A Really Good Burger Joint – UBurger

burger with onion rings from Uburger

When it comes to burgers, I know my stuff.  A burger and fries has been my go-to order for as long as I can remember. There is nothing like a good burger. When burger joints started popping up nearby, I was really excited; until I tried a few and walked away underwhelmed. Maybe I’m a tough critic, but I have not been wowed by any specialty burger restaurant – until now.

UBurger Comes to Andover

Last weekend, I stopped into UBurger in Andover with my youngest, Ally. I didn’t have particularly high expectations, but we were already in Andover center and hungry so I figured it was worth a try. It’s new to the area and I love trying new places, so why not? Well, after one bite of the UCheeseburger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and house sauce, I was very pleasantly surprised. As soon as I could speak, without a mouthful, I muttered, “Oh my God – this is good.”  I don’t know what’s in that house sauce, but they should bottle it up and sell it. Ally, a lifelong food critic of 14 years, agreed without contest.

Now, this story doesn’t end here because a good burger can only be categorized as really good when I can’t get it off my mind.  When this weekend rolled around and Saturday was washed out with rain, I mentioned UBurger to Tony. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than popping over to the newest burger joint? Tony accompanied me willingly and, as I anticipated, he was as impressed as I was. His exact words after taking a bite of his A + burger with onion rings, cheddar, tomato and A1 steak sauce were, “Wow, this really is a good burger.” He said it as if he hadn’t quite believed my initial report that this was one of the best burgers I’d had in a long time. I also had the A+ and yeah, its name is its grade on the burger report card of my life.

burger, fries and a diet coke from Uburger
Lunch for two: my dream meal – burger, fries and Diet Coke.

So, what makes a good burger in my book? I would say quality ingredients to start, a burger that’s not too greasy, but not dry, toppings that add flavor and variety but aren’t sloppy and, most importantly, it’s got to taste good. UBurger had it all.

The thing about high-end burger places is that you go in with high expectations. When the expectation falls short, there is no reason to go back because, nowadays, there’s bound to be another, better burger joint right down the road.

The fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about my first UBurger until I went back for another is a sure sign that UBurger is on a tasty track to the top of the burger revolution.

Here’s what else the Andover UBurger has going for it. They serve beer and wine – bonus! Their burgers are all natural and their frappes are delicious and come in a variety of awesome flavors.

Uburger Frappe
Tony got coffee, but I’m in for a Creamsicle next time.

Also, for those not in the mood for a burger, which makes no sense to me, but regardless, UBurger has salads, chicken sandwiches and hot dogs. But come on, you’re at a burger joint – just have the burger.

I’m pretty psyched that UBurger wound up in the next town over from mine.  With only three other locations in Boston, I consider myself lucky.  And, if I’m being honest, I’m already thinking about my next trip in. Now that’s a good sign of a really good burger.

Have you been to UBurger? Check them out if you are near Andover or one of their other locations at the BU West Campus, Kenmore Square and Northeastern.

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Red, White, Green, Yellow? Cooking with Onion

cooking with onion varieties

 

This may seem like a weird topic, but it’s been on my mind all week. I recently learned that I have no idea what’s what when it comes to cooking with onion.  In a recent conversation with a neighbor, she mentioned needing to run out for an onion because the red onion she had at home wasn’t right for what she was cooking. I said, “What are you making?” She said, “Soup.” I said, “Why not just use the red onion?” She said, “Well it’s soup; a red onion doesn’t work for soup.”

It doesn’t! I would have used the red onion without a second thought, but then I realized I’ve never really considered my choice of onion in all the years I’ve been cooking.  If a recipe calls for onion, I just throw in whatever I have on hand; which is usually a red onion (because I think they are pretty) and sometimes yellow because, somehow, I am aware that a yellow onion is pretty multi-purpose. Truthfully, if I had scallions in, I’d toss those in there too.

I give no thought whatsoever to which kind of onion would be better for a dish. Well, my neighbor was indeed correct and she piqued my curiosity.

I did a quick google search for “what onions are best…” and wouldn’t you know; all sorts of results popped up. Here’s what I learned:

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Try Something New – A Cooking Class

TasteBuds Kitchen Cooking Class
Mangia!

 

At the start of 2016, I committed to getting out more, saying yes to things I would normally say no to and trying new things. Things are going pretty well. I’ve started my first book club, I tried couples golf and, just Saturday night, Tony and I took the girls to a comedy show in Boston. I’m not going to lie; it was rainy, I was tired and a part of me didn’t feel like going. But I rallied and we all had a lot of laughs.

Taste Buds Kitchen-Cooking Class

I also just recently tried a cooking class at Taste Buds Kitchen in North Andover. It was a blast. When owner, Laurel Holmes, opened Taste Buds back in May 2016, I thought it might just be for kids. I also thought it was an independent business. Turns out, I was wrong on both counts. The North Andover location is one of several franchises from Montana to New York. The company is based in New York City and offers all types of classes, camps and parties for people of all ages.

The Adult BYOB cooking class drew in the fun group of women I joined. BYOB – enough said! There were many dates and menus options to choose from; Steakhouse, New York Pizza, Tasty Thai and Handmade Pasta are just a few of the foods we could learn to cook. We decided on Tapas Espanolas. I was excited about this choice because I love small plates and I’ve never tried my hand at Spanish cooking.

Upon arriving I was immediately taken with the open floor plan and vibrant green/orange color scheme. I adored the industrial chic ambiance inside the West Mill space on High St. I’m a huge fan of the brick, wood, stainless steel vibe.

