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Chain Links: McBoda & McFoie


Chinese may have the benefit of officially sanctioned McDonald’s weddings, but Mexicans are going the DIY route—with aplomb; check out those striped socks. Carlos Munoz and Marisela Matienzo were married yesterday at a McDonald’s in Monterrey, “Mexico's most Americanized city.” Watch a video of the “McBoda.” Clowns and a manual typewriter are involved. [Reuters]

Quick, a French fast food chain, will be serving foie gras topped hamburgers for 5 euros for three days in December. Do you think French bloggers will go McRib crazy over the limited edition promotion? [Daily Mail]

Rich Sullivan, a partner in P.F. Chang’s, has opened a new restaurant, Sunshine Moon Peking Pub, in Scottsdale. He claims that it won’t be a chain and that it’s different from P.F. Chang’s because it’s "simpler, warmer and more comfortable." Let’s hope that it fares better than Taneko Japanese Tavern, Sullivan’s last Arizona foray into Asian cuisine. [azcentral]

Photo from Reuters


After so much gravy and fries, I just wanted something light and fresh like…fondue. Ok, what I really wanted was something old fashioned and festive. Alpenhaus more than met my needs.

Alpenhaus seating

Fondue is a confusing dish, though. I treat it as an entrée (American entrée, not entrée meaning appetizer like in the rest of the world including Canada). But it’s always on a menu with other big dishes, whether veal cordon bleu at a traditional restaurant or heritage pork cassoulet at a more modern one. Are you supposed to treat it as a starter? At Pain Béni in Quebec City (which I’m not blogging because I’m trying to be more restrained) a group ordered cheese fondue as dessert, which isn’t a bad idea.
Alpenhaus fondue

I’ve never encountered a fondue for two as massive as the three-inches of melted Emmental and Gruyere that was presented to us in this weathered, red crock. We were warned against ordering a rosti and the large cheese-and-sausage heavy salad, and I can see why.

Nonetheless, the male half of a couple sitting nearby yelled out to the waiter, “Yes, now I do want the wienerschnitzel!” implying that his original order had been tamed, as well. He got his veal cutlet.

Alpenhaus salad
And we ordered the Alpenhaus salad anyway.

Alphenhaus * 1279 Rue St-Marc, Montreal, Canada

Chez Ashton & Restaurant Madrid

St hubert sauce packets While I do profess to be an admirer of chain restaurants, I don’t eat a lot of fast food in practice. But when I leave the US (yes, Canada counts) it’s a free for all. Canada is particularly interesting because it looks just like the US on the surface except our franchises are nearly nonexistent there. Roots not the Gap, The Bay not Macy’s, Tim Hortons not Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s all homegrown.

On our last excursion up north we discovered St-Hubert, featuring rotisserie chicken and a fondness for gravy and frozen peas (which seems more English than French). James became so enamored by the brand that on this visit we stocked up on packaged sauces. DIY hot chicken sandwiches in our future.

Chez ashton

This time we explored Chez Ashton and all its poutiney glory. How many ways can you serve fries? Quite a few, it turns out.

Ashton poutine

Combo meals come with fries or poutine as a side. The round aluminum tin on the left accompanied a chicken sandwich (poultry on bread is as ubiquitous as poutine in this fast food canon). The gravy-softened fries and soft irregular hunks of tangy cheese would be ideal for a geriatric jaw (or my toothless cat, Caesar, who gums Doritos with fervor) but there’s nothing gruel-like about the makeshift casserole that hits the right salty and starchy notes. Snow food or drunk food, it’s hearty. What’s not, are the sodas that come with these combinations. Beverages are served in sane, un-American-sized paper cups that I don’t think we’ve had since the ‘70s.

Gus' red hots

A Dulton Saucisses adds fat wiener slices and cinnamon-spiced ground beef, the same “Michigan sauce” that you’ll find just south of the border smothering hot dogs in Plattsburgh, New York. This is an onion-topped specimen from Gus’ Red Hots. The Galvaude Fromage, which I did not try, is poutine with chicken chunks and little green peas. Featured on the tray liner is a nameless snack that’s simply cheese curds and gravy. I guess it’s no stranger than eating a bowl of cottage cheese with ketchup.

