Reviews, Travel

Tacos & Pie in LA: Crystal was Right

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Ever since our first trip to Los Angeles in 2010, there are two restaurants that our friend Crystal recommended that we try.

For whatever reason we just weren’t able to work these two food unicorns (foodicorns?) into our trip.

Finally, after about six years and five trips, we decide that we would not leave LA until we made it out to these two must-visits. With a 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature (check out our car Q&A here) loaner courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda ready to transport us to food heaven, we were ready to ride in style and hunger. But mostly hunger.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

Ready for tacos.

We should have listened to Crystal sooner, because these two restaurants will go down as places that we will force other people to try and that we will write about in letters to our grandchildren…or in a blog to strangers.

ALRIGHT ALREADY! WHAT ARE THE RESTAURANTS?!

The first foodicorn:  Guisados

For those who don’t speak Spanish, guisados translates to “stew” and oh, boy does Guisados stew! They stew all the stew.

They stew so hard.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Tender stewed meats and vegetables on fresh-made corn tortillas… What more can you possibly ask for? One thing I’d ask for is a mini taco sampler so I could try a bunch of tacos at once.

Guess what? They got that, too.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Pleasing to carnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians alike this is one taco party everyone is invited to. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your dog–I don’t think they let dogs inside due to health code regs, but if you have any leftovers–wait, what am I saying? There shall not be any leftovers! In fact, you probably won’t order enough the first go around, which will force you to do the walk of under-ordering shame back up to the register.

Embrace the shame, because it dissipates with each bite.

The deep flavor and succulent fillings will have you waking up at night in cold sweats wondering why you can’t get tacos like this back home.

And not stopping by a Guisados is no longer a valid excuse because they have five locations around Los Angeles including The OG in Boyle Heights, Echo Park, Downtown LA (or DTLA if you’re cool), West Hollywood, and Burbank.

***

The second foodicorn:  The Pie Hole

It all started with a t-shirt.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

In a not-so-subtle way of hinting that we should probably eat at The Pie Hole, Crystal sent me one of their t-shirts.

Not only was it a constant reminder of the pie that needed to eventually be consumed, but it was an amazingly soft and durable shirt. It’s a t-shirt MVP year after year. First ballot t-shirt hall of famer.

If the pie was half as awesome as the shirt, expectations would be met.

Instead expectations were destroyed.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

The turkey pot pie was so comforting that it felt like a warm labradoodle sleeping next to you on a couch. Thanksgiving came early this year and in the best form: Pie.

That crust, though. So buttery, flaky, and the perfect thickness. I’d love to eat my way out of a sleeping bag made of that crust.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Tina’s breakfast veggie hand pie was also so delicious you’ll wish humans had bigger hands (to inflate the average size of hands, which would then in-turn increase the size of hand pies).

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

I should’ve channeled the dark side and ordered a slice of EVERYTHING, but I found some restraint in my back pocket and we shared a slice of Earl Grey Tea Pie. A unique pie for sure, with a subtle flavor of earl grey tea, crunchy pistachios, creamy filling and…oh…that….CRUST.

Much like Guisados, it took us so long to visit The Pie Hole that they now four locations around Los Angeles, one in Orange County, and one in freaking Tokyo! So, if you’re in DTLA, Pasadena, Hollywood, or Glendale grab a slice and open your pie hole.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Moral of the Story:  When a friend demands that you eat at specific places in the city in which they live, listen to him or her. Think of all the tacos and pie slices we could have eaten if we had heeded Crystal‘s advice? Roughly forty tacos and ten slices of pie (based on ten tacos and two pie slices per trip).

***

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided a vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own.

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Reviews, Travel

Enjoy Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles, but I know there are a lot of people out there who have either had bad experiences, or just have zero desire to spend any precious vacation time in La La land.

There’s actually so much to do and so many ways to experience L.A. that, after a few trips, I think I’ve finally figured out how to experience the city in way that can even change the minds of nonbelievers:

Choose Your Location Wisely

Los Angeles covers a wide geographic area, so when planning a trip, try and stay in a location central to most of the things you want to check out. Otherwise, you’ll be spending A LOT of time in traffic.

For my last trip I stayed in this Airbnb guest house, located in Silver Lake. The location had a ton of perks including easy street parking (rare for L.A.), it was central to an infinite number of food options (I’ll touch on that later), and because it’s a residential neighborhood, the atmosphere is much calmer than staying in a hotel in Hollywood.

Silver Lake | getinmymouf.com

Such a calm street. I could totally live here.

If you’re a runner, staying near the Silver Lake Reservoir gives you an easy jogging path to start or end your day. As an added bonus, there’s a dog park nearby, so how can you run past dogs and not have great day? Oh, it is a reservoir, but don’t expect to see any water…

Keep Your Wheels Small

You’ll be doing a lot of street parking (you do know how to parallel park, right?), so make it easy on yourself and rent or borrow a car that’s on the smaller side. Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, I was hooked up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer for the week (check out our car review here). The Lancer was nice because it was nimble enough to get around easily, yet wasn’t so small that I felt cramped.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Ridesharing is Your Friend

Although you’ll have to drive most of the time, it’s nice to occasionally not have to get behind the wheel. As much bad press as Uber and Lyft get, I still have yet to have any experience that is anywhere close to as awful as nearly every taxi ride I’ve had.

