Sunday Night Roast Chicken

Ever since foodie friend Deborah generously shared a start of her prodigious sage plant, I have been obsessed with using it on my poultry.  Mind you, this doesn’t mean I’ve actually USED it, just that I’ve thought about it a lot.

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Deborah was kind enough to also share her favorite use for this sage, a recipe for roast chicken from Cook’s Illustrated that I have ammended ever so slightly.  Last night was the night before a big exam, so naturally I was in the mood to cook something hearty and delicious at 10:30 at night, so I gave this recipe a try for the second time, with even better results than the first.  Bonus:  it’s a CHEAP and FAST dinner that feels anything but.

Plus you get to use shallots.  Shallots are in the onion family but look like a giant purple clove of garlic.  The cashier will say “What is this?”  and you’ll get to say “Oh that? That’s a shahhhhh-lot…it’s in the onion family”  They’re actually quite beautiful and have a much milder flavor than white onion, luckily for onion-hater-Anna.

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You will need:

  • 2 split chicken breasts, skin on (I’ve also done this with a whole chicken, spatchcocked, for a more folksy meal with dark meat)
  • 1/2 cup salt (regular iodized, or 1 cup kosher salt if you’re feeling fansay)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Vegetable Oil-please resist the urge to use fancy olive oil, it’s unneccessary and will SMOKE at the temperatures we’ll be using!
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, torn (you could also use fresh thyme or another herb, or I’d just throw in a clove of raw garlic….actually, I think I’ll do that next time…) If you don’t have fresh sage, ask me for some!!!!!! I STILL haven’t killed the plant she gave me!!!!!!!
  • 3 tablespoons butter, separated

Le Chicken:

1. Dissolve the salt in 2 quarts of cold water.  Submerge chicken breasts in salty water for 2 hours (If using whole chicken, brine 6 hours or as long as you can wait)

2. Preheat the oven to 450.  That’s not in Kelvins, folks, this is hot!

3.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  (The rinse doesn’t need to be super thorough, you’re just rinsing excess salt, but the drier the chicken is, the nicer and crispier your skin will get!  )

4.  Season chicken breasts with pepper.

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5.  Heat a tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet until it begins to shimmer, swirl to coat the pan.  Place chicken breasts skin-side down in skillet and sautee about 5 minutes or until the skin is nice and brown.  Flip the breasts and cook another 3 or 4 minutes.

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6.  Stick the whole skillet in the oven and roast the chicken for 15-20 minutes – until a meat thermometer reads 160 at the thickest part of the breast.  You do use a meat thermometer, right????   Fine, fine, until the juices run clear when you poke the chicken with a knife.  

7.  Pull the skillet out and let the chicken rest off the heat for at least 10 minutes while you make THE SAUCE.

Le Sauce:

REMEMBER!  A skillet which has just been removed from a hot oven will have a handle that is hot.  I remind you because I NEVER remember this.  See handle–> Grab –> Curse.

1.  Pour off all but a tablespoon or so.  Just kidding, I never do this.  But you probably should, as my shallot always turns out more deep-fried than sauteed.

2.  Add the minced shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until it softens but doesn’t brown.  If you are using garlic, saute that now as well.  Take a whiff.  

3.  Add wine, stock, and sage to the pan and cook until reduced to about 3/4 c.  (This will take about 5 minutes of simmering.) I hate when recipes tell you how much sauce you should have at the end of reduction….I can’t eyeball 3/4 cup in a 12′ skillet!!!

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4.  Off the heat, whisk in each tablespoon of butter until full incorporated.  Stir in any juices that have come off the resting chicken.

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5.  Pour gravy ALL OVER the potatoes and green beans you should have made while the chicken was cooking and FEAST!

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This meal will easily serve 2 people and actually will serve 4 if you are willing to serve halves of pterodactyl breasts that Tyson now sells.  I frequently buy and freeze packs of split chicken breasts and they work beautifully for this application when thawed.  

The Best Chocolate in Town? Yep!

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I could forgo writing any narrative at all and just admit to you that last week, I visited The Best Chocolate in Town three days in a row.  But brevity of speech has never been my strength, particularly where food is concerned, so let me regale you.