Madrid restaurant

Madrid superfoot

Lunch turned out to also involve fries and gravy. There was no way we weren’t stopping at Restaurant Madrid, a hotel and diner half-way between Quebec City and Montreal that’s inexplicably surrounded by dinosaur figurines, monster trucks and designed in “the Spanish style that was sweeping Quebec” in the ‘70s.

Madrid interior

I don’t recall a Spanish revival during my childhood. If there were one, I suspect it didn’t involve a mechanical fortune teller or life-size country bumpkin dolls.

Madrid hot chicken sandwich

Not really hungry after a Dulton for breakfast, I just ordered the bbq chicken leg. It came on half a hamburger bun, surrounded by fries with a small dish of what I’d call gravy. Canadians make a distinction between the brown liquid served on poutine and the brown liquid served with rotisserie chicken and atop hot chicken sandwiches like in the photo above. Those peas, they’re everywhere.

Chez Ashton * 54, Côte du Palais, Quebec City, Canada
Restaurant Madrid * Autoroute 20, Exit 202, St-Léonard d’Aston, Canada


Schwartz's exterior Schwartz’s is touristy—even at 0 degrees Celsius there are lines out the door, tour busses parked out front—but classic. I still went back for a repeat visit.

I haven’t yet mustered up the patience for Mile End, though, so I can’t compare a Brooklyn interpretation of Montreal smoked meat to the real thing. I would say that the Canadian pastrami is seasoned a bit more mildly, is less salty and more tender (even though I’ve read the contrary) than their NYC counterparts. To be honest, I prefer it if only because the sandwiches are completely rational in size and price. I’ve never understood the half-foot tower of rosy meat spilling out of two floppy slices of rye. Why not just order a pile of meat?

Schwartz's viande fumee

Which is what we did. This was the $13.95 large plate, which came with $1.50 sharing surcharge. “Enough for three sandwiches” turned out to be plenty for five in reality. They’ll give you more bread if you blow through your ration.

Schwartz's counter

I was stymied by something called “nash” on the menu (also “pogos” at a pit stop between Quebec City and Montreal). It turns out to be pepperoni sticks, a snack I didn’t realize was so popular in Canada until we were faced with a big bag of Piller’s pepperonettes at a grocery store and had to buy them.

Previously on Schwartz's

Schwartz’s * 3895 Saint-Laurent Blvd., Montreal, Canada

I Wasn’t Going to Mention Thanksgiving, but…


Reason #98 why I’ll always feel weird about living in Brooklyn: Standing in line at the crack of dawn to hand over $38 for something you could’ve made yourself.

Photo: Samantha Storey/New York Times

Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is an ideal restaurant in that I will be able to use my visit as fodder when asked to explain en español what I did the past week in my weekly Spanish class, two-and-a-half blocks away. It’s also the only tapas bar in the area—Reds Produce never really caught on and La Mancha, technically in Brooklyn Heights, has always seemed a bit off—so by default, it’s welcome on this burgeoning stretch of lower Court Street.

The food is traditional, straightforward, no gastronomic pyrotechnics in the modern Catalan tradition.  And that’s fine. I suspect they’ll reap benefits from Buttermilk Channel’s spillover.

Palo cortado meats & cheeses The small square table could barely contain our selection of meats (chorizo, jamon iberico, lomo embuchado) and cheeses (caña de cabra, idiazabal, valdeon). I had idiazabal at home in the fridge, so ordering more when out is a testament to how much I like the smoked sheep’s milk cheese. I always feel like they cut the jamon a bit too chunky in Brooklyn, but I’ve stopped caring. It doesn’t really affect the taste, and they captured enough ivory ribbons of fat in the slices.

Palo cortado croquetas There’s something about fried balls of mush that makes them end up tasting the same even though they were crafted from very different and often tasty base ingredients. The goat cheese with truffle honey, jamon with piquillo sauce and bacalao with salsa verde would’ve been nearly indistinguishable without their accompaniments as signals. Croquetas do beat mozzarella sticks with marinara, though.

Palo cortado patatas bravas I’ve had so many versions of patatas bravas in the US and Spain that I don’t even know what’s standard or if there is a standard. Aioli and tomato sauce, one or the other, pimenton, no pimenton, cubed, sliced thinly into rounds, sauce on the top, sauce on the side. These golden squares did have nice crispy surfaces, and a good ratio of lightly spiced tomato sauce and thin aioli. It’s hard to have a problem with a fried chunk of potato.