I also highly recommend using uberPOOL or Lyft Line to share your ride with a stranger. Sounds a little weird at first, but your ride costs will be cut in half AND you might meet some cool people. Thanks to sharing a ride one night, I got some sweet restaurant recommendations from two locals (shout out to Christine & Nick!). Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to their top pick, a new Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays, but I can guarantee I’ll be back soon…

Eat as Much as Possible

If you’re not eating well in L.A., then you’re doing something horribly wrong. I ate so well that it was almost painful (I didn’t wake up hungry once during the trip). There are hundreds of must-eat lists, celebrity chef restaurants, and local-filled dive joints to discover, but here are a few of my favorite bites:

The Fairfax breakfast sandwich from Eggslut (Downtown in Grand Central Market) – Almost custard-like scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar cheese, Sriracha mayo, caramelized onions, on the world’s softest brioche bun. And of course I added bacon. Easily the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

eggslut LA | getinmymouf.com

Good brews and great burgers from Stout (Hollywood) – Their signature Stout Burger did not disappoint and was topped with blue cheese, Emi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. And with over 30 beers on tap and 4 0z pours, you can sample nearly all of them in one night (thanks to Uber and Lyft). The staff is super friendly as well, and will happily share some celebrity sighting stories (everyone apparently has an Andy Dick encounter) and most of the waiters will even let you read their screenplay. Kidding, I actually didn’t meet any writers, but I did meet a stunt man, stand-up comic, improv performer, and a DJ.

Stout Burger - LA | getinmymouf.com

World class dim sum at Din Tai Fung (Glendale) – Din Tai Fung is a popular international restaurant with only six locations in the U.S. (all on the west coast). Man those soup dumplings…You think you’ve had dumplings, but you just don’t even know! Go with a group and order everything on the menu.

Din Tai Fung Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Cheap eats at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Glendale) – Porto’s is one of those places where–no matter how much you order–you always feel like your bill is way too low. This bakery has it ALL. Literally anything you could possibly want. My favorites were the fried potato balls filled with cheese or meat. And dessert…good luck picking one item.

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Everything at Republique (Hancock Park) – With such huge range in flavors drawing inspiration from around the world, you will definitely find something that hits any craving you have. They cure their own meats. They bake their own pastries. They even have a daily house-made soda special. My Cuban sandwich was perfect and the Tangerine Vanilla Soda was like a liquid creamsicle on steroids. DO indulge in something sweet; my jam-filled bomboloni (basically a filled doughnut…also on steroids) was so good I cried a little.

Republique LA | getinmymouf.com

Indulging in ice cream at Salt & Straw (Larchmont) – Check out these insane flavors. Bet you’re craving ice cream now. I went with two of their staples:  Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts (chocolate-dipped caramel-coated pecans). Ice cream nirvana was immediately achieved.

Salt & Straw LA | getinmymouf.com

A delicious marriage of French, Mexican, and California cuisine at Trois Familia (Silver Lake) – As my final meal in L.A., I enjoyed breakfast of a real champion: Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho. I had tears streaming down my face as I took the last bites.

Trois Familia | getinmymouf.com

Take a Hike

With as much eating as you should be doing, you might want to hike off some calories.  Luckily, there are tons of trails to check out like Runyon Canyon, the Griffith Observatory hike, and of course the famed Hollywood Sign hike.

Echo Mountain LA | getinmymouf.com

Thanks to my L.A. hiking buddy (and cousin) Stephanie, I was directed to my new favorite spot:  Echo Mountain. It’s was a reasonable 30-minute drive from Silver Lake and wasn’t very crowded (although it was a weekday). The hike itself is a moderate five-mile round-trip adventure that rewards hikers with scenic views and the ruins of “White City,” a former resort at the top of the mountain. Bring water and sunblock, ’cause you’ll be in a lot of sun.

***

Still not convinced? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to go back for more ‘research’ to try and make a better argument…

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Clifton Café – Clifton, VA

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

What do my Mom and my dog have in common?

They both love Clifton Café.

My mom always talks about The Magic Pan and how magical (GET IT?!) the crêpes were. Sadly, there haven’t been very many restaurants that serve crêpes around here (a few are starting to pop up now and I’m sure finding crêpes in DC would be easy, but getting my mom to go to DC would not be).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe

Luckily for us, we discovered Clifton Café, a crêperie in historic Clifton, VA that helps close that gap on those crêpe cravings. Crêpe options range from the savory Dan’s Barbarian Beef (roast beef, Havarti, onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, and Dijonnaise) to sweet favorites filled with Nutella, bananas, and fresh berries. You can also enjoy sandwiches, salads, wine and beer–and since coffee is a perfect match for crêpes–an extensive latte menu. My sweet tooth always leads me to their Crème Brûlée Latte.

It’s also a great place for  Mother’s Day Brunch and is quickly becoming a new tradition for us. This year, the brunch consisted of a three course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. For our first course, we all enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Caprese–I personally find it hard to turn down any appetizers with burrata.

