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Monday, October 29, 2012

Eastern Standard Brunchielunch

Eastern Standard is worth all of the hype it gets. I've only had consistently great meals and service there. No matter what I eat, it's satisfying and creative. Since it was a weekend between 10 and 2, I was geared up for some brunch. I define brunch as breakfast, but bigger. Eastern Standard had a part brunch, part lunch menu because it was Saturday and they only serve full brunch on Sunday. The food was awesome, but sitting outside comfortably in late October was the best part.

After pondering the menu for a while, I was set to order eggs. The past few times I dined at ES, I had a pastrami sandwich and since it was missing from the menu, I branched out. My dining partner had settled on the Croque-Madame. When the waiter told us the addition to the menu, I made a quick change and went for the homemade ricotta gnocchi with veggies and lamb sausage. I am a sucker for homemade pasta, and I figured the gnocchi would be the perfect substitute for all the bread I'd eat if I chose a breakfast option. We decided to balance the extreme carbs with a side salad.

After enjoying the fresh bread, butter and good conversation, the meals arrived. I started eating the perfectly cooked gnocchi with fresh almost crisp cauliflower, pea pods and tomatoes  The gnocchi was seared on the outside and right amount of chewiness. I could not find the lamb in my dish. Not to worry though, because the waiter could not have been nicer when adding it. They re-plated my dish with the lamb sausage, so it went from being a gnocchi primavera to a unique combination of gnocchi, lamb and veggies. I hope that in the future they make both the pasta dishes available. While the lamb sausage added a lot of flavor and smokiness to the dish, it was just as good and even a little bit lighter without it.

The side salad was tasty. It was mesclun greens with a garlicky mustard vinaigrette  Given the size of our entrees it was the perfect size to share. Sometimes at Eastern Standard, I find myself having the great salad versus french fry debate. The fries at ES are thin and perfectly crisp with some fresh herbs and the salad has those qualities with the added health benefits. At lunch we had our salad and fries too, because my dining buddy's dish came with fries.

The Croque Madam was beautiful. It was a layer of french toast topped with ham, cheese and a sunny side up egg and french fries. The dish looked to pretty to eat, and it tasted as good as it looked. The combination of sweet and savory was great. If I had to categorize it, I'd pair it with eggs Benedict because it had most of the same components. We joked about how big the dish was, yet it was devoured. I'm glad I got to try it because, had I ordered it, I probably would have been full for 24-hours and I never like skipping meals!

I appreciated that even after I had the waiter put my leftover two bites of pasta in a doggy bag that they still offered us dessert menus. The desserts sounded delicious, and I was tempted, but we opted to get the check for fear that we would be unable to stand if we ate anymore.

Eastern Standard is one of my favorite restaurants in Boston. Jeremy Sewall is an artist! Their menu has a large variety of dishes with an array of ingredients and prices. While I have yet to go for dinner, I can vouch for the outstanding breakfasts, lunches and brunchielunches. Maybe next time I go, I'll steal less fries and have room for dessert!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hawthorne Pot de Awesome

This is a somewhat impromptu post as I expected to just get a few apps when out for my friend's birthday last night at the Hawthorne, but wow, I got so much more. By so much more, I got a very tasty Caesar salad and the chocolate pot de creme for dessert.

The ladies around me had amazing looking drinks and got a few other apps. I decided given my low tolerance and the fact that it was a Monday night, I'd stick to apps and dessert. I tasted the potato skins which were really stuffed full fingerling potatoes. They were perfect and delish with bacon and a hint of mustard and cheese. I also tried the olives. The portion was large and the olives warm. My salad was perfectly chopped and dressed. I even forced myself to eat the anchovies. I think anchovies get a bad rep and are actually quite tasty.

I waited for a while for my dessert. I am notorious for going out and getting just dessert, but I figured I should fill up on something else first. The pot de creme was perfect and fulfilled my chocolate craving. My only wish is that I'd taken a picture. It was like rich chocolate pudding with salt and orange on top and really think rich whipped cream. The consistency was thick and creamy and the salt enhanced the chocolate. I don't usually eat orange rinds, but this dessert had some and they were shaved so finely, that I just ate them with the rest. For the prices I paid, I felt like the dessert was the most reasonable $9. While the salad could have been bigger for the $11. I will think about this dessert often and probably find myself at the Hawthorne bar often in search of it. I hope for the willpower to not visit more than once a week. Looking forward to next time I stop by where I'll pair it with a fancy drink or one of their large glasses of wine.

Next time you go to the Hawthorne for their signature drinks, check out one of the best desserts in Boston too. And if you feel like being nice, get a spoon or two to share it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tasty Burger for delicious prices

After my positive experiences at some of the other restaurants in Franklin's restaurant group, I was dying to try Tasty Burger. There is something really fun about a walk to the Fenway area on a Sunday night to go get burgers and fries.

