Monday, December 30, 2013

Pizza & Pho Go Together, Right?

First, in unrelated-to-food news, there's a new man in town. And by man, I mean an 11-week-old Newfoundland puppy named Maximus. BFTB recently picked up the little dude from a breeder in West Virginia and I can say with 100% certainty that I am absolutely, unequivocally, head-over-heels in love with the little fuzz nugget. While I know it's no legitimate excuse, little Max's presence has definitely slowed down my blog posting speed. Alas, it's about to be a new year and one of my resolutions is to pump out my posts a little quicker (another resolution is to eat healthier... putting money on the fact that I'll fail at resolution #2 would be a very safe bet). 

The newest addition to our hungry little family, Maximus, the baby Newfoundland

Tony's Pizza - Huntersville
With my personal goal being to get as many calories ingested as possible before midnight on December 31st (when the healthy eating will start), BFTB and I decided to feast our faces off yesterday. We started our day by heading up to my parents' house to watch the Panthers game with my family (I'd also like to note that the Panthers seem to score every time I take Max outside to pee, so I should probably hang out in the yard for the duration of the playoffs). On the way, we stopped at Tony's Pizza in Huntersville to pick up a pie to gorge ourselves on during the game. We opted to get a medium pizza: half ham and pineapple, half sausage and green peppers. BFTB had only tried Tony's on one previous occasion and was moderately excited, but I am a very experienced Tony's eater and was practically drooling while I called in my order. The pizzas are of the ridiculously huge (a medium-sized pie is bigger than an extra large from any delivery chain), NY-style variety and are consistently pretty darn good (or at least I thought consistently until this experience...). 

Tony's Pizza: sausage and green peppers on the left & ham and pineapple on the right
Once we arrived at my parents' place, we dug in. Although a ham and pineapple combo is my go-to topping choice, we both agreed that the sausage and pepper-smothered slices made up the tastier half of the 'za. The ham was a little funky and almost tasted a bit sour, which is uncharacteristic of normal Tony's quality. The sausage, on the other hand, was spicy, delicious, and gave me no qualms about its freshness. Ham excluded, our pizza definitely hit the spot. Despite the one lackluster pork product, we were both pretty happy with our lunch and based on prior experiences, I'm going to consider the ham issue an anomaly. I'm happy to return to Tony's in the near future to give it another shot. Based on this experience, however, Tony's gets a 7/10.

Tony's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Vietnam Grille - South Boulevard
Recently, my friend, Noora, introduced me to the gloriousness that is Vietnam Grille. I don't know what rock I've been living under, but holy horse apples, that place is amazing. Located in the corner of a somewhat sketchy-looking shopping center, I didn't have the highest of expectations the first time I walked through the doors. However, Vietnam Grille is definitely a case where I shouldn't have judged the book-shaped restaurant by its cover.

Left: cơm tấm thịt nướng; Top Right: bún đặc biệt; Bottom Right: pho tái

In typical Vietnamese food newbie fashion, I'm a big fan of the restaurant's steak and chicken phở. The broth is absolutely outstanding and tastes extra ginger-y, without being too salty. I'm a big fan of loading my phở up with almost all of the Thai basil, jalapeno slices, and sprouts the restaurant provides on the side. That way, the flavors meld together throughout the meal and the soup gets spicier and more delicious with each bite. It's also an awesome deal to get the phở to-go. For about $8, you get a giant container of broth, a giant container of noodles and meat, and another giant container of veggies and garnishes. All together, it makes at least two meals, even when I'm at my hungriest. 

On our most recent visit, however, BFTB and I both passed on the phở and went with two new choices -the cơm tấm thịt nướng (steamed broken rice with pork) for BFTB and the bún đặc biệt (rice vermicelli noodles with crispy spring rolls, chargrilled shrimp, meatballs, and grilled chicken) for me. While we were both pleased with our meals, BFTB and I both agreed that the bún was the tastier choice. BFTB's pork was a little dry and the entire meal tasted underseasoned, but it was rescued by the tasty nuoc mam sauce. I cannot say enough good things about the bún đặc biệt (in fact, it was so good that I went back and got some for lunch today). The shrimp, chicken, and mini spring rolls were all flavorful and cooked to perfection. I was particularly impressed by the spring rolls (seriously, how does anything stay that crispy when swimming in a sea of noodles?!) and the shrimp -all of which were large, deliciously sweet, and nothing like the rubbery texture I'm used to getting when I order shrimp in Asian restaurants. In comparison, the meatballs were not nearly as delicious as the other proteins (yes, I'm counting spring rolls as a protein), but they were definitely tasty enough. Just as with BFTB's meal, the nuoc mam sauce was delicious when doused on mine, and I really enjoyed the noodles at the bottom of the bowl where little bits of peanuts, chili sauce, and sprouts had accumulated and coated each nuoc mam-soaked bite. All in all, I'm a huge fan of Vietnam Grille and am sure that I'll return again and again, just maybe not for the broken rice. As far as Vietnamese food goes, Vietnam Grille gets an 8.5/10.

Vietnam Grille on Urbanspoon

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