For our second course, the table was filled with a Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe (roasted corn, red pepper and herb fricassee, sautéed chorizo, tomatoes, and gouda cheese), Salmon di Oliva Crêpe (Norwegian smoked salmon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, olive medley, and sautéed spinach with a lemon-basil sauce), and the BBQ Beef Brisket Crêpe (slow cooked BBQ beef brisket over mashed potatoes).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Salmon di Oliva Crêpe

To end the meal we all came back together and chose the same dessert, the Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe (with lemon curd, powdered sugar and whipped cream). Needless to say, my mom was in crêpe heaven.

Photo May 08, 11 55 17 AM

Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe

Enough about my mom. The dog-friendly patio is spacious enough to accommodate  75 pounds of fluffy labradoodle. I wish more places had patios, and of the few that do, I wish they had more room for big canines. The hostess and servers not only welcomed Cooper for lunch, they almost didn’t want him to leave. If he goes missing, I know the first place we’ll look…

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia | getinmymouf.com

So, if you’re looking for a quaint lunch spot to take your momma to, or if you’d simply like to enjoy some sunshine with your pup, Clifton Café is a perfect choice.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to test drive for a week (click here for our car review). The epic panoramic sunroof made it the perfect SUV to take for a drive on the scenic and winding roads of Clifton, VA to one of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

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Eat + Hike + Sleep: Monterey County, California

Big Sur | getinmymouf.com

Since the strong majority of our vacations primarily involve eating, hiking, and sleeping, it only makes sense to start an ongoing series aptly named Eat + Hike + Sleep. Yeah, you wish you could come up with a title as original as that. Didn’t even need a thesaurus.

The first location up for this series:  Monterey County, California. With all the times we’ve landed at SFO, we always ended up traveling north. There is tons of awesomeness up north like, duh…San Francisco, but also other cool places like Mill Valley, Sonoma, and Napa. I’ve never been, but I’ve also heard that Berkeley is a cool town to check out too. And if we’re talking further north, I enjoyed my time in Sacramento and its surrounding wine country.

Wanting to mix things up on our recent trip out west, we figured it was time to head south and check out what Monterey County had to offer. Specifically, we stayed in Carmel Valley and spent some time in Big Sur cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway.

EAT

Good to Go (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Good to Go - Carmel-By-The-Sea | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Crossroads Carmel shopping center, this juice and smoothie joint was a convenient stop in between Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Also, with most of our other meals clocking in with a a maxed out indulgence level, grabbing some smoothies from Good to Go was a perfect way to start a day of hiking.

Café Rustica  (Carmel Valley Village)   Cafe Rustica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Herb-Roasted Half Chicken | crispy artichokes, au gratin potatoes, ratatouille, and kalamata olives

Café Rustica is such a cozy place. I felt like a foreign exchange student having dinner in a European family’s house. That kind of cozy. The portions were generous and my Herb-Roasted Half Chicken dish had like fifteen different sides (er, well four).  I was afraid they might be fattening us up for tomorrow’s special. And also, two words: Crispy artichokes.

Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley Village)   Corkscrew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Wild Mushroom Gnocchi | parsnips, arugula, pistachio, Brussels sprouts, chive lemon brown butter, & frisee

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Roasted Tomato Pizza | mozzarella, basil, olive oil, goat cheese, roasted garlic, olives, tomato sauce

A sign of a good restaurant is one that you visit twice during a vacation. We did just that with Corkscrew Cafe. First of all, they have a bread basket on the menu. At first I was appalled that bread wasn’t free and was ready to fight someone. But the more we thought about it, we realized that if a restaurant is going to put bread on the menu, then it better be the best bread in town. After talking with the server, we found out that “Jason’s Bread” (as it is listed on the menu) is indeed made by Jason, whose sole responsibility at the restaurant is to make bread. He also confirmed that it was magical. So we got the bread and not only was the bread as brilliant as advertised, but the whole freaking meal was just perfect. The Wild Mushroom Gnocchi might have been the most memorable dish of the trip and the chili & honey braised Short Ribs just melted on the plate. I sent the knife back, because there was no need for it. It was so good and we returned the next night. Too bad they were out of bread, but I don’t want to talk about it…  Luckily the Roasted Tomato Pizza and Kale Salad did not disappoint.

Valley Kitchen (Carmel Valley)   Valley Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Valley Kitchen - Carmel Valley | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Carmel Valley Ranch, Valley Kitchen ended up being a perfect way to end the trip with a final dinner in Carmel Valley. The Honey and Goat Cheese Salad as well as the Asparagus and Wild Arugla Salad were fresh and filling. It was also fun playing a game of russian roulette with the cast iron pan fried shishito peppers. Somehow I ended up with all the hot ones. The real star was not the food, but our server (who’s name we forgot to write down)–He was knowledgable about the local wines in an unpretentious way and even allowed us to sample some of the ranch’s own Swing Pinot Noir. His friendliness also allowed us to find out a little bit more about the area and the ranch. The meal and service made it even harder to leave the next day, but I have a feeling we’ll be back soon.