My foodie friend Annie and I have visited TBCIT several time for Truffle Tuesdays (or Thursdays, or whenever we feel like chocolate.)  Last week we visited on a Thursday.  The shop is at the “new” end of Mass Ave ***(I’ve been in Indy for some time now, long enough to say things like that.  When I moved here, Mass Ave’s public shops extended a good 2 or 3 blocks less to the northeast than they do currently.  I consider the northeast end, past 45 Degrees, to be “the new end”)***

They offer an amazing variety of truffle flavors (think cinnamon basil, honey lavender, even Sun King’s Wee Mac!) as well as other confections, gelato, and warm beverages.  Things I have sampled recently include:

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Spicy (Mexican) Cocoa:  I’m a huge fan of Mexican Hot Chocolate, which for those of you unfortunate enough to have never tried it, has cayenne pepper and cinnamon (or some combination of aromatics and spicy heat).  Until TBCIT started making it, I always counted on La Chinita Poblana for my fix, and I would still be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, although they are certainly distinct.  TBCIT also makes a mean regular hot cocoa, and let’s face it:  anytime someone asks “Would you like whipped cream on that?”  you’re making a great decision.

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Chocolate Dipped Pretzel: TBCIT uses nice big Snyder’s of Hanover-style pretzels for dipping and offers white, milk, or dark chocolate varieties.  While I liked the SIZE of the pretzel, it’s heartiness made the confection actually rather difficult to eat.  Like literally use-your-molars-difficult.

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Sea Salt Caramel and Bon Bons:  The peanut butter bon bon was quite delectable (top left in Nancy’s box)  and clockwise the sea salt caramel also met rave reviews.  We also sampled a sugar-free peanut butter cup (not pictured) that was actually quite heavenly.  There must have been Splenda or something in the chocolate shell because it was mildly sweet, but overall the confection lacked any of the overly sweetened quality that technically sugar free treats sometimes have.

From 1:00, clockwise:  Lemon Chiffon in Dark Chocolate, Cookies and Cream in white, Coconut Curry in white, Nocturne, and White chocolate cheesecake in dark chocolate.

From 1:00, clockwise: Lemon Chiffon in Dark Chocolate, Cookies and Cream in white, Coconut Curry in white, Nocturne, and White chocolate cheesecake in dark chocolate.

Truffles:  These are what TBCIT is famous for, and the reason picking a treat takes 20 minutes.  I’ve sampled several of their varieties over time, so I’ll just make general comments and then list the ones I have liked the best (Hint:  it’s all of them).  In general, I like the truffles here, as evidenced by my return visits.  And they certainly live up to their claim as the best chocolate in town, at least to the best of my knowledge.  But I hail from the land of Fannie May, and I wouldn’t say these are the best chocolates I’ve ever had by a decent shot.

For my personal taste, the outer shell of TBCIT truffles tends to be a little on the thick side, making it somewhat tough to bite.  The ganache filling, depending on the flavor, is sometimes a bit dry.  If this were any other food, I would not even mention these textural issues, because they are slight.  But truffles are a piece of candy the size of a Reese’s cup at 10 times the price, and are by their nature something that needs to be EXECUTED.  To me, a truffle needs to have a ganache that is not oppressively dense, but not light and fluffy either.  By way of a standard, I’d say a happy medium between fudge and a 3 Musketeers bar.  The shell needs to be a rich chocolate with just the right fat content to feel luxurious and silky in your mouth.  I expect my tooth to glide through the interface between shell and ganache without a hiccup, and that component is missing from TBCIT truffles.  They are just a bit too sturdy, in my opinion, for a luxury food item.

That said, what their truffles lack in structural subtlety, they make up for in ingenuity.  I have always been impressed with the creativity of the confectioners in blending interesting flavors into their truffles without overtaking the chocolate flavor.  I never order, say, Ginger Wasabi, and regret that I didn’t just get a regular chocolate truffle, because the execution is that good.    You can view a list of their extensive truffle menu at their website, although I doubt all flavors are available every day.  I can personally vouch for the awesomeness of:

-Chocolate Malt

-Hazelnut

-Nocturne (their SUPER dark, which I’m a junkie for but though their version to frankly be quite dry)

-Espresso Cardamom

-Coconut Curry (TRY THIS ONE!)

-Raspberry

-Milk Chocolate

-Balsamic Cabernet

-Lemon Chiffon

I’m dying to try The Gorg (gorgonazola filling!), any of the Cheesecake filling varieties, and Honey Lavender.  I also just saw they started carrying Lick ice cream (made in Indianapolis and normally only available at City Market or on trucks) so that will have to happen soon, too.

