On our first night in Amherst, we looked for something that felt like home, something more comforting like a warm bowl of soup or a big cup of noodles. Walking around downtown, we walked into a small, inconspicuous shop with bright lights spelling out the words “Crazy Noodles”. It was neither an elegant fine dining experience, nor a hole in a wall with nowhere to sit, but it looked like something we would really enjoy. With a wide variety of noodles and soups on their menu, we were intrigued, and after nearly 10 minutes of browsing we settled down ready to order. My dad went for the basil chili vegetable stir fry, my mom the vegetarian noodle soup, and I went for a supposed Amherst “favorite”, the Wonton noodle soup. When it arrived, it didn’t look too special with a few scallions sprinkled on top and golden brown wontons assembled around the side of the bowl, but that was about to change. When I took my first sip, I felt at home. On a rainy day in a new city, the warmth and familiarity of a chicken broth is a perfect solution. Crazy Noodles delivered on just this, trying to balance out the depth and flavor of chicken broth while adding flavors to enhance the experience. It was the very subtle aspects of this soup like spices and perfect saltiness of the broth, the chewy egg noodles, and the golden brown crispy wontons that made this dish better than your typical asian chicken noodle soup.
The other place we tried was an Italian staple near Amherst, Mulinos. Interesting, this was not a restaurant we had found, but one highly recommended by the Amherst Inn owner, Anne. Anne has been a local for nearly 30 years, and just like me, is a massive foodie. She has tried all the biggest restaurants in and around Amherst, so she knew what she was talking about. Our trip to Mulino’s was on the last day, so none of us felt like driving out of Amherst for 20-30 minutes and sit down for a 2 hour dinner, but inspired by Anne’s pure joy and excitement for Mulino’s we decided to get out, enjoy their famous patio seating, and have a great meal. When we got there, we were with nearly 20 people waiting for a table, but thankfully we had a reservation. While waiting for our table to open up, we heard somebody talking about how they got lucky to get a table for 9:30 that night. That got us excited, a restaurant with multiple hour wait times had to be worth it. After sitting down, a steam basket of bread and roasted pepper sauce arrived. The rustic bread had a rough, crunchy exterior with an airy and soft interior. The roasted pepper sauce had the nice undertone of smokiness alongside a silky smooth texture from what I assume is high-quality olive oil. Next came the dish of the night in my opinion, the salmon pasta. What I noticed at Mulinos was their use of high quality ingredients with subtle hints of unique flavors, not overpowering the highlight of the dish, in this case the salmon. To start, the fettuccine pasta was perfectly cooked with small ridges to soak up the sauce. Beside the pasta, the salmon was cooked extremely well, a little overdone for my taste but a perfect medium for most. Finally came the sauce that really stole the dish. Instead of going for a marinara or alfredo, Mulino’s went for a light garlic olive oil sauce with a ton of herbs as well as a hint of fish stock to complement the salmon. The olive oil again was perfect, adding a hint of natural spice (a very different spice than chili, more like a burning wasabi spice).