HIKE

Point Lobos State Reserve (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Carmel-By-The-Sea, California | getinmymouf.com

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

With a lot hikes, you have to really earn the good views through steep climbs, spider-webs, and losing at least one boot to a mud puddle. But, at Point Lobos, within about five minutes of walking, we were met with landscapes that I wish we could bring back with us to the east coast. The trails are all fairly easy and your reward for what seems like no work at all, is an abundance of blue coves, towering trees, and magnificent cliffs. And as an added bonus, we’re pretty sure we saw a seal give birth. Check off “birthing seal” from the bucket list. A word of warning, parking is limited, so unless you want to park on the street and hike to your hike, arrive as early as you can.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – Big Sur, California

As easy and GORGEOUS (yelled with a British accent) as Point Lobos was, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s .64-mile McWay Waterfall Trail leads to a blue cove and a flowing waterfall that lands directly onto the beach itself. For a longer, more challenging hike, you can head inland on the 4.5-mile Ewoldsen Trail where you follow a stream along somewhat visible paths. You can park for free fairly easily along Route 1 near the park entrance, but why wouldn’t you want to support the park system? It’s only ten bucks…

17-mile Drive (Pebble Beach)

The Lone Cypress - 17-MIle Drive - Pebble Beach, California

The Lone Cypress – 17-Mile Drive – Pebble Beach, California | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

Checking out a beach along 17-Mile Drive with our fun buddy, the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

This is less of a hike and more of a “drive and stop to walk around,” destination, but 17-Mile Drive is still a fun way to kill an afternoon. It’s a surreal contrast between nature, tourists, and a golf course community where the average home price is in the double-digit millions.

SLEEP

Carmel Valley Ranch (Carmel Valley)

Carmel Valley Ranch | Vinyard Oak Studio | getinmymouf.com

The view from our Vineyard Oak Studio balcony at Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel Valley, CA

Making good use of the double-sided fireplace

We had originally planned on spending our last night in San Francisco before we flew back, but we just didn’t want to leave Carmel Valley Ranch. From the indoor/outdoor fireplaces and outdoor soaking tub on our deck, to sweeping views and live turkeys, pregnant deer, and ranch-made honey, this place was almost as magical as Disney World–except Carmel Valley Ranch has heated bathroom floors. And that doesn’t even touch on the massive list of activities that the resort has to offer which include hiking trails, tennis courts, golf, food demos, horseback riding, and even a chance to collect honey from their onsite bee hives. You could literally stay here for a week and never leave. Yeah, it was totally worth it to wake up at 5 AM to drive two hours to SFO to catch our flight, just so we’d have one more evening here.

Obviously these are only a few of the hikes, eats, and sleeps that can be found in the area. Drop us a comment for your favorite places or suggestions for where we should head next time. There WILL be a next time.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Mazda, we had a 2016 Mazda CX-3 to play with for a about 500 miles (check out our car review here). Its nimble handling made it a blast to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

***

Disclaimer:  We were not provided any free food, lodging, or park entrances for this post. We liked all these goods and services and would gladly pay for more of ’em again.

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The Butcher and Barkeep – Harleysville, PA

The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

The Butcher and Barkeep is the type of establishment every town needs.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town, a big city, or even suburbia. There’s not a community on the planet that wouldn’t support a place like this.  A place that takes their beer as seriously as their cocktails and their cocktails as seriously as their food. The menu is thoughtful and interesting, yet the portions are generous for a reasonable price. The cocktail menu makes the joint sound fancy, but it’s plenty casual. You could come here to celebrate a promotion, or stop by for a beer after a rough day at work. It’s hard to peg The Butcher and Barkeep to a specific identity, because it has broad appeal, yet when you visit, you realize they’re doing something so specifically enjoyable that it’s as if they created the atmosphere just for you.

Shrimp & Grits | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Shrimp & Grits | cheesy grits, Carolina shrimp, andouille-bell pepper cream

In a time where many restaurants and bars are turning towards a specialized focus, it’s nice to have a place with the culinary cahonas to try to do everything well.

So, what’s the secret?

Food-wise there are no gimmicks. They have southern staples like Shrimp & Grits and Gumbo; albeit with their own interpretation. I suppose the Sexy Fries might sound like a gimmick, but you won’t give a damn. They’re so satisfying because they combining a bunch of comforting flavors, you can eat them by hand, and they go great with a brew. And drizzle truffle oil and Hollandaise on anything and it’s going to be sexy, but that ain’t no secret.

Sexy Fries | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Sexy Fries | hand cut fries, fresh herbs, parmesan, hollandaise, truffle oil

Having a huge beer selection definitely helps. And by huge, I mean they’re basically a restaurant attached to a bottle shop and draft house. Ask the bartender for a recommendation and you’ll realize he knows the ins and outs of everything they serve. Had a bad day slogging through 9-to-5? Try a Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager. Grabbing a brew after hitting the golf course with a buddy? Hardywood’s The Great Return IPA. Killing time while the wife works and you’re partial to the art of stout? Yards Love Stout. That’s all well and good, but being an excellent brewhouse is hardly some magic secret to success.

