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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ribelle me fantastic

To start, I'm aware that "Ribelle me fantastic" is not a sentence that makes sense, but if you visit Ribelle, you will understand. Much like Tim Maslow's other restaurant, Strip T's this restaurant is a gem to behold. The quaint, modern, bright Ribelle is in Washington Square featuring small plates with big flavor and fresh ingredients. As soon as you walk in you notice the large communal table made of beautiful wood. The bar is also wood and fully stashed. The kitchen is open promoting a feeling of modern and airy. The light fixtures look like large sequins and geometric shapes. One of the highlights of the trip was the pre-meal. I stood at the communal high top table by the kitchen sipping on a beat, citrus and gin cocktail after speaking with the chef. This cocktail was of the best I'd ever had and I was surprised. The beets were refreshing combined with the gin and lime and tasted like fall. It was such a great cocktail that four out of the five people eating and drinking in our group ordered it.

We sat down at the communal table at the end. I was expecting to feel cramped but it felt like we were having our own party not a part of our neighbors' dining experience. There were five of us in the party and we were there as a part of a monthly dining group. We all partook in their $30 price fixed menu because it was before 6:30pm. I wouldn't be surprised if they do away with this. The restaurant is so hot right now, they don't really need to do anything from a price standpoint to draw a crowd. The price fixed menu was full of great options, probably 3/4 of the regular menu. I was so excited about the bolognese and the mushroom lasagne that I ordered two pasta dishes. When I was last at Ribelle, I ordered duckfat garlic knots. Wow, they were fantastic, so I ordered them again. Needless to say, my meal was very carb full and I probably could have ordered one less small plate, but it was just so much fun. My dining buddies ordered squid, kale and pasta with squash. The best part of the large dining group was getting to experience lots of dishes.

When deciding what to order, I decided against to kholrabi because it had veal tongue in it. The manager was so sweet and sent over this dish so that we could try it. The veggie portion, a mixture of kholrabi, beans and spices was awesome. I even liked the flavor of the veal tongue, however the consistency was pretty fatty and rubbery. If I were to order it again, I'd ask for just the veggies. For those who haven't tried it, kholrabi is a bulb that can be shredded, it's in the broccoli and cauliflower family.

The duckfat garlic knots came out first. They were moist with oil, salt, herbs and garlic. They came with a zesty tomato sauce that paired nicely with the rich rolls. I could have made a dinner of just these rolls and sauce, they were that good and that filling.

The mushroom lasagne had meaty mushrooms with homemade vinegared ricotta cheese. The pasta tasted homemade and perfect.

The pappardelle bolognese was rich with different kinds of meat. The tomato was not overpowering, it was all about the meat. It was topped with fried pork skins and fried baby greens. When I had the pork skin on its own the flavor and consistency was not great, but the combination of this in the dish was outstanding and added a little crunch to an already flavorful dish.

Another highlight was the truffled toast one of my dining partners ordered. Remember the eggs in a frame that your mom made you when you were sick? Maybe that was just my mom. This was one piece of thick toast covered in truffle oil, cheese, egg and little peppers. The dish was comfort on a plate.

Overall, Ribelle is worth the hype and I recommend that you go and try it. The beet cocktail was outstanding. I can't wait to go back and try some new dishes. While the pastas are fantastic, I recommend mixing them in with more veggie dishes or protein than what I did. Maybe that way there will be room for dessert. Looking forward to going back and trying the ever changing menu.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Panza is perfection

It's been a while since posting and I'm definitely looking forward to doing so more! This weekend I had a fantastic girls night out with outstanding food and well priced and tasty wine. If you have not already, I recommend that you go to Panza in the North End. It is some of the best food you can find in Boston.

We waited until the last minute to make a reservation, so we ended up with an 8:30pm one. Lucky for us, the cute restaurant sat us in the window so we could enjoy the warm October night. A little known fact is that Panza is the sister restaurant to the cash only, wait on line, outstanding Giacomo's across the street. Aside from the well priced, tasty food, it is nice to be able to make a reservation and pay with a credit card.

Once we sat down, the bright red stack of bruschetta at the other table caught our eyes. To start we ordered the goat cheese bruschetta  My dining partner ordered Caesar salad. While we waited for our apps to arrive we ordered a bottle of Pino Griggio for only $20 and lined our stomachs with the crusty Italian bread and good olive oil.