I had initially shied away from Tasty Burger because it looked like a fast food joint and while I'm budget conscious, I try hard to avoid chains when I can eat at more unique concepts. My take on Tasty Burger was that it was a great spot with fast service and super inexpensive prices. Most of there burgers were between 5 and 8 dollars. We chose to sit inside becasue we wanted table service and we found a table near the pool table and bar. It was funny to find myself at a burger place when I didn't actually want burgers. Not to worry, the menu was extensive with hot dog, vegetarian and turkey alternatives to red meat.

Between me and my dining buddy, we ordered a turkey burger-- lettuce tomato and guac and a blue cheese burger with jalopenos. The turkey burger was my favorite turkey burger that I've eaten out. There were pieces of onion and spices in the turkey burger. The bun was light and flluffy and the guacamole was chunky and fresh. I was told that the blue cheese jalopeno burger was great for those who like some heat and blue cheese.

We also ordered a half and half to share. It was fries and onion rings. The fries were good. The onion rings were great. They were the thin stringy kind with perfect amount of breading and crispy! I took the first handful of each before my dining buddy added malt vineager. I loved the fried indulgence with and without the malt.

One of the most exciting parts of the dining experience was the huge amount of condiments. They were all out on the table and offered a ton of free ways to sass up your dish. Next time I go here, I will save room for a coffee milk shake.

Overall, I was impressed by the tasty burgers that Tasty Burger provided and can't wait to go back and add a coffee milk shake to my order! The prices were cheap and I bet the restaurant draws a huge late night crowd. I thought the turkey burger was comparable to any that I've had before and better! My dining buddy enjoyed the burger and put it in a cateogry with In and Out. I think part of the schtick is to serve the food in baskets while wrapped in paper and I appreciate it. However, if they want to differentiate themselves in look from fast food joints they could serve the food in a more formal way if one chooses to sit inside. I would not do this, though at the expense of raising the prices of the burger.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Area Four: Pizza, Ice Cream and Salad oh my!

Area Four is one of my favorite new discoveries of 2012. It’s the second time I’ve been for dinner, and it is consistently tasty and well-priced. The restaurant is located in Kendall Square and is a bright space with beautiful exposed brick and many chalkboards around the restaurant.

We went on a Saturday night and arrived slightly before 7 after trying to go the Sunday before (they are closed for dinner). I was surprised that we had our pick of tables given how good it is. The highlight of my meal last time I went was the low fat soft-serve ice cream, so instead of ordering a drink to start, I asked about the ice cream flavors. Our server indulged me and brought me a taste of their berry ice cream. While it was good, it was more sherbet then it was ice cream and I didn't end up ordering it in the end. I was appreciative that they were willing to let me taste the sherbet even though I was acting out of order.

To start we ordered a watercress salad with farm fresh beets, feta and Greek yogurt dressing. Originally we were going to get the more simple salad with lemon vinaigrette, but after seeing the beauty of this salad at a table next to us, we ordered it. Given that the dressing was creamy, I was surprised at how light and perfect the salad was. There is something special about a colorful dish that makes the food that much more exciting. I appreciate knowing that whatever salad we ordered, it was all made with local ingredients.

Next, we ordered the summer vegetable and pancetta pizza. The pizza had a seasoned oil, cheese, pancetta, asparagus, peas and arugula salad on top. The combination was perfect. Coming from New York, I am extremely cautious when it comes to ordering pizza and this was some of the best pizza I’ve had in Boston. The crust was moist and flavorful, the peas that popped made the pizza that much more interesting. The pancetta added some extra flavor but not at the expense of added grease. The arugula salad on top had a bite the complimented the other ingredients well. The large is big enough to share!

I am a huge dessert fan and I love ice cream especially a banana split. Since my dining buddy and I were both going to order sundaes, we decided to up it a notch and share a vanilla banana split. This banana split was no plain vanilla dessert. The bananas came out caramelized with a crust like a perfect crème brule. There was hot fudge, candied nuts, fluff, whipped cream and liquor soaked cherries. The ice cream is dreamy and apparently is low fat!! This split was an adult version of my childhood favorites—creamy soft serve ice cream and cape cod banana splits—but better. I would say children beware because the cherries are soaked in some type of liquor and there was enough fudge to make a small child run around in circles for hours. It was my first ever fluff experience and I enjoyed the additional topping. I could go on and on about how much I love the ice cream at Area Four.