In summary (thought I’d never stop blabbing about chocolate, didn’t you??), I like this place a whole lot.  But for a great great truffle, that serene perfect expression of elegant chocolatey glory, I go elsewhere.

http://Best Chocolate in Town on Urbanspoon

Christina Cooks Curry

My original inspiration to start writing a blog was all the talented and interesting people around me with such depth of knowledge.  In that vein, I’m thrilled to introduce my first guest poster, Christina!

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Christina is one of my most adventurous friends. Here’s us trying our hand at live lobster steaming-totally her idea.

I can still remember when I discovered Thai cuisine. Now, I use the word “discover” loosely because it’s not as though I was Columbus, discovering the New World. Instead, I found myself at a strip mall Thai restaurant called Exotic Thai II for a friend’s birthday dinner. She recommended the panang curry– it was love at first bite. Unfortunately for me (at least where my love for curry is concerned) I soon moved to Germany. The Germans do a lot of things well – Semmelknödel, Sauerbraten and Käsespätzle all come to mind. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a Thai restaurant that I loved. So I decided that I would learn to cook Thai, starting with that first dish, panang curry.

It took me several dozen tries, but I think I’ve finally got it figured out.

The first thing you need is a good cookbook. My absolute favorite is Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott, who learned the art of Thai cooking while in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer. These recipes are simple, fast, and delicious.

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Next, let’s talk ingredients. You can find most ingredients at your local store…but you shouldn’t. No offense to Thai Kitchen, but that’s just not going to cut it. If you are in the Indianapolis area, I recommend hitting up Saraga International Market, one of the best (and least expensive!) international markets I’ve been to.


Anna and I took a trip to load up on some international ingredients. Here are my favorite brands for:

  • Coconut milk

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  • Curry paste

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  • Fish sauce

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Here is my recipe for Panang Curry with Beef that is adapted from a recipe found in Quick & Easy Thai. Caution: this dish is spicy!

  •  Large pot or wok
  • About 1-1.25 pounds flank steak or sirloin, thin slices, sliced against the grain*
  • About 2 cans 14oz coconut milk  *Note:  use unsweetened coconut milk, also labeled “for cooking”*
  • Two tablespoons panang curry paste (or other Thai curry paste)
  • Two tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on preference)
  • Two large bell peppers cut into long, thin slices (I like to use red and green for color. Feel free to substitute other vegetables)
  • 1/2 cup water (depending on preference)

*If you have problems slicing the meat, pop it in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes to stiffen it up. It makes cutting way easier. You can also substitute chicken or shrimp (no need to slice the shrimp).

First, begin by cooking your beef. I’ve found that cooking the beef separately and then draining works the best because it can get a little too gritty otherwise. I like to cook the beef in a little coconut milk, but I’ve also used broth and just plain water and both have worked out OK. Add about ¾ a cup of coconut milk to your pot and cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes, stirring semi-frequently. Add the beef. Stir for a few minutes until beef is mostly cooked (it’s OK if it still pink).  Separate the beef from the liquid- set the beef aside and discard the liquid.

Next, add another ¾ cup coconut milk to the pot. Heat the coconut milk over medium-heat, stirring every now and then until it starts to thicken up. At that point, add 2 TB of curry paste. You want to make sure it is completely dissolved into the coconut milk. Next, add 2 TB fish sauce and 1 TB brown sugar. At this point, add the remainder of your coconut milk. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

After a few minutes, add your bell peppers and cook until they are still slightly crisp. Go ahead and add your beef, stirring constantly until it is fully cooked. Depending on how thick your curry is, you may want to add the ½ cup water to reach desired consistency.

Serve the curry immediately with jasmine rice. Yum.

One final note- when making curry, it really is about personal preference. You may want it slightly thinner or thicker, sweet or more savory, spicy or a little more mild. Sugar is one of the things that is very easy to mess up because it tends to hide inside of the beef when cooking. So, if you are just testing the sauce, it might not taste sweet enough. I recommend taking a bite with the beef and peppers so you get a true idea of what your curry is like. Usually if I want mine a little sweeter, I will just add a little more sugar to the individual serving.

I hope you enjoyed this guest entry!

Christina

First Cookout of the Season

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Yesterday was a perfect day to put into action two rules by which I try to live. Never spend a beautiful day inside, and, whenever possible, share meals with people worth sharing meals with. I had bought this Groupon a while back (those who know me will appreciate my over-the-top Groupon habit- it’s not real money if you spend it online, right?) for a butcher, so I had been dreaming of New York strips basically since…well, since my last steak. Then, they forecast 60 degree sunshine! So the party got moved outside and a few friends met up for that ultimate American tradition-The Grilling of the Meats in Public Spaces.