TasteBuds Cooking Class
*Tapas *Wine and a little something to much on *Cheers ladies! *Instructors in action.

 

My party occupied about half of the cooking stations. The remainder of the cooking class was full of other students ready to whisk, mix and roll right along with us. In the course of two, fun-filled hours we prepared three delicious tapas; Butternut Squash Empanadas, Patatas Bravas (diced potatoes with spicy sauce) and Albondingas (turkey meatballs). My favorite dish was the Patatas.

TasteBuds Kitchen cooking class
A fun night with a fun group and a tray full of Albondigas!
TasteBuds Kitchen cooking class
Empanadas in the making. Nice work Valerie!
TasteBuds Kitchen Cooking Class
**Stirring it up with my fellow chefs *My knife skills are on point *Executive Chef, Andrea D’Angelo and Instructor, Chef Susan

 

Before the night ended, we sat together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Leftovers were nicely packaged for us to take home and we were each given the recipes for what we prepared in our cooking class.

 

TasteBuds Kitchen Cooking Class
*Albondigas, Empanadas, Patatas

 

It was a great night and I would be happy go back . In fact, Karla, Sue and Susan; how about a cooking class for our next GNO?

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Swordfish Recipe with Avocado Mango Salsa

ingredients for stir-fry swordfish recipe and avocado mango salsa

 

Before summer comes to an official close, I thought I’d share one of my favorite summer recipes. Typically prepared on the grill, I have brought this version inside to cook up on my new stir-fry pan, which I’m obsessed with by the way (thank you Mom).

 

Food Network Stir-Fry pan
My Food Network Stir-Fry pan – LOVE!

 

With a few minor adaptations, this May to September swordfish recipe is something I’d be happy to whip up when the weather is cooler, but I’m still in the mood for something light and refreshing.

Summer, winter, spring or fall; this swordfish recipe with mango avocado salsa is super easy and really tasty. Guests love it and it always makes a great impression when served.

When I’ve prepared this on the grill, I marinate the fish in oil, lime, juice, salt, pepper and even a splash of tequila. However, in the stir-fry pan I prefer to keep the fish dry so it can brown nicely – so just salt and pepper for today’s version.

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pound swordfish, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup mango (in summer I use fresh, but this time I used precut, frozen and it was delish)
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley (original recipe calls for cilantro – I had parsley in)
  • Juice of 1 lime, more if you like
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A dash of red pepper flake for a kick

Directions

First prepare the salsa by combining the avocado, mango, onion, parsley, lime, salt, pepper and pepper flake in a bowl. Mix gently so not to break the mango or avocado. The frozen mango held up so beautifully, I may actually prefer it.

 

mango avocado salsa for swordfish recipe
The salsa!

 

Heat stir-fry pan on stove top and lightly oil. Sprinkle swordfish with salt and pepper and toss in the pan. It cooks through and browns so quickly, you’re done before you know it!

 

Fresh swordfish cut into cubes
Fresh swordfish cut into cubes
swordfish sauteing in pan
Sizzle, sizzle.

 

Serve over a bed of rice and you’ve got an amazing meal for every season.

 

swordfish with mango avocado salsa over a bed of rice
The meal

 

I hope you enjoy this swordfish recipe with yummy avocado mango salsa!

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Mike’s Magnificent 3 Olives and a Twist Martini

Mike and his perfect martini
Always served with a smile!

 

Lately, I find myself telling the story of how this blog got its name. I haven’t always been a martini drinker. There was that one time in my early twenties when I first experienced the thrill of a good martini. I enjoyed the taste so much, I somehow managed to drink five in one night (such an amateur). This little feat earned me the nickname of “Martina” for at least a year. My overindulgence also managed to turn me off from the sophisticated cocktail for twenty-five years.

I slowly reintroduced martinis to my repertoire about three years ago. As I slowed down, I began favoring the slow sip that a perfect martini encourages. I also enjoyed the soothing state of mind it delivered – I find myself very relaxed at the first sip of a good martini. I don’t really need more than one, but I often have two. Depending on the type I order, they can satisfy a sweet or savory craving.

While Cosmopolitans and Appletinis are nice, they are a rare choice for my palate. I most often gravitate to a classic martini. Upon ordering, typical questions follow:

  • Gin or Vodka? Vodka please!
  • Shaken or stirred? Shaken and very, very cold.
  • Olives or a twist? And here’s where I’d always pause.

Can’t I have both? I love olives, but I also love the crisp, freshness of lemon. And so my order became – a Grey Goose martini with three olives and a twist of lemon – emphasis on the “and.” I’d often get quizzical looks from the server followed by, “You want both olives AND lemon?” “Yup, that’s right – oh and can you be sure it’s 3 olives – I just like it that way.”

While this became my standard order, it was not until Mike Moffet, of North Andover Country Club, made my signature drink, did I know this should be my blog name. How he does his perfect 3 olives and a twist martini differently, I do not know for sure. But, I always know when Mike has made my cocktail it is smoother, colder and crisp with just the hint of lemon that I like.

Making the perfect 3 Olives and a Twist martini
The process!

 

My blog was intended to be a place where I write about things that I like and make me happy. That’s exactly how I’d describe Mike’s Magnificent Martini.

 

3 olives and a twist Martini with grey goose
Perfection

 

There you have it – a 3 Olives and a Twist Martini. I hope you enjoy it here as much as I do in a glass.

What’s your favorite martini and who makes it best? Share in the comments below!

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