My advice to you—go to Area Four and run, this way you can eat more food because you burned the calories getting there. Just don’t run there for dinner on Sunday because you will find yourself sorely disappointed as they are closed. The food is delicious and affordable. The pizzas were low teens, ice cream sundaes priced comparably to ice cream stores and the salads are extremely sharable at under ten. The service was great, the manager friendly and I got to use Level Up to pay, which always makes me happy. I can’t wait to visit again soon and try what is supposed to be a delicious brunch. As long as I can get ice cream for dessert, I’m in!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pop Pub was Pop-tastic

In a night out on the town I joined some friends for drinks and food at Pop Pub. It was fun and delicious. There are three locations around NYC that I've been to and I loved this vibe. Each one is slightly different. Pop Pub was very laid back and a great place for a gathering (on University between 11th and 12th).

When you walk in you think it may be just another dive bar with good burgers and beer, but in the front there's an order station for take out. I think that the counter may be set up differently for lunch but we got there at about 8:30. We sat down in the back of the beautifully wooden area and ordered the gobble gobble and the invisible burgers. I was so excited because two orders was the perfect amount to share and I think there's something really fun about mini burgers.

The gobble gobble are really great turkey burgers with lettuce, tomato and special sauce. The invisible burgers are fried portabello burgers with lettuce tomato and cheese. My dining buddy let me indulge with two of the turkey burgers while she had two of the invisible ones. We devoured the burgers and then ordered some homemade donuts for dessert. The donuts were warm served with hot fudge and strawberry jelly to dip. I wish I had enough room after my three burgers to eat the six mini-donuts myself, but I had to share! It was a fun way of making friends at this gathering by sharing my donuts.

Can't wait to visit Pop Pub again soon when I'm less beat from the heat to try one of their innovative cocktails. In the meantime I will just fantasize about the mini burgers and plot my next trip to NYC. Though, with the food truck craze in Boston, I wish that the Pop Burger/Pop Pub crew will decide to open a truck in Boston so I can enjoy their mini burgers in my two favorite cities.

On my next trip, I'll post some pics!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Michael's Deli, Delicious Sandwiches and Steve

Boston does many things well but a really thick juicy sandwich is a commodity in these parts. Whenever I'm missing a New York style sandwich I find myself wondering over to Michael's Deli in Coolidge Corner. This no frills joint is on the Trader Joe's side of Beacon Street on Harvard. The deli is delicious and often crowded and while being notorious for great food, they've also been notorious for rushed, slightly rude service. I will tell you though, that the food makes up for the fact that it's cash only and the service is inconsistent.

Sunday after a night out and discussions of favorite sandwiches the night before, we found ourselves in our favorite cash only local deli. I was debating between a sandwich with a pound of meat or nova, cream cheese and a bagel. In a game time ordering decision where I expected nova and cream cheese to be my lunch, my stomach guided my mouth towards ordering a sandwich with: turkey, pastrami, roast beef, lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing on challah. I was as surprised as my dining buddy when I was done placing my order. My dining buddy got a Jacob's Choice which was turkey, roast beef, Swiss and Russian dressing on rye. We got two sides of cole slaw and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.

The sandwiches were brought over by Misha, my favorite Michael's employee with tons of slaw and two full pickles! From the time that the sandwich arrived to when I had a quarter left, I don't remember what happened. I turned into a carnivorous silent animal who could only be fed with store roasted meats and really fatty pastrami. By the time I came up for air, without even tasting the other sandwich (very unlike me), I looked around and noticed that Michael was no where to be found. Usually he's at the front taking orders or running around bring up more salads or soup, but he was no where. There was this other guy there who looked like a younger Michael-- I thought for a second maybe his younger brother?

I asked this man where Michael was and he responded that Michael was off. Sunday strikes me as a big day for sandwiches so I was puzzled that the boss would be gone. Then Steve mentioned that he bought Michael's. My dining buddy and I were incredulous. The Corned Beef King left the building?! Not to worry though, Michael is working part time this summer to bring Steve up to speed with how to continue to make some of the greatest deli from here to NY.

While I am sad to see Michael phase out, I hope that he made a huge penny selling the place and is able to retire happily and have someone else make sandwiches for him while he lies back on the beach and drinks or splashes or does whatever he has missed out on from all of the summer Sunday sandwiches. Steve is really enthusiastic and seems to have given the store new energy. As we left and thanked Steve and Misha for a delicious lunch, we started fantasizing about all of the new possibilities like credit cards, more hot food items and dinner. As long as Michael's keeps the Corned Beef King's classic sandwiches, I think the possibilities are endless. Looking forward to watching an old classic take on a new life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

KO Fabulous

There are few things I enjoy as much as good steak. I enjoy good friends, a good price and good service too. All of these came together on a Friday at KO Prime near the Park Street T stop. I know what you are all thinking... good steak at a steak house for a good price, how?! The answer is the bar area!

KO Prime is in the hotel 90 Tremont St. The decor is modern chic. There is a lot of black and white and the bar area has plush couches and chairs. I had been to KO Prime before and knew that they have a fun bar menu. The great thing about the bar is that you have access to both the bar bites menu/drink specials and the regular menu. The reverse is not true in the dining room. We ordered a combination of sides, bar bites and menu items. It was a bountiful, and reasonable. When can you leave a steak house spending less than $25 a piece for dinner.

