Saus – Boston, MA

Writing up tasty meals in one of America’s greatest cities is a tough job, thankfully, my little sister is up for the task. It’s been a while, but we’ve got another guest post on deck from the author of Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill. Take it away Lobe!

Diana and I just took a trip to Boston. Mostly for the rich history, but also to explore the food! We asked the proprietors of Eat a Duck to guide us in the right direction, food­wise. They gave us a chunky list to choose from (two restaurants which will be featured here later) and we chose Neptune Oyster Bar as one of our first stops for lunch. Neptune doesn’t take reservations, so we figured going for lunch would give us a better shot at getting a table. Upon arriving, waiting at the front of the restaurant and being ignored by staff for an entire five minutes, we were informed that it would be an hour and a half wait. So we bailed, and headed to Saus instead.

Saus Frites

Saus was exactly what we needed. A comic-­clad “street food” shop offering all manner of frites, poutine, snacks and sandwiches. I chose the plain frites with “SamuraiSaus,” a chili and mayo combination with the shrimp and scallion fritters with a deliciously refreshing chili dipping sauce, fittingly named “green monster”. The shrimp and scallion fritters tasted like the shrimp cheong fun from La Maison Kam Fung in Montreal, only fried (‘murica.) I couldn’t decide whether to dip the fritters in my Samurai Saus or the green monster sauce. Both complimented the fritter and left a lingering heat.

Saus Shrimp & Scallion Fritter

Diana ordered the “Legit corndog” and plain poutine, something I think she’d been craving for quite some time. The corndog’s perfectly crispy batter made for a truly “legit” corndog. The poutine was classic. Delicious gravy drenched cheese curds over crispy frites. Both snacks came with quick pickles and pickled onions. The pickles were on the rare side, with enough of a cucumber twinge to make the pickle sweet and counter all the salt we were consuming.

Saus Legit Corndog & Poutine

The staff was wonderful, candid and prompt with our order. The walls were covered with framed Tintin covers (Jimmy would be pleased) which made me feel right at home. The location of this establishment is also pretty choice, it’s on Union, next door to the Union Oyster House and Bell in Hand Tavern. If those two historically rich restaurants can’t seat you right away, and you’re starving, make your way over to Saus and get satiated. You won’t be disappointed.

Saus on Urbanspoon

Sushi Pop – Oviedo, FL

I’ve noticed a trend recently of small towns, that less than a decade ago offered nothing more than aging diners and fast food chains, are sprouting innovative restaurants serving stunning cuisine on par with the best in the country (i.e. Indigenous, Red Door and Rooster & the Till). It could be that these youngsters are tired of killing themselves trying to compete with the heavy hitters in the big cities, or maybe it’s a desire to bring their talent and creativity to a new and less obvious markets. Whatever it is, these little towns are not only benefitting, but reciprocating the trust shown by these restaurants with their patronage.

A great example of this trend is Sushi Pop, a high energy, day-glo wonderland of Japanese cuisine that’s more Omotesando than Oviedo. On an otherwise sleepy street, the bright pink signage serves as a beacon to the hungry masses…in a town of less than 50,000 people. Yet when you cross the threshold, it seems as if the whole town simultaneously had a hankering for hamachi.

Sushi Pop sign & interior

For the better part of two years, a certain sibling who will remain nameless (Lobe) had been pestering me to visit Sushi Pop.  Every month or so I’d get an email detailing their latest uni shipment or some other enticing menu creation by Chef Chau (can you think of a more perfect name for a chef?). However Oviedo is not exactly convenient to get to from Miami or Sarasota. I’ve been known to travel insane distances for great food, but I was having a hard time getting in the car for a multi-hour road trip for sushi.