I am not usually one to order goat cheese, but the bruschetta was creative, light and the goat cheese was a perfect compliment to the smoky, toasted bread, garlicky diced perfectly ripe tomatoes and onion. There were two pieces of bruschetta which was perfect for the three of us to share and still have room for our entrees. My dining partner let me try her Caesar salad. The greens were fresh, crisp and the dressing a perfect balance of creaminess, garlic, cheese and stuck to the greens perfectly.

For dinner I ordered the chicken Marsala over linguine. I do judge an Italian place by it's chicken Marsala and this was excellent. They an abundance of perfectly golden sauteed chicken in a sweet Marsala sauce. There was some pancetta too for added flavor and a lot of fresh mushrooms. This was the best Marsala I've had in a while!

My dining partners ordered butternut squash torteloni and pasta with eggplant. The torteloni was hand made over sized tortellini shaped pasta and tasted like thanksgiving. There were also chunks of squash on the outside. The eggplant pasta dish was described as a healthier eggplant parm.

All in all, it was a great night out. The food was perfect and very reasonably priced for the stellar food quality. Looking forward to visiting Panza again soon. Can't wait to see what their seasonal options will be.

Monday, April 15, 2013

No words to describe

This blog is focused on food friends and fun, and on a Boston day usually centralized around those things, I pause to acknowledge this truly tragic day.

It was so beautiful today. There was positive energy everywhere you turned. A friend of mine equated it to Christmas, running a Marathon with all of his loved ones waiting to cheer for him. The day was beautiful and then took a tragic turn for the surreal.

I hope that all are safe and that Boston and the world eventually find peace.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Mid-afternoon Dream at Strip T's

It was a cold and snowy Thursday after a successful trip to Target, and I stopped in at Strip T's for an indulgent tasty treat. This place is worth all of the hype it gets. The food is great and unique and service is quick and reliable. When I worked in Watertown a while back, I had to keep from eating at Strip T's every day for lunch. This was before the Tim Maslow era, back when it was just a neighborhood shop to get a soup, salad or sandwich. Since the reign of Maslow, I've driven to Watertown a handful of times with the intention of having a fantastic and creative meal and am consistently satisfied with the result.

Luckily, I arrived at 3:53 pm, just in time for the last plate of food to be served before the hour break before dinner. All I knew was that I could not stop thinking about their Caesar salad, and that I wanted to try something new as well. Shawn, one of the front guys who worked at Craigie on Main previously, advised that between the Moxie Wings and Fried Chicken that the fried chicken would go better with the Caesar salad. Each entree comes with a side, so I was pumped that I could have two mini-meals in one! He and I chatted about how the comfort food matched both of our moods with the dreary, wintry mix. I chose to sit at the bar because I was at Strip T's with the purpose to eat the best Caesar salad ever and some protein. 

The restaurant is quaint. When I walked through the curtained front door, I saw a bar with a half open kitchen and people preparing for the dinner shift. To the left was the main dining room where some of the best food around is served. 

At about 4:03, my half of a chicken fried arrived with my baby Caesar salad. The crust of the fried chicken was perfectly crisp and the chicken inside was moist and juicy. I was really excited that they brought a full, three joint wing, thigh and breast because I get a real kick out of eating and taking apart wings, but the other cuts of chicken are a little bit more hearty. To go on the chicken, Shawn brought over some pepper syrup. Essentially this syrup tasted like honey with a tiny almost unnoticeable kick to it. The sauce was perfection as the sweetness of it brought out the saltiness of the chicken.

I interspersed bites of fried chicken with the Caesar salad. The salad was dressed perfectly. Their Caesar dressing is extremely flavorful and light. I rarely would describe a Caesar salad dressing as light, but the only way to get the lack of cream in the dressing across is to describe it that way. The dressing is more about garlic and cheese than it is about cream. They may even put in a smidge of mustard. The bottom line is the dressing sticks perfectly to the crisp lettuce and homemade croutons without being overwhelming or too creamy.