I went to KO a while ago and spent years dreaming about their beef rib mac and cheese. I didn't think I could tackle it by myself, but one of the girls ordered it and was kind to share. The dish is perfect. It was creamy and thick and there were pieces of meat throughout. The mac and cheese came out in a cast iron skillet with bubbly goodness on top.

One of the others got a mini sandwich, calamari and tater tots off of the bar bites menu. I didn't try the slider because it was small and his, but the tater tots were delicious. it was as if they put bread crumbs on the outside of cheesy mashed potatoes. I bit into a tot and it oozed back at me. I loved the creative take on mashed potatoes and tater tots!

Another meal was shrimp cocktail (photographed below) and mushroom risotto. I tasted the risotto and while it was not the best I've ever had (the bar is high given some homemade risotto I've had), it was stellar restaurant risotto. It was creamy and not too heavy. It tasted like there were hints of truffle oil.  I am allergic to shrimp as well as other shellfish, but the plantain patties that came with the shrimp were delicious. They were like latkes, but sweeter.

My dish was steak frites. The steak was cooked perfectly to medium and it came in an iron skillet with an abundance of salty, truffley french fries. The steak was so good that I wanted more. The dish I ordered was the least expensive steak dish on the menu. The fries were skinny and the steak was petite. I almost wish they charged a few dollars more and gave me more steak and a few less fries. On the plus side though, the fries were enough to share.

Overall the food, service and price at KO prime was perfect. Can't wait to return for some high end eats for a lower end price. Maybe when I return, I will have enough room for dessert which looked outstanding.

Thanks to my dining buddy for taking the pics!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The price is right at Bon Me

Today I went for a run and missed lunch. I know how do such things happen? So, I snarfed a power bar and then had room for an early dinner. I was planning on getting something downtown, but I stumbled upon the Bon Me truck. I asked them what would be lightest and they suggested the rice noodles with vegetables and sesame chicken. As I was about to pay, I saw that they make chocolate rice pudding.

The people in the truck were kind and knowledgeable. The food was delicious. I think that their schtick is a great one, you choose the meat on top of either a roll, rice or noodles. There are additional add ons that you can get like eggs, edamame or additional meat.

I wasn't in the mood for a drink, but had I been, they had a lot of tasty treats. I always want dessert and the rice pudding was the highlight of the meal. It was perfectly creamy with much cocoa and hints of cinnamon. I plan to go back again soon and take some pictures to share!

In the meantime, go find out where Bon Me is hiding out on the Boston Food Truck Tracker Site. While you're at it, use LevelUp to save when you pay.

In summary, I ate like a princess with champagne taste but on a beer budget--only $8.50. Big win!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meritage with a view on the side

As one of my restaurant week adventures I was beyond excited to try Meritage. I had heard great things about the food and the location. Given that the restaurant would normally be way outside my price range, I could not wait to try it at the restaurant week price.

We made a reservation for Wednesday, and they sat us right away in a beautiful window seat where we overlooked the Boston Harbor. When you have a view like this, no matter what the food tastes like, it's a good night. The only menu to order off of was the restaurant week menu which meant that they were focused on making it memorable.

To start, we each had three rolls and the butter had a piped M in the top. The bread was homemade and outstanding. I especially liked the brown bread which tasted a little bit nutty and wheaty. The butter was soft and spreadable.

For our starter course, we both got the salad which was beautifully presented. We did not even finish our bread before it arrived. The veggies were fresh and wrapped in a cucumber package on top of tomatoes. I was surprised that there were two tomatoes on the bottom because it is not yet tomato season, but they tasted pretty good. The salad was served with minimal dressing to highlight the fresh veggie flavor. While I enjoyed this, my dining partner wished for more dressing. The only other time I had a salad presented like this was at my cousin's wedding at a fancy Philly hotel.

As soon as the salads were cleared our entrees were brought over. Again, we ordered the same thing. I was debating between the fillet and the braised boneless ribs and went for the ribs because they came with better sides--polenta and collard greens. I was happy I ordered this because it was beautifully presented and very rich and tasty. The portion was manageable if not small. I am curious if they made their entree sizes smaller for restaurant week or if they are always that size. The beef was perfectly tender and broke when I touched it with my fork. I could have eaten more.

For dessert I ordered the chocolate sample plate because I love trying many things especially when there is chocolate involved. There was a mini bread pudding, a white chocolate cream cheese eclair and a chocolate nougat tart. Of the three on the plate, the chocolate tart was best. It was rich and almost tasted like a chocolate meringue was on top. The bread pudding was good but not great and the eclair was awesome but I am a dark chocolate fan instead of a white chocolate fan.