After finally getting the chance to visit, I am humbled. The food being created at Sushi Pop is the real thing, this ain’t some Nobu knockoff, peddling the same “high-end” Japanese that has become so tiring. Even when you see similarities, like local rock shrimp tempura with tobanjan aioli, Chef Chau and his Chef de cuisine Cesar Cruz put their own spin on it. The crudos offer a glimpse into the Valhalla of fish that is Tsukiji market where Sushi Pop sources much of their seafood. Flavor packed scallops from Hokkaido give a nod to Korea with a punchy kimchee salsa that elevates the succulent bivalves. The ominous sounding hamachi hara kiri takes the bygone samurai tradition to heart with tender cuts of yellowtail belly, fresh from a jaunt through Southeast Asia with chili garlic sauce, Thai basil, shallot oil and toasted peanuts.

Sushi Pop small plates 1

The tour of Asia’s finest cuisine isn’t confined to seafood, as is demonstrated with Sushi Pop’s take on KFC (Korean fried chicken). Sweet and spicy gochujang lacquers the crispy wings which give way to the moist meat below, spiked with toasted white sesame and scallion. You want veg? Sushi Pop executes on that front with a beautiful plate of hibachi grilled asparagus, meaty garlic braised mushrooms and soy glazed pea shoots.

Sushi Pop small plates 2

Perhaps the miso braised short rib open faced ravioli is more your speed? And why not, what with a truffled brown butter quail egg under an avalanche of tome cheese. Of course pork belly is always an option. That night the dish was a superb trio of Kurobuta tacos with braised Berkshire pork belly, hoisin bbq sauce, scallions, micro cilantro and avocado.

Sushi Pop small plates 3

It’s easy to get caught up in the early stages of the menu and forget all about Sushi Pop’s namesake. Naturally there’s an extensive list of maki rolls, many with touches of Korea, France and Porkbellistan, but the initiated will know to sample the nigiri and sashimi section first. All of the usual suspects are here, fresh from Tsukiji and priced to move, even the Otoro and Uni remained attainable. However the nigiri specials beckoned.

It’s one thing to fly in high-end fish from Japan and call it a day, it’s an entirely different thing to take said fish and start riffing. It’s a bold move, one that could easily lead to over sauced, sickeningly sweet concoctions that waste the beautiful protein. Thankfully these Oviedo otaku display incredible reverence for the seafaring treasures they serve, bestowing each with complimentary flavors that only elevate the fish. A belly duo seemed appropriate, in both salmon and yellowtail varieties. The former, adorned with Chinese ginger, shallot salsa, white soy and radish sprouts was revelation. The fat striped salmon, with it’s subdued, buttery flavor was countered with the fantastic acid from the ginger and shallot. The yellowtail, took a page out of Mr. Matsuhisa’s Peruvian inspired book with jalepeño, lime zest sauce and cilantro sprouts, fantastic.

Sushi Pop sushi

Ah it’s the end of the post, you all know what that means, dessert. Granted, Japanese restaurants aren’t typically known for their desserts, but I think we’ve established that this isn’t a normal Japanese restaurant. This is the kind that takes Japanese sweet potatoes and makes bread pudding out of it. Toasted marshmallows and a reflecting pool of Saigon crème anglaise join a nice scoop of praline ice cream, complete with a bacon hat. Not to be outdone is the P.M.S., the diabetus (sic) inducing combination of peanut butter crumbles, molten chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream.

Sushi Pop desserts

It’s rare for a restaurant to deliver dish after stunning dish with such consistency, especially with a packed house on a Saturday night. I just hate that Sushi Pop is so far from me, or anything else for that matter! Hey Chef, keep us gulf coasters in mind when you open up your next outpost. I know a bunch of serious sushi savants who’d love a chance to savor your Tsukiji fare…just saying.

Sushi Pop on Urbanspoon

Chef (2014)

I was a 15 years old year old kid who loved music and was a pretty fair dancer. I grew up listening to big band, jazz, jump blues and swing standards from my grandfathers collection. I watched the movie Swing Kids in theaters and then bought it on VHS as soon as it became available. I learned all the moves and tried my best to emulate my friend peter and swing heil. Then came Swingers. That movie, though I’ll admit it was too adult for me at the time, introduced me to a whole new way of looking at the culture. It taught me that you don’t have to like something because it was trendy, hip, hep or rooted in nostalgia. Music is timeless. The work of Count Basie, the Stray Cats or even Hepcat is timeless for me. Why? Because it’s good music. Swingers highlighted a culture synonymous with Southern California in the mid-90’s, as a teenager, I never knew existed. Although the subject matter strays from the music more often than I’d prefer, it’s still one of my all time favorites. Never would I have imagined that Jon Favreau would ever create a film that spoke to me in such a similar way, to a point where I felt he had a clear window to my psyche.

