaurant’s owner, Louis Lassen, slapped a beef patty in the middle of two slices of bread, which gave birth to America’s first hamburger. That was in 1900, and today, people flock to Louis’ Lunch every day for a taste of history and freshly made burgers. That’s exactly what we did last weekend, when we drove out to New Haven to see what all the fuss was about.

Louis' Lunch, exterior

Louis' Lunch, interior

You can’t miss the building. Even if it’s small, it stands out with its very appearance, and also by the number of people waiting outside. It’s fairly small inside, so there’s not a lot of room for people who are waiting for their orders. The available food items are written on chalkboards and some of the items are deliberately misspelled: for example, creem instead of cream and appul for apple.

Ordering your food is easy enough. Choose from either a hamburger or a cheeseburger, then specify if you want it with tomatoes or onions. The meat is cooked medium rare, but you can let them know if you want it cooked a certain way. And that’s about the only customization you can expect for your burger. As they reminded people, they’re not Burger King for them to let you have it your own way.

The biggest challenge we faced was the wait. I reckon it might have taken 30 minutes or more for us to get our food. There were a lot of people waiting and more coming to get burgers to go, and the cast iron grill there could only broil up so much meat. So you can imagine we were pretty hungry by the time our burgers rolled out.

Louis' Lunch, burgers

The burgers don’t come in buns but in regular bread, which is nowhere near sturdy enough to hold the hunk of beef, but that just makes the eating fun. The meat was tasty, but it wasn’t as juicy as regular burgers; I chalk that up to the broiling. What was good to see that the burgers really were served freshly cooked, although it would have been nice if we got our food much sooner.

After all that meat, we absolutely had to have dessert, so we headed down to Ashley’s Ice Cream, which has been the winner of a lot of local best ice cream awards.

Ashley's Ice Cream, New Haven, CT

My sister had chocolate frozen yogurt, my other sister and her husband shared a child-sized cup of Butter Crunch, and I had my own child-sized cup of Nutella Chip. Child-sized servings in this country always puzzle me–the alleged child for which the servings are offered always seems to be a really huge one. Not complaining in the case of this ice cream, though–it’s creamy and just yummy.

Louis’ Lunch
Address: 261-263 Crown Street New Haven, Connecticut 06511-6611
Phone: (203) 562-5507
Web: Louis’ Lunch

Ashley’s Ice Cream
Address: 280 York Street New Haven, Connecticut
Phone: (203) 776-7744
Web: AshleysIceCream.net

Smart Bacon in pasta

Lunch today was leftover pasta sauteed with garlic, tomatoes, and broccoli. I haven’t cooked the Smart Bacon we have at home in a while, so I decided to cook some and crumble them into the pasta.

Smart Bacon

I’m a lifelong bacon fan, but I was nevertheless curious to give Smart Bacon a try and I’m glad I did. If ever I decided to become a vegetarian, I don’t think I’ll be grieving for the lack of bacon, because these veggie protein strips are a pretty good substitute. Of course, they look nothing like bacon and don’t curl up the way it does–don’t be fooled by the picture on the box–but I can say that they taste quite close to the real thing and could help make the transition to vegetarianism easier to swallow.

Once the three slices were cooked (sad to say I tend to burn the edges), I crumbled them up and sprinkled them onto the pasta and mixed the whole thing. Here’s the final product.

Rotini with garlic, tomatoes, and broccoli

Spoon in Lenox, MA

Our visit to Massachusetts last week was confined mainly to the Berkshires, particularly the towns of Lenox, Stockbridge, Lee, and Hancock. I loved how the place was classically New England, with the charming main streets and neat little buildings and general stores.

On our second day, we had to find someplace to go to for lunch in Lenox. People we asked recommended places like Alta, Nudel, and Church Street Cafe, but we ended up in a little place called Spoon. It was its nice location and simple exterior that drew us in. Well, that and the sign promising “Breakfast, Lunch, Ice Cream”.

Spoon, Lenox, MA

The ice cream bar was to the right of the restaurant when you enter Spoon, and the inside was nice and cozy. There were even seats in the back that were assembled out of crates.

Spoon, Lenox, MA

We ordered Butternut Squash Soup ($4) to start with. I had the Pear and Rawson Brook Goat Cheese Salad ($11) while my sister ordered the Veggie Melt ($10), which was accompanied by some really very delicious chips.

Spoon, Lenox, MA - Butternut Squash Soup

Spoon, Lenox, MA - Pear and Rawson Brook Goat Cheese Salad

Spoon, Lenox, MA - Veggie Melt

The prices were really pretty reasonable and the food was fresh and tasty. All the diners seemed to be quite comfortable there, even chatting with the servers. Anybody who’s in the area really should check it out if they don’t want to go to the more popular places, and they’re sure to be pleasantly surprised. I’m looking forward to going back there in the future to try the Beans and Grains ($9)!

Spoon
Address: 26 Housatonic St. Lenox, MA 01240
Phone: (413) 8814040
Web: www.spoonlenox.com

Cheesesteaks at Pat’s King of Steaks

On a recent visit to Philadelphia, my sister and I originally resolved to sample the cheesesteaks offered by Pat’s and Geno’s, which have been locked in a long-running rivalry for the title of best Philly cheesesteak, and in our minds and taste buds put the competition to an end once and for all. However, we ultimately decided not to go to Geno’s due to reports of racist graffiti decorating the place.

So off to Pat’s we went.

Pat's King of Steaks, Philadelphia

There was an almighty line when we got there, but apparently, they shot out the sandwiches so fast we got our cheesesteaks a mere few seconds after paying. We ordered cheesesteaks with onions and slathered in Cheez Whiz; the latter was quite a surprise, because we didn’t think the sandwich would work with Cheez Whiz.

Pat's King of Steaks, cheesesteak

Pat's King of Steaks, cheesesteak

I polished mine off very quickly. I did find my cheesesteak very tasty, but I have to admit that the meat wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked it to be. I like it just fine, but I think I’ll try a bunch of other cheesesteaks to see how they all stack up.

A yummy cream of mushroom soup

My sister and I recently went to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for a day of yoga, classes, and relaxation. Meals were included in our day pass, so I was looking forward to trying out the food there as well. The meals were primarily vegetarian, although there were also other dishes such as scrambled eggs for breakfast and chicken with lentils for dinner. I wish I could say I remember the names of all the food available during the buffets, but I had to sweep through the line and let everyone else have their turn. There were, indeed, a lot of vegetables, from the salads to roasted cauliflower and steamed kale.

What I remember extremely clearly is the marvelous cream of mushroom soup they had.

Cream of mushroom soup

I had about two helpings of this soup, and would have had two more if only I weren’t so full. This was absolutely nothing like the canned mushroom soup you normally get. I had a look at the ingredients and remember that the soup included a lot of spices, butter, milk, and mustard. I’m definitely looking forward to recreating this soup when I get home.