My dining buddy ordered the savory dessert dish which was a daring move. It was a crepe filled with leeks, cheddar cheese and fennel. I enjoyed it as did he. It was incredibly creative and a unique way to end the meal.

Overall, Meritage was good but not great. I thought the food was great for what I paid, however, if I had the same restaurant experience while paying full price I would have been unhappy. The service was prompt if not rushed and the entree was small and not completely unique. I was hoping for a much better experience given the other restaurants I tried in its tier during restaurant week. The best thing about the restaurant was the view. It is perfect and beautiful. I am interested, however to see what Meritage would be like on a regular day where they are serving their full menu. As I have appointed myself the queen of brunch, this is a place I would be interested in trying in the brunch category.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Henrietta's Table was Fresh and Fantastic

Henrietta's Table is one of my favorite restaurant's in the Boston area. It's simple yet the food is outstanding. Their schtick is that the food is as local as possible and as fresh as possible. Their restaurant week menu is perfect, essentially for lunch you get to pick two or three courses for $15.12 or $20.12. Dinner is set up the same way, but this restaurant week, I went to lunch with my family. The restaurant is bright and airy and for the warmer months, there is an outside patio.

We were all famished when we walked in exactly on time for our 1:30pm reservation on Friday. We had beat the indoor lunch rush, but the patio was hopping. Before we ordered, the waitress brought over the most delicious bread. It was whole wheat, cranberry nut and a take on white bread with fresh butter. The bread was made in house or at Pain D'Avignon (one of my other favorites).

My dad and I both ordered the tomato soup which was as my dad put it "the best tomato soup of his life." The soup was vegan, which meant that it was vegetable based and did not have any cream. I will admit that I detest cream based soups, they are too heavy for me, so I agree with my dad when he says the soup was fantastic. It was zestier than a tomato sauce and had celery and other vegetables. I was trying to save room for the main course so I did not finish my soup, but it did not go to waste at the table.

My sister ordered the portobello mushroom on a bed of spinach with cheese on top. She loved it. I was glad I ordered the tomato soup because it was more unique. I however appreciated that the mushroom appetizer used local cheese on top. My mom opted out of the appetizer to save room for some chocolate sorbet.

For entrees, I ordered a chopped salad. It was perfect, with lettuce, avocado, bacon, tomato and house smoked turkey. I chose to get the lemon vinaigrette on it because I am not a blue cheese dressing fan. I loved how simple yet delicious the salad was. As I have mentioned before, I think salads taste so much better when they are chopped and this was great with a little bit of everything in each bite. When I come back for lunch another time, I will get this salad.

My sister and mom ordered the scrod. It was very fresh and encrusted in ritz crackers. There were also potatoes and lemon. The dish was again simple and tasty. There is something very satisfying about a fresh piece of fish.

My dad ordered a salad. He loves anything with chicken wherever he goes and likes nothing more than a good healthy salad for lunch, especially since this justifies a decadent dessert. My dad ordered the rotisserie chicken salad. It was a simple green salad with the same lemon vinaigrette dressing I had on mine. The chicken was flavorful and the salad was light and left enough room for dessert.

In case you have not guessed from the previous blog posts, I love dessert. I wait for it, I sometimes just seek it out. If it was appropriate, I would probably just live off of chocolate, but then I would not keep my girlish figure. Henrietta's Table has fantastic homemade dessert that leaves me wishing I had more room in my stomach. My mom was geared up for her chocolate sorbet which was good. Part of the decision to have sorbet was around avoidance of dairy. It was tasty but I think she would have preferred a dairy free fruit pie because that's her favorite and Henrietta's fruit tart, which my dad, sister and I shared was delicious.

It was a  small pie with apples and cranberry and vanilla ice cream (we swapped the two ice creams after the picture). I am extremely critical of fruit pies because I have an apple crisp recipe I often whip up which is simple and perfect. Henrietta's Table's fruit pie was to die for. The crust was flaky, the inside was still a little bit crunchy and it was not too sweet. Maybe I will have to get their cook book to learn their secret. We also got a chocolate bread pudding to share with coffee ice cream instead of vanilla because we wanted to try another kind of their homemade ice cream. The bread pudding was incredible. I think it was brioche drenched in chocolate baked with perfection. It came with a banana and caramel topping. My favorite dessert combination is banana and chocolate or banana and coffee and here, we had both! My suggestion to you is if you only have enough for one course at Henrietta's table that you run as fast as you can to get their bread pudding. Just think, while you are running, you are burning some calories.

Overall, Henrietta's Table was fantastic. I can't wait to come back again. I had never been for lunch before and I like that it is the same great food at a slightly lower price point. I enjoy that they treat restaurant week as an opportunity to showcase all that they can do. Their outstanding job with restaurant week leaves me hungry with anticipation for the next meal I will have there. In the meantime, I may stop by just for the bread pudding.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Moved by Mooo....