It’s nice having a walkable place to drink a glass of Rioja and nibble on chorizo and Marcona almonds, but I wouldn’t feel right telling anyone to travel more than a subway stop or two to pay a visit. Palo Cortado is best for lazy locals feeling tapas-deprived.

Palo Cortado * 520 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

Chain Links: Tuna Melt Banh Mi

Seafood Could Sanborns, which is kind of like a Mexican Denny’s/Duane Reade mash-up, be coming to Manhattan? [Reuters via Mex in the City]

I was just in Montreal (where peas, french fries and gravy seem to work their way into all fast food) and Mexican cuisine was at the bottom of my to-try list. However, Ontario-based Mucho Burrito thinks there is a US market for a Canadian take on stuff wrapped in a tortilla…which is suspiciously similar to American stuff wrapped in a tortilla. [via Eater]

In a cultural exchange, we get a buttload of banh mi shops and Ho Chi Minh City gets its first Domino’s. Seems fair.  Pizza Hut already pioneered Vietnam, though, and they serve tuna melts with pesto mayonnaise and crinkle-cut fries. []

In Here, It’s Always Friday

Fridays “Before T.G.I. Friday’s, four single twenty-five year-old girls were not going out on Friday nights, in public and with each other, to have a good time.”

What a difference 45 years makes.

Edible Geography has posted a fascinating interview with Allan Stillman, the founder of T.G.I. Friday’s and Smith & Wollensky.

Stillman's son Michael carries on the fine tradition; yet-to-be-franchised, Hurricane Club, received a star from The New York Times today. Hurricane Club Dallas next?

Photo of the original T.G.I. Friday’s from Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image via the New York Post

Chain Links: Knoflookmaynaise & Bar Harbor


Nearly 700 Red Lobsters will be remodeled to look like Bar Harbor, Maine by 2014. If you’ve never been to Bar Harbor, Maine, this is what it looks like (sort of–Bar Harbor is 97% white). You can search for the nearest Bar Harborized location to you. Bridgeport, CT is as close as it gets here. Brooklyn's waiting. [press release]

“Gaucho will be launching an Amsterdam-inspired contemporary steakhouse in the UK” is an attention-grabbing caption. So, a Dutch interpretation of an Argentine steakhouse brought to England. The menu looks fairly sane, though you’re not likely to find Grote Gamba’s Met Knoflookmaynaise in Buenos Aires. I think that’s just their way of saying prawns with aioli. [Big Hospitality]

Disneyworld’s Pollo Campero just opened and the official Disney Parks Food Writer has the scoop. For no discernable reason, they also sell vegan cupcakes from BabyCakes NYC. [Disney Parks Blog]

Miami-based Pollo Tropical, which might seem like an international chain, is expanding north and south into Latin America and Canada. Apparently, Canadians are the leading foreign visitors to Miami. Perhaps they are bringing back a taste for yellow rice and yuca. I will not be satisfied until they're eating poutine in the Florida Keys. [NRN]

Talking Turkey: Google vs Bing


Despite 44% of home cooks not cooking a Thanksgiving meal from scratch, Thanksgiving is still the most popular time of year for recipe searches, according to Google. Then again, during the holidays searches for “easy recipes” triple with pie being the top requested item. I won’t scoff; pies are definitely more time consuming than a standard weeknight recipe. I really don’t like making crust (and have given up on forming empanadas without frozen shells).

Everyone loves pie. Not surprisingly, pumpkin tops the list of Bing’s most searched pie recipes, followed by pecan, apple, chocolate and importantly, pie crust. Tipis Oddly, the top cookie recipe searched for is rice krispie. I’m not even convinced that’s a cookie, let alone a holiday cookie. Well, that was before I saw Kellogg’s Great Plains Tipi Treats and Turkey Tracks.

Even odder, Google has fondue lurking their top baking searches. I don’t associate things melted in pots with baking. Cookies, of course, are number one. I wonder if rice krispie treats also fall under this category since they’re not baked either. Maybe I’m just being too literal about what baking means these days.

Great Plains Tipi Treats photo from Kellogg’s