If a restaurant excels in food and is also well versed in its selection of craft beer, there’s no way they’d be able to present a cocktail program that lives up to the already high expectations, right? Wrong. House-infused liquors and homemade syrups fuel libations such as the Matcha Maker (matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup), Country Pie Old Fashioned (brown butter infused bourbon, luxardo, honey liquor, angostura) and the Winter Mule (black pepper infused vodka, lime, ginger beer, winter spice syrup, nutmeg). The cocktails are complex–not complicated–and so precisely balanced that you can only assume they were designed in a laboratory.

Matcha Maker | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Matcha Maker | matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup

If the secret isn’t the food, or brews, or cocktails, then it’s easy to say that the secret has to be the people. Attentive servers and knowledgeable bartenders can only be the result of a trickling down of great leadership from the owners Gerard Angelini, Cody Ferdinand, and Jeffrey Sacco. 

The simple truth is that there is no one singular reason and that The Butcher and Barkeep is far greater than the sum of its parts, where the sum equates to a place where you want to go to simply be happy. When was the last time you had a meal that made you truly happy? Content without feeling trendy. Comfortable, despite being surrounded by strangers. Satisfied, without feeling like a glutton.

If you’re ever in Harleysville, PA–which is a suburb of Philadelphia–make the effort to stop by The Butcher and Barkeep for a great meal, cold drinks, and an unlimited supply of happiness.

The Butcher and Barkeep
712 Main St, Harleysville, PA 19438
Website:  thebutcherandbarkeep.com
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Yelp
Butcher and Barkeep Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Reviews

McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich: Surprisingly Not Awful

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we had a 2015 Kia Optima SX to play with for a week (check out our car review here). It’s a really comfortable car, so I figured it would make for a great lunch escape. Sure enough, it was provided a calm, comfortable, place to enjoy a Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich from McDonalds.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Now, on to the sandwich…

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

I tried this sandwich twice. The first time, my expectations were so low that I also simulataneously picked up a Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich from Wendy’s as a back up lunch. Yes, I was prepared to hate McD’s new “food truck worthy” sandwich. And yes, I was prepared to throw it in the garbage and eat the ol’ faithful from Wendy’s.

Fortunately, I did not have to throw out any chicken.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

In other reviews of the sandwich, there have references to dry, stringy chicken. The first sandwich’s chicken was burning hot, moist, and–dare I even say it–perfect. The second sandwich wasn’t completely dry, but was just okay. So, it seems like consistency might play a role in everyone’s individual experiences. For the best chance, you’ll definitely want to go during a busy lunch hour, or else you may end up with a chicken fillet that has been hanging out a little too long.

As the name would suggest, it was also quite crispy. Actually, crunchy might be more accurate. Yes, it was very crunchy, which was nice.

Flavor-wise, I definitely tasted some of that tang of the buttermilk, along with a healthy dose of black pepper. It reminded me a little bit of the flavor of Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich. No need to reinvent the wheel.

The bun? Impressive. Soft, buttery…brioche-y. It’s a good bun.

McDonald's Butter Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Even the vegetation was better than most of McDonald’s other sandwiches, with a thicker slice of tomato and crisp lettuce, which also seemed fresher than the usual lettuce suspects.

The Mayonnaise Situation

The only flaw, which is also a flaw for many sandwiches at McDonald’s, is the mayonnaise. I rarely shy away from a good, creamy mayo. I spent the better part of my teenage years surviving off Subway subs with extra mayo. So, as a big supporter of the pro-mayo movement, it takes a truly awful mayonnaise to make me angry (and don’t get me started on that disgusting Miracle Whip stuff).

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

And with McD’s, there is always way too much mayo. It’s too thick, almost gelatinous. I feel like I should be using it to grease up car engine parts of my 2015 Kia Optima loaner rather than underside of a brioche bun.

McDonald’s, you need to fix your mayo situation.

Final Verdict

Mayo-hatred aside, this is actually a really good chicken sandwich from Mr. McDonald. I’d definitely order this again. I would recommend ordering this one sans the white goo and “fixing it” with a few packets of Chic-fil-A mayonnaise. You keep extra Chic-fil-A mayo in your car, right? Good.

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Review #getinmymouf

Want another opinion? Then check out these other reviews:

GrubGrade |Review: Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich from McDonald’s

DanimalCrossing | McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich Review

***

Disclaimer:  No free chicken sandwiches or money were provided by McDonald’s for this review. 

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Reviews, Travel

Red Truck Rural Bakery – Marshall, VA

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, we had a Rally Red 2015 Outlander for a week that begged to be driven (check out our review here). And thanks to a grey, rainy day, our original outdoor plans were nixed, so we decided to head west to add some color to our day at Red Truck Rural Bakery in Marshall, VA.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Red Truck, meet Red Mitsubishi. #DriveMitsubishi

Red Truck Bakery is an iconic bakery and market that has historically only had one small location in Warrenton, VA. Luckily for us, they had their grand opening of the new, larger Marshall shop. How grand was the opening? I dunno, maybe you should ask Academy Award Winning Actor, Robert Duvall:

The trip out west on Route 66 is much different than the mess that I normally sit in every weekday. The small town of Marshall is about an hour outside of Washington, DC; once you get past the cookie-cutter residential developments of Prince William County, you start to feel the calming sensation of being surrounded by green stuff–you know, actual nature, like trees, hills, mountains. So, despite the rain, we had a comfortable ride in the Outlander along with some pleasant scenery to take in.