In honor of spring feeling like it sprung and restaurant week, I surprised my beau for a lunch at Mooo.... He had raved about the delicious steak and I love going to steak houses but rarely indulge unless the price is right. A three course meal at Mooo.... was $20.12 each which felt like a steal for the amount of delicious and beautiful food we ate. It is rare (pun intended) to have a lunch date, so we decided to live on the wild side, or at least my dining partner did, and I tried everything on the table!

We were slightly early for our noon reservation and the hostess sat us right away at a very pretty table with horsehair pillows on the booth side of the table. I found the decor to be ornate. The restaurant's menu was so simple and classic, I felt like a queen on a throne with pillows.

To start off we had the most delicious rolls that were sweet and salty with simple butter (not pictured). I ordered a steakhouse salad. It was awesome with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta and that dressing which immediately makes you think of a steakhouse. It's oil vinegar and spices, simple yet perfect. If I was not indulging in three full courses, I would have been happy eating this salad with a piece of protein on top--it was so tasty.

My dining partner won the adventurous game. If you guessed that he ordered steak tartare, you are correct. Neither or us had ever eaten steak tartare before, but his logic was, where else would I try it? Since Mooo.... was such a good restaurant, he decided to live live on the raw side. The steak tartare was delicious, it came with flat breads and the raw meat was mixed with onions, capers and possibly tomato. The best way to describe it's consistency was a meaty fresh salsa. It was really flavorful and tossed with some oil, salt and pepper. 

We realized after the fact that we were ironic by ordering our sirloin steak medium after eating raw meat. The meat was cooked to perfection. The grill lines were perfect and the outside was caramelized while the inside was perfectly pink. The steak was thicker in the middle, so it was slightly rarer where the meat was thicker. In hindsight, I wish I had ordered the meat medium rare because the quality was so high that it would have been that much more delicious. The steak was served on top of a bed of watercress and fingerling potatoes. I am not a stinky cheese fan, so I held the blue cheese, but my dining partner had the meal as it was. The potatoes were simple with some salt and pepper on them and the watercress was simple. I'll be honest, I focused on making sure I ate my steak and potatoes, so by the time I got to the watercress, I was ready for the delicious chocolate dessert.

The dessert was outstanding! I love chocolate dessert anytime, especially after a steak. We had two of the same desserts. It was a brownie with vanilla ice cream and a homemade marshmallow on top. There was caramel sauce on the bottom and it was homemade and perfect. It tasted like toffee that had not hardened yet. The portion was the right size. I wanted more because it was so delicious but I would have had no where to put it because I was so full. The brownie was rich, like a piece of flowerless chocolate cake. It was smooth and not too sweet. The ice cream was homemade as was the marshmallow. I mentioned it before but I think a homemade marshmallow is a great alternative to whipped cream on a chocolate dessert. We both loved this dessert, it was a stack of happiness.

Overall, Mooo.... was outstanding. I walked out into the sunshine feeling satisfied and energized whatever else the day had in store for me. I hope to throw a party in their downstairs cellar room. I'm looking forward to coming back here sometime and trying their American Wagyu  Dumplings and a porterhouse (my favorite cut of steak). Until then, I will think about the perfect meal I had and how daring we were to try steak tartare.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mistral: You made my heart sing & stomach smile

It is my favorite time of the year and that's not just because the weather is getting nicer, but it's because Boston Restaurant Week is upon us. There are 12 beautifully delicious days of discounted feasting. I had heard rave reviews for Mistral in Back Bay and wanted to know if the rumors were true. In order to orchestrate the event, I booked a table months ago. This is the type of place that I would usually go to once or twice a year for a truly special special occasion. The regular menu is definitely in the fine dining price category, so being able to eat three courses for $33.12 was a steal. I'm not kidding here, the restaurant week menu was less than the cost of one entree usually. Sometimes I shy away from situations like this because part of the beauty of going to such a nice restaurant is the service. In the past I had bad experiences with service on restaurant week, but Mistral showcased excellence.

For the meal, we both ordered Caesar salads to start. I ordered the statler chicken with risotto, asparagus and mushrooms. My sister got a steak with red wine reduction, Gorgonzola butter and potatoes. For dessert I got a devils food cake with ice cream on top and caramel sauce decorating the plate, and she got profiteroles. Prior to our meals, we got to enjoy perfectly baked bread with butter and a garlicky homemade hummus. In order to keep a girlish figure, I am rationing my bread intake during restaurant week to one slice/roll per meal. This was hard to do because the spreads were so delicious. See below for the bread picture.

The Caesar salads were delicious. Last weekend I learned about how important it is to showcase really good cheese and Mistral clearly got the hint. The dressing was light with the perfect amount of seasoning and cheese. They put Parmesan cheese on top. The croutons were homemade and I did not want the salad to end. Luckily once it did, we were greeted with the most beautiful main courses.