Chef Banner

That was until I watched Chef. Obviously, I love food. Jimmy and I write or talk about it daily. Everything we eat may not make the cut, but food is a constant topic of conversation in my circle of friends. My love of food has given me opportunities I never would have gotten without it. It sustains us and brings us together. The entire process of cooking delicious food makes us happy and is oddly therapeutic. As the title character (played by Favreau himself) helps us all to appreciate. As his life is turned upside down, his mantra continues to be “I don’t care what everyone says, I don’t care about the bad things that happen, or the money, I just want to cook great food.” When you are a cook, you will never lose that love, no matter how life unfolds. Another important lesson I took to heart is that you always take the ones you love along for the ride. No matter how you perceive your mundane chores or you days spent taking care of ordinary tasks. If someone wants to be your accompaniment, you let them. That reevaluation had nothing to do with food.

Chef 2014 scenes

The other poignant topic to hone in on is that of negative critiquing. Although, I feel the arrogant food critic, the type that is going to bash so that followers laugh at their contrived venom, is slowly becoming obsolete, this movie helps you understand the power of such words. On that note, it also points to the dynamic influence social marketing has on the consumer both on negative and positive fronts. The power of one voice could crush someones business just as easy as it could trebuchet it into stardom

I don’t want to go into minutiae of the all the food loving tidbits liberally sprinkled throughout the storyline. I’ll leave them for you to discover, but prepare yourself for massive amounts of food porn. Aside from a couple of logistical issues involving mobile food licensing (It’s a sore subject for me ok!) that felt simplified for storytelling purposes, it was a masterpiece. No wait. It was a KC Master-piece!

Have you ever heard a film nerd speak excitedly about all the nods that occur in every super hero movie? It’s pretty impressive, especially since I love comics and I still miss half of the stuff until I watch them 6 months later on the Screen Junkies YouTube channel after a night of heavy libation consumption. If you’re sharp and pay attention throughout the film, you’ll find lots of food related easter eggs, not to mention all the references and cameos along the way. I left smiling from ear to ear. Even the soundtrack is well thought out. I hope you all search it out and  enjoy the movie half as much as me and Jimmy did. We both agree, for us, it’s a film that will be on constant rotation for years to come.

Chef 2014 at Franklin BBQ

I realize the initial buzz for the film has probably been reduced to a low simmer. That doesn’t matter here. We just want to share our thoughts with you guys. I for one am so glad I waited to see it at the exact moment I did, in a half full theater just outside of Norman, OK. There were audible gasps of delight and wonderment when food that was clearly not the norm in this area was served on screen. It was a great reaction and I felt proud. As the movie’s theatrical run is all but over over, look for it on demand as well as a DVD release on September 30. Or…use other nefarious ways to procur a viewing. I

Before I go, I have to say one thing, because I know it will be a sore subject to some. If you’re reading this and you saw the movie, you’ll understand. Yo Favreau! Where’s the salami bro?

The Bread Pedlar – Lakeland, FL

We rarely speak about a place unless there are heaps of dishes to discuss. Regularly, the routine is to sink into a few meals worth of content before giving our devoted approval. This time is different.

The Bread Pedlar

For years, maybe a decade even, I’ve complained about the lack of a true bread artisan within a reasonable driving distance. Sure, I’m the first one that’s willing to round-up a flock of associates to head out-of-town for good pho, dim sum or a nicely cooked piece of beef. However for bread, well, don’t we all deserve a proper loaf in every city, township and municipality throughout this great land? If you polled Will McAvoy, I’m sure lack of stellar bakeries is one of his most prominent contentions with America being the greatest land of them all. Well, that along with the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, the amount of people who believe umami is real and defensive spending to avert war. None of this is our fault of course, unless you’re the kind of person that believes America is just a place to be – no better and no worse than any other place. The variance is how much room for opportunity we have. We can literally be anything we want to be. You can be an information technology expert, a hydroponic gardener/designer, a baker or all of those combined. Ask Adrian Lucas. He is all that and probably even more. As for his drive to create greatness with his own hands, I doubt we’ve even floured the surface of his potential.