When we arrived at Red Truck Bakery, we were met with an exterior that was charming and blended in well with that small town vibe. Parking is easy, as they have plenty of space out back, but there was also ample street parking available. We parked on the street thanks to my stellar parking abilities (aka a backup camera).

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

That small-town feel follows you inside, as the staff and customers were all friendly and eager to provide recommendations on what to order. It’s the kind of place where you get the impression that everybody knows each other, even if they don’t.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

The wall of deliciousness.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

These fellas would have made a fine picnic had it not been for the rain.

When it comes to the actual food, the choices were quite overwhelming for us first-timers. First, there’s a glowing case of baked goods–all of which were fighting for our attention–as well as two refrigerated grab-n-go cases with sandwiches, drinks, and other goodies. On top of that, there is this wall of jars and bottles of packaged goods from other local and lesser-known companies. Who knew a mini food mecca could exist in a small town bakery?

Tina tried their (highly coveted) Veggie “Beetloaf” Sandwich (roasted beets, sweet potatoes and ground walnuts). She was instantly a fan and for me, as someone who doesn’t really like beets all that much, I enjoyed the few bites I had. It doesn’t taste as “beety” as it looks, and rather has more of an “herby” taste.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Veggie “Beetloaf” Sandwich: roasted beets, sweet potatoes and ground walnuts.

For us meat eaters, you can’t go wrong with their Chicken Salad Sandwich. Or as I will forever call it, the Kitchen Sink Salad Sandwich (as they put everything but) in this jam-packed sandwich, including fresh local roasted chicken, grapes, apples, celery, raisins, walnuts and a hint of curry, with local Bibb lettuce.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Chicken Salad Sandwich: fresh local roasted chicken, grapes, apples, celery, raisins, walnuts and a hint of curry, with local Bibb lettuce.

Sandwich Tip:  The sandwiches are pre-made and are grab-n-go, so they can sell out fast. So, it’s highly reccomended that you give them a call to reserve what you want. Luckily, we called ahead and got the very last Veggie Beetloaf Sandwich. 

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Peach pie. Maybe the last of the season…

Our dessert included peach pie and a cookie, but was completely overshadowed by one of the best cranberry-orange walnut muffins we’ve ever eaten (sorry, not pictured). I can’t remember getting this excited about a muffin before… I mean, it’s just a muffin, but it’s not.

We didn’t try them (still not sure where I discovered that willpower), but the pumpkin scones with maple glaze beckoned like an old friend, while the ham scones looked as if they could be my new future best friend. Until next time, scones…until next time.

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Overall, we really enjoyed this little gem of a store and highly recommend giving them a try. The Marshall shop is also in proximity to two of our favorite wineries, Barrel Oak Winery and Aspen Dale Winery, so Red Truck is a convenient place to grab a picnic lunch before heading out for a day of wine tastings. And if you do go, leave the willpower at home and take ALL the scones home with you.

Red Truck Rural Bakery
8368 W. Main Street
Marshall, VA 20115
RedTruckBakery.com
Twitter: @RedTruckBakery
Facebook

Red Truck Bakery - Marshall, VA #getinmymouf

Disclaimer:  We were not compensated by Red Truck Rural Bakery in any way for this post. We really like ’em and you should too!

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Reviews

Woodbridge Food Truck Festival aka Food Truck Heaven

Woodbridge Food Truck Festival | getinmymouf.com

[This is post #050 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project. Yeah, we’re WAY behind, but we’ll catch up…or not.]

Cost:  There is no admission fee; however parking is $5 per vehicle. There are optional $10 VIP tickets that allow you access to the festival for an hour before it opens to the public, along with free parking, and a beverage. Food from the trucks ranges in price, but be prepared to spend at least $20 per person to get a good sampling of food, drinks, and sweets. I ended up spending $31 for myself on all the food shown below along with a bottle of water. I was STUFFED by the time I left.

Dates / Locations

July 10, 2015:  Prince William County Fairgrounds – 10624 Dumfries Road, Manassas, VA 20112

September 26, 2015 (11 AM – 7 PM):  G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium – 7 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, VA 22192

Okay, so we’ve complained in the past about the lack of food trucks out in the ‘burbs, but on Saturday, July 10th we had absolutely nothing to complain about. With approximately 30 food trucks at the event, the Woodbridge Food Truck Festival arrived at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, VA. Previously held at Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge, VA, the original festival attracted somewhere between 8,000 – 10,000 attendees, so the fairgrounds provided a larger venue, which can more easily accommodate that type of crowd.