For the main courses my sister was dead set on steak. She had been counting down to a good steak and boy was it delicious. The steak was perfectly cooked and the potatoes were a nice compliment to the hearty sirloin. I normally can't stand blue cheese, but I tasted her dish and loved it. One of my favorite things about dining with a close friend or family member is that we can order different dishes but experience them all together.

When it comes to ordering, I want to know the story and what the waiter or waitress thinks. I learned early that if they are enthusiastic, the dish is usually good. I was planning to order the salmon, but I asked Natalie, our waitress about the chicken or the salmon and her face lit up about the chicken, so I went with her recommendation and I am glad I did. Chicken was a staple in my house growing up, so I rarely would choose to have it out, but I have evolved. The chicken was outstanding. The skin was perfectly crisped and the inside was moist. The cut of the chicken was the Statler, so it was white meat. I always thought chicken was simple, but there have been countless times where I've had dry white meat. This chicken was moist and delicious on top of a risotto. The portions were perfectly sized. It was so tasty that I wish I could have eaten more, but I needed to save room for dessert.

I love dessert especially chocolate desserts with ice cream. We both had ice cream filled chocolate desserts. Between the profiteroles and the devils food cake, I think the profiteroles were slightly better than the devils food cake. I say slightly so that if you have to choose between the two you know which is best. I recommend that you order both and just share them. The devils food cake was a perfect chocolate cake with creamy vanilla ice cream and a lace cookie on top. I could not get enough. The profiterole was delicious. The pastry was flaky and the ice cream and chocolate sauce bountiful. We both concluded at the end or the dessert course that it was inappropriate to lick our plates because we were at a fancy restaurant. Had we been at home, the plates would have been licked.

Overall Mistral was outstanding. It deserves all of the praise it gets. The service and food were both outstanding. I feel lucky that we were able to eat like queens and not break the bank. I can't wait to go here again next year for restaurant week or for a celebration. Looking forward to trying brunch. If you are trying to figure out where to go for restaurant week, I would call daily to see if they get cancellations.

Photos all taken as the food was served.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Osaka is on fire

In a fun outing to Osaka, it was about the show! Hibachi holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it delicious but it's entertainment. For anyone who has not visited Osaka on Green St in Coolidge Corner, I recommend it. The place is modern and open with lots of light and beautiful stone walls. The menu is extensive with many options to have hibachi or just sushi. I say just because I think the big draw is watching people swirl utensils, make a rice heart beat and create an onion volcano.

They are extremely accommodating of food allergies and the food is tasty. The best part was the fried rice with half a container of soy sauce, a slab of butter and eggs. The chicken that I had was tasty with sake on top. My dining buddies enjoyed their scallops and shrimp. While the meal is not cheap, if you see it as dinner and entertainment, it is reasonably priced.

Next time I go, I will need to try a scorpion bowl. It looks like they have a great private space for a party below.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fantastic Pho at LES Allston

My heart and soul became a little warmer at LES Allston after having some delicious chicken pho. Pho is a fancy name for Vietnamese chicken soup. LES is one of my absolute favorite neighborhood spots because sometimes all I want is some warm and relaxing chicken soup. My other half, always wants some hot and spicy flavor, so this is the perfect destination to feed both of our soupy needs.

The restaurant itself is very simple. There are two rooms of booths and a very extensive menu. It is very reasonably priced and the portions are huge (see half eaten above). I ordered a "medium" soup for $6.95, which was big enough to share or have for three meals. The service was outstanding. Our water glasses were always full and they did not rush us out while we sat and chatted. 

I wasn't too hungry, so I just ordered the soup and didn't snazz it up with any of the bazil, sprouts, sauces or lime. However, my partner in crime ordered the fresh rolls (which are delicious) with pork and veggies. He also added to his soup. Can you tell the difference? This is not just to show that opposites attract, but to show that anyone can go to LES and be happy. It's an interactive eating experience where no bowl of soup has to be the same. Some like it hot and others like it spicy, yet all can be happy here!

Can't wait to revisit for a deliciously reasonable treat. I mean how often can two people be served dinner for under $25 including tax and tip? In the meantime, I'm going to go reheat my leftovers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gnocco: You make me smile

I've been on a whirlwind NYC trip (sounds scandalous, I know). Last night (Friday), I went to Gnocco with a friend for her birthday. The restaurant is way downtown and truly a hidden gem. Not only was the food outstanding and homemade, but it was also extremely affordable.

The restaurant is on E10th between A and B and when we walked it, it looked like we were stopping into a pizza joint. Now NYC has great pizza, so I would have been ok with that but I knew better! We were seated in their garden area. The best way to describe it is like a baseball stadium with a sky dome. It was a brick area with some plants, tables and a tent-like seal overhead.