Bread Pedlar croissants

Adrian is the kind of guy who saw a gap and filled it. I recall the conversation we had one morning, standing together waiting for our weekly beignet fix. As always the topic had meandered it’s way toward food and restaurants, what the city needed. I requested a good butcher and charcuterie shop, Robyn from poor porker sounded in from her lofty perched with an order for a tasty cheese monger. Adrian asked us both “What about bread?” I could sense both Robyn and my knees kind of turn to jelly as we went weak realizing both our desires could be filled perfectly with the inclusion of a crusty piece of bread. We must have been part of some sort of secret focus group because not long after, the freaking guy was off to Europe to attend a masters class on artisanal bread making. When he returned, he got to work developing his style with a legitimate small bread oven he brought across the pond. He began putting his practice to good use by selling small quantities of his wares at the market, which is sort of where we stand today. I give a huge tip of the cap to anyone that can master this nearly lost art. I’m honestly scared of yeast. I’m afraid that if I have it in my house, it will activate and form into a Voltron-like character and destroy me while I sleep. So, you can clearly see, someone who has the power to manipulate and harness this unpredictable living being that is a ball of dough and turn it into a slice of edible art, I give a great deal admiration toward.

Don’t let all this talk of bread sway you into thinking that he is limited to a singular focus. There are a few other options, hopefully with more to come. I’d love to see something like a Pithivier. We are the ones that can make it happen if we continuously show support for this tiny, tight-knit group of artisans, until it’s obvious that they’ve filled a noticeable void in the market. They are the custard to the empty profiterole that is our town.

Bread Pedlar bike n' bread

For now, to enjoy a taste of the real life, you can only find his small bicycle drawn cart once a week. Look for a proper charming Brit with rugged good looks and calloused hands meant for baking, sporting the most authentic “Newsies” cap you’ll ever see. Do not delay. As I said before, this operation can only pump out a small sampling of amazing baked treats. He usually pumps his peddles to arrive just before 10 am at the downtown Lakeland curb market Saturday mornings, and from my experience, he will sell out of the pain au chocolat and various country-style bread loaves in less than 30 minutes.

Tasting Tampa’s 13th Step Dinner Feat. Rooster and the Till

Who is Tasting Tampa? It’s a question long pondered and seldom answered to anyone’s satisfaction. Some say they’re nocturnal beings with a penchant for strong cheeses and the gonads of sea creatures, and that they can smell foie drippings from over a mile away, all I know is, they invented the infamous “13th Step Dinner”, and a few days ago, I was able to secure a spot at the coveted event.

The 13th Step Dinners spawned years ago when the gastronomic power bromance of Todd Sturtz and Kurt Raschke met for a brainstorm session over lunch. A name was formed to accurately capture their willing addiction to all things edible, a sort of support group for foodies. Predictably, Todd’s Midas touch took this seed of an idea and turned it into one of the premier food events in the Tampa Bay area.

13th Step MCs

This 13th Step was unique, as Tasting Tampa had not only recruited one of the top restaurants in Tampa to host it, but also partnered with Cigar City Brewing’s own Chris Lovett to provide beer pairings with each dish.

I arrived early and was met by a dapper Mr. Raschke, overseeing the goings on with all the grace and decorum of a top-tier symphonic composer. I was handed a menu that up to this point had been a mystery to me. With one glance I highlighted the pertinent information quicker than Robert Langdon. Oyster, sweetbreads, porcini, foie gras, beef, cipollini…GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE. I tried to regain my composure as I’m well aware that the proof is in the proverbial pudding, and many restaurants use these ingredients as a crutch. But this was Rooster and the Till, and anyone who’s made the pilgrimage knows that any level of excitement is warranted, Chef Alvarez never disappoints.