With so many options, it was hard to decide what to eat. I think I spent more time wandering around the aisles of trucks lined along the the paved walkways than I actually did eating. And obviously it would be impossible and very expensive to try and eat something from every single truck (by the way I’m willing to do this if someone wants to be my financial backer). None the less, here are a few of my favorite bites and trucks from the event.

Meggrolls

MeggRolls | getinmymouf.com

Literally two days ago, a co-worker of mine was telling me how she wished there was a food truck based solely on egg rolls. You can pretty much stuff anything inside of a crispy wonton, so why not, right? Well, Meggrolls is doing it and doing it well. Their “Big Megg” is a play on a Big Mac, complete with special sauce and pickles. I’ll take the egg roll version over the classic burger any day. I also loved the Meggrolls truck because they offered smaller dishes ($3 for one egg roll), which helped me save room and money to try some other fare.

Feelin’ Crabby

Feelin' Crabby | getinmymouf.com

I’ve heard great things about this crab-themed food truck, so I made it a point to stop by Feelin’ Crabby to check out the Crabster, their “hybrid” slider. For $6, The Crabster includes 1 oz of jumbo lump crab and 1 oz of lobster claw and knuckle meat dressed in an Old Bay seasoned sauce (it’s kind of like cold crab/lobster salad sandwich). The slider was outstanding and was packed full of meat with a sauce that added that classic Old Bay taste without stepping on the delicate flavor of the seafood. If you’ve never tried this truck before, add it to the top of your “Must Search Out and Devour” list.

Arepa Zone

Arepa Zone | getinmymouf.com

Having had a less than stellar arepa experience from restaurant in another city, I was eager for Arepa Zone to make me a fan of arepas. “What’s an arepa?” I’m glad you asked! It’s a grilled corn patty that is sliced open and stuffed with meat, cheese, and/or other delicious toppings. I opted to try the Catira, which is filled with shredded chicken and shredded yellow cheese. The corn patty had a nice exterior crunch, while the chicken was moist, packed with flavor, and plentiful. It’s also served with a spicy sauce on the side that added a nice kick. The arepa was made to order, so it was burning hot which meant I was battling my will power not to quickly devour the whole thing and burn my mouf. In the end, Arepa Zone did make me a fan of arepas. BIG TIME.

Dyvine BBQ In Motion

Woodbridge Food Truck Festival | getinmymouf.com

In an industry dominated by fusion food, quirky dishes, and food trends, sometimes it’s nice to take a break with something simple, honest, and satisfying. All three are easily achieved by the chicken on a stick from Dyvine BBQ In Motion. An entire boneless chicken thigh, perfectly juicy with an awesome house rub (no BBQ sauce necessary) was the perfect way to end my adventure at the Woodbridge Food Truck Festival. So, yes, I basically had BBQ chicken for dessert.

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Reviews

Review: Popeyes® Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

[This is post #049 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project. Yeah, we’re WAY behind, but we’ll catch up…or not.]

The wait is over. At the beginning of July, Popeyes introduced their newest limited time offer:  Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp.

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

Basically, they take their marinated butterfly shrimp and toss it in a hushpuppy-inspired sweet cornmeal batter. To continue their cycle of new dipping sauces, the shrimp are accompanied by a Creole Cocktail Sauce. Makes perfect sense to combine two seafood favorites into one bite, but I honestly didn’t have high hopes for these shrimp. I’m the first to profess my love of Popeyes chicken, but rarely does seafood translate well in fast food form. So, I liked the concept, but didn’t expect it to be an item I’d want to order again.

Well, I was completely wrong.

Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp

Price:  Prices vary by location, so these are based on the Manassas, VA store.

Combo:  Approx. 8 shrimp + 1 Side + Drink = $5.99
Platter:  Approx. 8 Shrimp + 2 Sides + Drink = $7.99

I opted for the platter with sides of cajun rice and mashed potatoes. The platter also comes with an even larger drink which I believe they call Diabetes Size. Seriously, take a look at this monster, which is next to a half-gallon carton of milk:

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

Looks:  The first thing I noticed was that the Shrimp are disappointingly small. I suppose for the price, it’s hard to complain, but I would recommend going for the platter, which will help fill you up with that extra side. The crust is noticeably different than previous versions of their shrimp, which is clearly made with cornmeal. The shrimp are not quite uniform, with some looking more like a group of fried amoebas.

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

Smell:  I picked up my meal through the drive-through, so I had to spend about ten minutes smelling these things on the drive home. I can’t say they specifically smelled of hushpuppies, rather they smelled more generally like a seafood restaurant (in a good way). I wanted to sneak a bite at a stoplight, but my hands were dirty from playing basketball with my brother. (And yes, I beat him two out of our three games, with a three-pointer at the end of the third game to confirm my greatness. I’m ready for you, Lebron.)

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

Texture:  The exterior crust was deliciously crunchy without being too heavy. A lot of fast food restaurants attempt to hide the actual shrimp with too much thick, cakey breading, but I like the shrimp-to-batter ratio on these. Hey, and shockingly, the shrimp wasn’t overcooked! It was moist and as pretentious as it sounds, “its softness contrasted nicely with the crunch of the cornmeal breading.” Yeah, I know…

Taste:  The good times kept rolling with the taste of this batter. As advertised, it had a nice hushpuppy-style sweetness, but the surprising part was that the shrimp were also a little bit spicy. It took me off-guard because I wasn’t expecting any spice. It was a decent heat, but I wouldn’t call it burning hot by any means. Overall, it reminded me of a hushpuppy, but even better. Most hushpuppies wish they were this good. I quickly became sad that I only had eight small shrimp to eat and regretted not getting a second “backup” order.