If, for some reason, you live in Indianapolis but don’t use the canal area, you really should. Perhaps you think it is for runners or joggers or people with dogs. Perhaps you think it is restricted to those in fancy workout gear or with bikes or those silly 6 person bike bus things they rent out at the paddleboat place.

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Fun fact: while hunting down this sweet photo, I learned that the 2 person version is called a Deuce Coupe. Dare you to try ask for one with a straight face-double points for saying “Coupe” like Jeremy Clarkson

All I know is that they won’t kick you out for sitting on your duff with a piece of red meat and no intention of moving.  And possibly even with an alcoholic beverage on the Sabbath.

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On the menu: Steak, chicken (marinated in white wine, lemon pepper, and other deliciosities by not myself), brats, biscuits with apple butter, all kinda chips, and grilled pineapple.

use4Watermelon in April in a place where it just stopped snowing like yesterday. Say what you want about eating local, this was freakin delicious.

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The FDA has yet to approve my health claims about eating in the fresh air or about dining with really interesting and funny people, but I stand by them (for now let’s call them supplements.)

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Sundae Sunday

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Sundae Sunday

I know I said I’d try new places and I will! I swear! But I was in Fishers and I just can’t help myself. This is the Handel’s Four Scoop Sampler. Counterclockwise from top left: Spouse Like a House, Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, Lemon, and Banana Cream Pie.

-Chocolate raspberry truffle is my always favorite-Dark dark chocolate with giant chunks of miraculously unwaxy fudge and thick swirls of tart raspberry jam.

-Lemon was a flavor of the month and missed the mark a bit with it’s slightly chemical taste. I LOVE lemon ice cream but if it tastes at all like Mr. Clean smells, I’m out.

-Banana cream pie was a revelation of mild, natural banana flavor and pie crust chunks (Note the decidedly un-YELLOW color). The company’s coconut cream pie is equally, if not more, amazing.

-Spouse Like a House is vanilla with chunks of chocolate-covered, peanut-butter-filled pretzel. Your heard me. Pretzels. Filled with peanut butter. Covered in chocolate. Get you some.

http://Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Foodless Fridays: Indiana Medical History Museum

Today was an unseasonably cold day, and my friend Nancy was in town and in need of entertainment.  With the usual plan of “Wander around eating my way through a cultural district” out of the question, I had to dig deep in my Indianapolis book of tricks for something interesting to do.  Nancy is an ICU nurse, so I knew she’d enjoy the Indiana Medical History Museum.

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The museum is housed in the former State Pathology Laboratory, built in 1896 on the grounds of the Central State Hospital for the Insane.  At it’s “peak,” the hospital cared for and housed nearly 3,000 patients on 100 acres just east of downtown Indianapolis.  The Pathology Laboratory itself was a destination for physicians around the state and country for its cutting edge technology and the techniques developed there.  The museum now offers tours of the teaching facilities, library, morgue, and histology and chemistry labs for a small fee.

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If you’re a scientist or science enthusiast, it’s fascinating to see how far we have come since the lab was functioning and how many many things are still the same.  If you’re a total science flop, you’ll still be intrigued by the architectural detail and history of the place itself.photo (16)photo (13)photo (15)photo (17)“Funeral directors: Please be sure refrigerator door is closed after removing body” Indeed.

 

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Bru Burger

Tryin the Bru

So I had been to Bru for the first time a few weeks ago and LOVED their ahi burger but wanted to go back for several reasons. Most importantly, it was my foodie friend Kate’s birthday and we needed to celebrate. However, I was doubly glad to be going because

1. The ahi burger was great-like really great-but we all know a burger ain’t a burger less it bleeds.
2. Last time I went it was for a quick lunch-therefore no sides, drinks, or desserts were sampled. And as discussed in my last post, burgers are all about the accoutrements for me!

So my expectations were high. And overall, my visit was very, very enjoyable. But there were issues, so I’ll discuss those first.