My only wish for this experience was that I had a fellow diner with me to kvell over the food with! Instead, I have not stopped talking about my decadent mid-afternoon dream at Strip T's. I do not use the term dream loosely as I have been known to dream about their Caesar salad and so this meal literally fulfilled my dreams. I can't wait for Tim Maslow and team to open a more T accessible restaurant later this year in Brookline. In the meantime, I will continue to make excuses to visit Watertown for the awesome food and laid back ambiance and I recommend that you do the same.

Photo from past Strip T's experience.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Digesting Technology

As an MBA student at a Boston based school of management, I was lucky enough to take a class with a field study component out to the West Coast. Prior to heading out of town, I'd read about how great the food is at Apple, Google and Microsoft. I visited these companies with high expectations for the food and the management and expectations were exceeded on every count. Given the top secret nature of most of the places we visited, I had to keep my camera in my bag, so we will both have to live through the written memories of the tasty meals in Seattle and Silicon Valley instead of photographed ones.

The first corporate cafeteria we went to was at Microsoft/XBox and it was fun and delicious. Turns out Monday is free cookie day. The headquarters was a very modern, airy campus in Seattle. There were so many food options to choose from including some of Seattle's finest from Pike's Place market. Yes, those homemade donuts made it to Microsoft's campus, but I resisted. Given the time constraints, I chose to make a salad. The salad bar was better than the Whole Foods salad bar, which I hold in the highest regard. While the food was about the same price as any other cafeteria, I appreciated that drinks and Monday cookies were free. I chose an oatmeal raisin cookie and saved it for later. It was outstanding. It tasted homemade and was perfectly crisp and gooey. One of my dining buddies had a chocolate chip cookie and claimed it was the best he'd ever tasted, high praise if I've ever heard it.

The next day we journeyed to Silicon Valley to spend time at Google. The headquarters is worth the hype. Between the large meeting bike to the kitchens every 150 feet, I was impressed. People work amazingly hard and it's great that they receive perks while doing it. The Google food was amazing. We went to Charlie's Cafe, a cafeteria inspired by the original Google chef for lunch. The food was free, thus disproving the theory that there's no such thing as a free lunch! I had some neat rice balls, seaweed salad, sweet potato soup, whole chicken pieces, the salad of the day and dessert. Let's just say that if I worked at Google, I'd have to rein it in as to keep my girlish figure. The dessert was spectacular, and I indulged. There was chocolate banana bread pudding, banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and cookies. The cookies were creative and exciting like Google. I had a cappuccino chocolate chip cookie and it was buttery and chewy and crunchy. I also indulged in a chocolate chip one. Banana is my favorite element of dessert, so it was a treat to have bread pudding and cupcakes, both banana themed. I loved that the sweet potato soup did not have cream or milk in it. The consistency was smooth and it just tasted like fall. Overall Google had the best cookies from any company on the trip.

A few days later, we went to One Infinite Loop to meet with Phil Schiller. Of course that meeting was the highlight of the visit to Apple, but the food was great too. We got to Apple really early, so they brought us to the cafeteria to get coffee and breakfast. I got an almond butter and avocado open faced sandwich. It sounded too unique not to get, so I got it and they held the pepper and just sprinkled some salt. It was the most filling sandwich I'd had in a while and I can't wait to reproduce it at home. Anything with avocado has my vote. After my sandwich we had a great discussion with some executives and then went on to lunch. I wish I could tell you what I learned, but we had to keep things confidential, so instead I will focus on the food!

Lunch at Apple was innovative. All of the produce was was fresh and delicious and the dishes seemed deliberately prepared. The cafeteria was subsidized so the prices were fair and far less than they would be for the high quality food elsewhere. I had a chopped salad with beets and avocado and artichokes and then I had spaghetti squash with turkey bolognese sauce. I loved that everything was so healthy. So I could make an apple to apple comparison (pun intended), I got a chocolate chip cookie to compare with Google and Microsoft. While the cookie was good, it was not great. I felt like I was eating food that a really great mom or grandma was making. I am going to make a variation of the spaghetti squash for dinner this weekend!