13th Step menu

After a quick introduction, the 13th Step hit the ground running with a gorgeous plate of fried riptide oysters, roasted brussels sprouts and smoked bacon on a shmear of miso caramel. A soft dusting of Korean chili powder left a lingering heat at the back of your throat. The oysters were crisp at first bite until your teeth hit the soft center. Their subtle ocean flavor was paired with a refreshing fermented cucumber for a little acidity. My favorite component was the miso caramel as it brought a sweet umami quality that served to heighten the flavor of its neighbors. The Hunahpu Imperial Stout had some clear soy and sesame notes that perfectly matched the miso sauce.

Fried Oyster

The winning dish of the night for me, came second. Veal sweetbreads with brown butter crumble, fried capers, preserved Meyer lemon and Rooster’s famous Parisian gnocchi. I might be crazy, but this dish initiated an Anton Ego style flashback to my mothers turkey dinner, albeit with far better ingredients and technique (sorry momma!). I’m hard pressed to remember a sweetbread prepared better than this. There was no stringy, chewy gristle to be found, it was perfectly tender throughout. Little explosions of salt from the capers only accentuated the flavor of the sweetbread while the preserved lemon lit up the palate with measured amounts concentrated acid. I didn’t speak a word during this dish as I was throughly enjoying my cozy little time travel session to my childhood. The paired Strong Ale that had been stored in cognac barrels was one of my favorite beers of the night. Whether it’s CCB’s brewing process, or just the nature of beer to absorb flavor, the 2012 Cheers was steeped in the buttery smooth flavor of cognac.


I’m not going to lie, when I read foie gras, I was hoping for a nice slice from a whole lobe. It was greedy of me and I feel terrible about it (sounded sincere no?), but this dish of porcini mushrooms topped with shaved foie, perfect sous vide egg yolk on a pine nut butter was no less luxurious. Dates and granola added a much-needed sweetness and crunch to this very savory affair. I didn’t even miss a protein (not counting the egg) as the porcinis were more than meaty.


I have to start with the Bourbon Barrel Big Sound on this fourth course as it was truly impressive, even to my beginner beer palate. I swear I got a faint hint of bleu cheese on the nose (though it could have been the Calabrese wafting from the kitchen) and as off-putting as that sounds, it invited curiosity. The flavor was all bourbon. They could have said they had poured a shot in each glass and I would’ve believe it. The dual medallions of beef tenderloin were the perfect match for a full flavored beer like the Bourbon Barrel. The combo of beef, potato, onions and bleu cheese is classic, but Rooster elevated it with braised cipollinis and smoked potato confit. Dots of whipped Calabrese cheese asserted themselves with the perfect amount of tang. It was a dish that would have felt right at home in a smokey steakhouse circa 1962.


Dessert arrived all too soon, but time truly does fly when you’re having fun. A broken down German chocolate cake was the subject of the fifth and final course. Like many of the dishes at Rooster, this was a reimagined version of the tired dessert we’ve all had since childhood. Broken segments of chiffon chocolate cake balanced precariously on chocolate crumbles like ruins of an ancient civilization. Sweet little dots laced with coconut framed the double stout infused ice cream against a pecan smear backdrop. I’ve been threatened on pain of death not to speak in specifics about the beer pairing for the dessert course, all I can say is that it made for one of the most amazingly flavorful ice creams I’ve ever tasted. The pecan smear brought the savory component to bring the consistent balance of flavor that Chef Alvarez achieves with each dish. Aside from the boozy ice cream, my favorite part may have been the little coconut milk custard blobs hidden between the cake shards. This was one of the most well composed desserts I’ve had in a long time.

Chocolate Cake

So that’s it, my first 13th Step Dinner all wrapped up. It goes fast I know, but I plan on becoming a regular attendee whenever the chance presents itself. If you live on the gulf coast, I’d advise you to keep a watchful eye on Tasting Tampa. I had a chance to speak with Kurt after the meal, and while I can’t reveal anything specific, I can say that tickets to the next 13th Step Dinner will go fast as soon as the chef and venue are announced, so keep on your toes!