1. The name. I mean really. This is a part of the restaurant group that owns Mesh, which I am a fan of, and Stone Creek Dining Company, whose ribs I would kill a second-degree relative for. But “Bru” is really an awful name.
2. The burgers stand alone. This is annoying. It’s always a LITTLE annoying when restaurants try to leeeeech money out of you by selling you $6 creamed spinach alongside your $35 steak. Couldn’t you just throw in a dollop of potatoes and not nickel and dime me, please, Ruth’s Chris? But it’s extra annoying at Bru. Because let’s be real: EVERYBODY WANTS FRIES WITH A BURGER. PERIOD. Doesn’t have to be a ton, but I’m paying $10 for a burger, throw me a bone. We wound up splitting a plate of chili cheese fries between 7 of us for $8, which is a totally fair price, but then it wasn’t split on the bill, causing hassle and potential awkwardness and honestly just give me a few $*&%JFHJ## French fries please. Thank you.

3. It was packed. On a Wednesday at 6. Congratulations to them for being popular, but there was only one exit (aside from an emergency exit) and it was unbelievable how poorly laid out the restaurant is. Constant banging in to other guests and servers, only one restroom per gender, not enough ordering computers so the servers were lined up 3 deep right next to our table where the computers were. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but if it was that bad on a Wednesday at 6… Also they don’t take reservations, which I understand but still chaps my ass a bit, especially since our group of 7 then had to wait an hour for a table. That’s why groups of 7 need reservations.

4. The kitchen seemed to have a really hard time with orders. 4 of our 7 got raw onion on their burgers despite asking for it to be withheld. One guy got mayonnaise despite asking for none. I got onion rings despite NOT asking for them, then alerted my server and was charged anyway and then had to wait for him to stand in aforementioned line to get it off my bill. None of it was a big deal, but that’s kind of a lot of screw ups!

Ok, so that’s the bad. Here’s the good news, and why I will be going back.

1. THE BURGERS WERE AWESOME! Our group tried several of the 765 burger options. **Note: “garden” means tomato, lettuce, and onion, and as you may have guess, elicited a huge eye roll from me**

Provencal (Basil aoili, red onion jam, herbed goat cheese, and sauteed mushrooms) This one got rave reviews from the birthday girl, who insisted I try the delectable aoili. I think it will be my next pick when I visit again.

The Beginning (American cheese, pickle, mayo, mustard, ketchup, and garden) Nobody complained or raved because their mouths were full!photo (21)

Black and Bleu Bacon Burger (Blackened beef, mayo, gorgonzola, and garden) This one got mediocre reviews from the eater for being really light on the gorgonzola-she said she loves bleu cheese and was hoping for some stinky cheese taste in every bite and that didn’t happen. She also ordered her burger rare and said although it was medium at best, it still was very juicy and flavorful. Overall, she was happy with the burger but underwhelmed with it as a Black and Bleu.

The Classic Bacon Cheeseburger (Thick-cut bacon, mayo, white cheddar, and garden) I was totally impressed by the quality of the bacon and the perfect flavor and juiciness of the meat. No grease running down my chin, but also no need to gulp water after every arid bite. Perfect classic.

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Memphis Barbecue Sandwich (Pulled pork, white cheddar, homemade BBQ, fried onion, and southern-style slaw)

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2. The booze was on point! Sadly I opted not to order a brew for several reasons, but the beer offerings were solid-you’ll just have to trust me. Two of our party tried signature cocktails. The birthday girl got a Pear Cosmopolitan, which I tried and loved for it’s very peary taste. Another girl got a Mole Manhattan, which was incredibly strong but mostly just whiskey without much of the spicy chocolate taste implied by the name. The cocktails made what would be a decently priced burger meal into a night-out-priced dinner, but this place definitely didn’t skimp on the alcoholic offerings.

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3. The sides were spiffy! I was informed by another member of our group that Bru makes all their own sauces (even ketchup and the whipped cream atop their desserts!) I was pleasantly surprised also that I wasn’t beaten over the head with this fact (“our signature house mayonnaise, our house-made ketchup” was happily absent from the menu and waiter’s lingo) The chili cheese fries and milkshakes were just scrumptious. I guess I’m tacky because that’s exactly what I want at a burger joint.

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4. The service was good. Not over the top amazing, but very adequate, polite, and friendly despite being obviously quite busy. At places this in-demand, I have increasingly found hostesses and waitstaff to cop attitudes, but that was not the case at all here and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.

We rounded things out by chowing down on Flying Cupcakes (ok, we got them before!!! I admit!!!) And the whole thing made for a lovely, lovely night. If you’re on Mass Ave and craving a burger, I highly recommend this place. Unless you’re on a budget. Or it’s Friday.

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http://BRU Burger Bar on Urbanspoon