Overall, the field study could not be beat. My brain and body were both well nourished and we were shown such hospitality. After a trip out west, I will never look at the corporate cafeteria the same way

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Drink, Sportello and Girls Night Out

Ever have those nights were money and calories don't count? You just want to eat really well, drink great drinks and have fun with your friends. Saturday night was one of those nights that will go down in history as one of my best nights in Boston from a food, friends, fun and drink perspective. We decided to start the evening at Drink and then work our way upstairs to Sportello. I found out after the fact that if you do the reverse, they can sometimes help you skip the line at Drink, but this is water under the bridge. This post is a bit longer than usual, so I will start with some advice in case you're in a hurry. Run as fast as you can to Drink and Sportello. The food, service and drinks are outstanding. Please share a part of your soul with the mixologist/waiter at drink and then when you are done or on another occasion go upstairs and order the tagliatelle bolognese. I am not innately a pasta person, but I will now dream of Sportello's pasta dishes.

We arrived at 7:30 to get five of us in at Drink. To add some context, Sportello and Drink are both part of the Barbara Lynch restaurant empire and happen to be housed in the same building in the Fort Point area. Drink is on the bottom and Sportello on top. Lucky for us, we only had to wait in the hallway for about 25 minutes before being served at Drink. We had a 9pm reservation at Sportello and they came down to retrieve us when the table was ready (super convenient). Drink is dimly lit with exposed brick and beautiful wooden bars all around. If you are lucky, you get to stand and if you're luckier you get to sit. I will tell you, I don't like standing at a bar for extended periods of time, but for Drink, I feel lucky to be in the room. It has such a positive happy fun vibe. The waitperson comes over to your party and gives you a food menu and then asks what you want to drink. To this you can say something like "I like sweet things" (me) or "I like cucumber" (a friend) or "I feel like something holiday" (my other friend) and they bring out a beautifully constructed tasty cocktail for you. Mine was a champagne with citrus, my friend had some sort of fresh cucumber drink presented in an old school champagne glass and my other friend had a brandy Alexander like drink with frothy foam on top. My first drink was like happiness in a glass. I love champagne and it was a pretty color. The second drink I ordered was perfect given the descriptor I gave, but I forgot to mention that Tequila and I are not friends. The waiter could not have been nicer and took it right out of my hand and off of the bill. Drink has some of the best service I've experienced. The waiter was subtle and kind about exchanging my drink, which I imagine happens so infrequently given how tasty and well constructed the cocktails are there.

It wasn't just drinks at Drink. They have great food, but given that Sportello was in our midst, it was bar cheese and toast for five of us. The toast had a little bit of oil on it and the bar cheese was like chive cream cheese-- the good stuff that you get in New York.

At approximately 9:10, the host from Sportello came down to get us. This was perfect because there was no lingering and waiting upstairs, instead it was a fluid transition from one establishment to the other. Had any glasses still been full they were welcome upstairs! Sportello is the perfect balance with Drink. It is bright and white and relaxed. When you walk in, it looks like a very clean diner. The kitchen area is open and there is a bakery counter lining one wall. We were seated on two sides of a table/bench between the "kitchen" and the bakery counter. Our waitress was awesome! She came over and gave us a heads up that the beef carpaccio and fish special were about to see out, so two of my dining buddies secured their dishes on the spot. Also, she offered a great perspective on the wine. We ordered a bottle of Pino Nior but it was white instead of red. The flavor was smooth and cool.

I shared a squash salad with one of my friends to start. While it was delicious and creative, I wished there was more on the plate. Others at the table ordered the spicy tomato soup and the last beef carpaccio in the kitchen (yum).

For dinner I had pasta bolognese. To say this was delicious was an understatement. I would have been happy if someone dumped me in a vat of pasta, bolognese and asked me to eat my way out. It was homemade pasta, which meant the pasta was a perfect smooth consistency. The sauce was full of different kinds of meat. I think there may have been hints of lamb in the sauce that had the perfect balance of tomato, herbs, meat and spices.

Dessert was a combination of cookies, cupcakes and a whoopie pie both to stay and to go. I can't get enough pumpkin especially in cookie form so I was excited about the pumpkin whoopie pie and a bacon cupcake seemed too good to be true, so I got one to go. The chocolate cookie was creatively sweet and salty. The bacon cupcake was really vanilla cake and maple butter cream with bacon on top.

Moral of the story is go to Sportello and Drink. You will not be disappointed. If you're on a budget, go to Sportello for a price fixed lunch.