Creole Cocktail Sauce

Popeyes Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp | getinmymouf.com

Sadly, the name of this new dipping sauce should have been Unnecessary Cocktail-Sauce Inspired Ketchup. First, the shrimp are so good that the don’t need any sauce. Second, if the shrimp did need a sauce, I would think a cooler tarter sauce would work well with the spiciness of the shrimp. Overall, I didn’t hate the sauce by itself, as the Creole Cocktail Sauce’s heat was pleasant and I wouldn’t mind dipping some fries into the thick, dark red sauce, but it just seemed superfluous with these shrimp.

Verdict

Although I’d skip the sauce, I would absolutely order the Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp again. In fact, there’s a 93.4% chance that I’ll be stopping by Popeyes again this weekend. I loved everything about these, except for the size, which is in-part due to the fact that they taste so freaking good that I wanted more.

Not sure if it would translate well to chicken, but I’d be curious to try some chicken tenders with this batter. (You listening, Popeyes?) or maybe Popeyes should just PUT ACTUAL HUSHPUPPIES ON THE MENU. Just a thought.

Want a second opinion? Check out these other reviews:

Grubgrade | Review:  Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp from Popeyes

DanimalCrossing | Popeye’s Hushpuppy Butterfly Shrimp Review

If you liked this post, you might enjoy this review of POPEYES SMOKY GARLIC CHILE CHICKEN:

Popeyes Smoky Garlic Chile Chicken | getinmymouf.com

Disclaimer:  No free shrimp or cash money was provide to us for this review; however, they did accidentally give me a free side of mashed potatoes.

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#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Reviews

Duck Donuts – Fairfax, VA

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

[This is post #048 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project. Yeah, we’re WAY behind, but we’ll catch up…]

The legend of Duck Donuts has grown fairly quickly around Northern Virginia over the last year.

A staple of the Outer Banks (a beach vacation destination for many in the area), the donut shop has recently expanded up the east coast via franchised locations.

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

Exterior of the Fairfax Duck Donuts location

Although I have been to the Outer Banks before, I never had an opportunity to try Duck Donuts, so last year at this time, I didn’t even know what a Duck Donut was. Now they’re popping up all around us, including one in Herndon, the newly opened Fairfax location, and the soon-to-be open Bristow shop (which happens to be about five minutes from our house).

People who have enjoyed the fried treats at the beach are happy to sing their praises. So much so, that over the last year the lore of this brilliantly delicious, yet simple donut shop has spread with conversations that have included the following phrases:

“You’re getting a Duck Donuts!”

“I don’t eat donuts very often, but I always eat Duck Donuts when I’m at the beach.”

“OMG! Is Duck Donuts open already?”

“DUCK DONUTS?! [followed by weird exclamatory noises]”

With so much hype, I was a little bit concerned of being let down. Could these fried dough rings really live up to the legend?

Fortunately, the Fairfax shop is near my office, so a co-worker kindly picked up a couple dozen for us to sample.  We tried nearly all of the  possible flavor combinations, with the highlights being orange glaze, classic cinnamon sugar, chocolate with peanuts, and french toast (the daily special, which I believe was a cinnamon sugar donut with maple glaze).

So, what’d I think?

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

I ate three donuts for breakfast, then went to the store at lunch to take a dozen home.

These donuts are freaking addicting. I’m typically partial to yeast donuts over the cake style, but these cake donuts are very light. When eaten fresh you’ll be met with a nice crunch in the middle hole where the dough was fried crispy–I love that crunch.

What’s their secret to a simple, yet addicting fried treat?

They don’t have a case of pre-made items for you to pick from, because ALL of the donuts are made to order. What makes the process even easier is the order forms. You don’t have to use them, but it definitely helps for large orders, as a grid of toppings and flavors lets you easily choose your favorite combinations.

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

While waiting for your order, you can watch the efficient assembly line at work. On one end, guided by a human donut professional, a donut machine cranks out little fried halos of heaven. Another donut pro places them on a drying rack ready for the next group of employees to fill orders by glazing and topping the donuts with the customers’ choices.

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

When your number is called, you’re shown your box of donuts to confirm everything looks right. Then they close the box up, hand it to you, and–this is my favorite part–IT IS STILL WARM.

A warm box of donuts is a dangerous thing.

More dangerous though, are the actual donuts.

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

Like many before me, I am happy to help spread the legend of Duck Donuts. Go ahead and drool over this menu:

Duck Donuts - Fairfax, VA | getinmymouf.com

Disclaimer:  No free donuts or ducks were provided for this post. 

PS:  Their donuts are fantastic fresh, but if you do happen to have leftovers, might I suggest using them to make this >>> Doughnut French Toast Waffles

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