The meal started with some italian bread and outstanding olive oil and balsamic poured for us. Since we could not decide individually on pizza or pasta, we got two dishes and shared. Great choice! The pasta dish was tagliotelli with homemade ragu and peas. The pasta was fresh and sturdy and the sauce was perfect. As my friend put it "there is way more meat than tomatoes." I could also tell by the consistency of the peas that they too were fresh. See the photo we took below on a smart phone.

 The pizza was outstanding. We got a vegetable one. The crust was as thin as possible without breaking. The pizza was loaded with artichokes, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, cheese, sauce, eggplant and onions. It was perfectly cooked. The crust was tasty with a hint of salt. As I'm writing about it right now, I'm wishing I took the leftover slice home and had it for breakfast.

Also, the service was outstanding. Next time, I go, I plan to save room for one of their homemade desserts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Boston Lamb Jam 2012

The Lamb Jam is one of my favorite foodie events. This year's Boston Lamb Jam took place on Sunday, February 19th at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. It was definitely more crowded than last year, so I'm happy we got there early. The event started at 3pm and we were in line at 2:15pm, eating by 3pm. My trick is to get there early for any food festivals to eat as much as possible as soon as possible. The event took place in the upstairs banquet area of the Charles Hotel. The room was split in half with some of the best restaurants in New England on the outer edges of the room. The center was a bar with local, exciting beers. As we entered the Lamb Jam, there was a room of lamb swag, a room of lamb, wine and beer. The best part? The event was a contest. I got to feel like a judge on top chef. There were entrants in each of four categories: leg, shank, shoulder and loin. The room was split up into quarters.

When we got into the room with the food. We went straight for the leg/shank half of the room and we were thrilled. My first taste was Brian Reyelt's lamb leg and bone marrow polpettone with Bourbon cherries. The dish was from Citizen and was presented in a bone. Please see the picture below. I was wowed by the creativity and tastiness. I did not know that I liked bone marrow but this was simple, delicious and flavorful. I had been hearing great things about Citizen and now I know the reviews must be spot on.

We lucked out because by the time other people started flooding in, we moved on to the "Shank" area. Here, below, my favorite dish was by Jim Solomon from The Fireplace. It was a Mayflower Porter braised lamb shank with sweet garlic yogurt and blood orange over cheesy grits. I enjoyed this dish and one of my friends loved it so much that she went back for seconds. It was a full mini-meal which made it a lot of fun to eat. It was flavorful and beautiful.

Last year my favorite two dishes were from Pain D'Avignon and Bistro du Midi. This year both were good but different, to be expected. Pain D'Avignon had lamb jelly donuts. They were beignets with lamb butter in the dough and lamb and jelly inside. I look forward to going back to Pain D'Avignon for their lamb hot dogs/hamburgers because they are my true favorite lamb dish that they make. Bistro du Midi had a really unique smoked lamb dish this year.

Once we finished the first half of the room, we traveled across to the very crowded shoulder/loin side. The shoulder winner overall (by the judges panel) was Brian Alberg's meatballs. They were lamb shoulder and kale with smoked tomato puree and Parmesan crustade. I enjoyed Tavolo's beer braised lamb shoulder with seared potato gnocchi and saffron pepper sauce. Both dishes were great and make me want to check out the restaurants. I've heard rumors that the Red Lion Inn is worth the drive to Stockbridge. Can't wait to try more by these chefs!

As for the loin, I already mentioned Bistro du Midi. My favorite in that category was also the judges' favorite. Matt Jennings from La Laiterie made a Korean lamb Reuben with lamb potato chips. It was really fun and tasty. This dish was a full meal and was a lot of fun to eat.

By the time we had finished all eighteen of the lamb dishes we were full and it was only 4pm. What to do? We drank some delicious wine, beer and coffee. There was a stand with Captain's cold pressed coffee in beer bottles.  This is photographed below. I was excited that these were bottled in beer bottles. What a delicious treat. By the time we made it to this stand, all they had back was the hazelnut flavored. It was smooth, cold and delicious.

Additionally, they had butchering demos. Originally, I did not think I'd go to this because I feared that I would see them break down a lamb from its full form and that I would not be able to justify all of the meat I consumed. Thank goodness it was just talking about different cuts. This session was led by my buddies at the Meat House. My only wish was that I had gotten some trivia right and taken home some fresh cut American Lamb.

All in all, this food event was one not to be missed. Lamb Jam should win a lamb trophy for a fantastically delicious event. My taste buds were alive with the taste of lamb. It was a fun event and a delicious way to sample many restaurants that I do not eat at regularly. The list of 18 restaurants at this event will fuel more food adventures. My countdown is starting for next year's Lamb Jam.

Are there any food festivals that you enjoy? I am always looking for additional ideas.