New England Food Day 1: IHOP!

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series New England Food

So, we’d just spent about 7 hours on a flight, and landed in Boston on a Saturday evening. Due to lightning, we were held on the parkway for 2 hours. I’m sure there was a good reason, but being made to sit inside a metal tube with a fair amount of aviation fuel still in the tanks while lightning played around us was a bit disconcerting.

The next morning, we were sure of two things:

  1. We were very, very tired from what had been a 20 hour day plus 8 hours or so of sleep
  2. We were hungry and wanted to explore Boston

Our source of restaurants was primarily Google maps and TripAdvisor, and where we were staying (in Cambridge, MA) there were some options, but lots that were the wrong direction, or closed (it was Sunday). We were also aware that we wanted to get on and explore, and not spend the whole of our first day sitting around.

A reasonable resolution was to choose IHOP. Those familiar with the US will know that this is a bit of a cheap-and-cheerful pancake and breakfast house chain. It’s not renowned for its quality, but it fit our requirements of being dependable, not expensive, hopefully quick and on our route into Boston.

We got one right. Maybe two.

Here’s an unnecessary shot of the menu:

2015-08-16 (1)

It sure looked good. As it happens, both Katherine and I love pancakes, of the American, fluffy style. Our normal way of having them is with bacon and maple syrup (bacon on the side, in my opinion, but Katherine likes to just lump it all together). So we were excited by the prospect of having them in their natural habitat.

Katherine ordered a stack of three, but I went for something a bit more substantial – a ‘big breakfast’ including egg, sausage, hash brown, ham and bacon, and then a side of turkey bacon. Yes, I felt that I had to top-up my bacon quota for the day.

In fact, I wanted to know what turkey bacon was like. Turkey’s a pretty healthy meat, and I guessed that this was the reason for its inclusion on the menu – for those health-conscious types who felt that they still wanted bacon. I was intrigued as to what it would taste like as well as its texture. And would it really be healthier?

Well, here’s what it all looked like:

IMG_20150816_111150

On the whole, it was very filling, and pretty reasonable quality.

The egg and pork bacon (I didn’t think I’d ever have to specifically refer to pork bacon) were just as you’d expect. For UK readers unfamiliar with how it works, in the US you don’t really get back bacon like you do in the UK – it’s all ‘streaky’ bacon. Back bacon is available, and is often called ‘Canadian bacon’, though this can be a bit different from what we think of as back bacon. But that aside, there wasn’t anything of note about these items.

The ham was a bit of ham – slightly thicker than our sandwich ham. It was fairly flabby and tasted like I was eating fried, thick sandwich ham. Not sure about the reason for this item, unless you’re worried that sausage, egg and bacon wasn’t sufficient to cover the protein and pork recommended daily amounts. I’d have left this out, no problem.

The hash browns were interesting. Here’s a bit of a close up of the main plate:

IMG_20150816_111154

The hash browns (out of focus at the back) were really just grated potatoes fried together. I’ve had them before in this manner, and they can be really flavoursome and good. But in this case they weren’t; they were undercooked and boring. Just carbohydrate filler; I’d probably have preferred toast.

The sausages were surprisingly good. Sarcastic readers will probably say because I’m used to British sausages which don’t contain much meat, but it was more than meat content – it was the interesting flavour. It was stuffed with herbs and some spices, and really well cooked – and as you can see, a bit more like a chipolata. Really good.

Which brings us onto the pancakes.

IMG_20150816_111214

All I can really say is that they were fine. As pancakes go, they were about the right consistency, though a bit thinner than I was used to. They had a nice fluffiness, but also a mass-produced feel. They were fine.

And then: TURKEY BACON.

IMG_20150816_111218

First off, it looked a lot like real bacon; this helped, and made it appealing to look at. It felt a bit like dry, crumbly bacon when I cut it; just about right but nothing wrong with it. And it tasted like turkey meat with bacon flavour and possibly bacon colouring. If I kind of focussed on something else and ate it quickly, I might have failed to notice it. But realistically, in a blind taste test, 10/10 times you’d pick out the turkey bacon. Still, it felt like I was eating something unhealthy and it was probably comparatively healthy, so there are some pluses.

All in all, the breakfast was filling, pretty tasty, and reasonable value. It wasn’t quite as cheap as I’d expected, and then there was the usual fretting about what to do with the tip. And it was slow. The breakfast took about 45 minutes to come from ordering, probably because everyone in Cambridge goes to IHOP on a Sunday morning. The restaurant was really busy.

We didn’t go to IHOP again, because we found somewhere better the next morning. But if I was there for a while, and I knew I’d want a decent breakfast and I didn’t want to faff around with choosing from various restaurants, I’d probably go there again.

And that turned out to be the only food we bought that day, because we were so filled that we survived until dinner, which we had at a friend’s house that evening. Otherwise, we survived on water as we walked around Boston’s Freedom Trail (recommended). Later in the afternoon we bought a quick bagel snack but I didn’t really eat any of it. So that brings us to the end of Day 1: the day in which I discovered Turkey Bacon and wasn’t entirely sure whether I disapproved or not.

New England food: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series New England Food

The summer holiday this year was to the USA – specifically New England. I was excited not only to see the States, but to sample the food. New England is famous for seafood, and I was absolutely determined to enjoy as much as I could, but also try some variety. On my radar in addition was to have some good old fashioned favourites, like pancakes, burgers, fried chicken and pizza.

This series of posts will take each day individually and focus on the meals in the day. As I go through I’ll update this post to keep it like an index. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed eating the food, and please do comment on your thoughts!

What’s so Great about the Great British Bake Off?

I’ve got a confession to make: this is only the third series of GBBO that I have watched. I’ve known about it from the start, in fact a friend even sent me an application for the first ever series (this was before anyone had any idea of the crazy high skill levels of the bakers!), and I’d watched bits and pieces of the occasional episode here and there but I hadn’t got in to it. I didn’t know the bakers. I didn’t love the bakers. It all seemed, quite frankly, a bit dull. I just didn’t really get it. But two years ago I started watching from the start of the series and became absolutely hooked. I think ‘knowing’ the bakers from the start really helped. As I was driving to work this morning, already looking forward to tonight’s show, I was thinking to myself ‘what is it that makes the GBBO so great?’ So, in no particular order, here are ten of the reasons I love it so:

(more…)