Sunday, February 22, 2015

Aussie Lamb Brunch At Tremont 647

It's snowy.  It's freezing.  The roads are barely passable and the MBTA is even worse.  Yet, When Chef Andy Husbands and the people from Aussie Lamb invite you to Sunday Brunch at Tremont 647 you make the trek.  In town to introduce Bostonians to the wonders of Australian Lamb, we enjoyed a butchering demo and some delicious food.

We began with this Aussie Lamb Pastrami Amuse with Mustard, Brussels Sprouts and Kraut all on Rye Toast. Tangy, salty with delicate melt-in-your-mouth lamb.

I chose the Croissant Breakfast Sammy for my breakfast.  House-made maple Aussie Lamb sausage, American cheese, fried egg roasted garlic-herb pistou and hash browns.  Very good.

We also learned quite a bit about Australian lamb.  The shipping process all that way from Oz actually helps the lamb wet age making for a much more tender, flavorful meat, for instance.  The biggest news, however, is that Chef Andy will soon be opening a new restaurant!  We are sworn to secrecy as to location and cuisine but, believe us, it is going to be very different.  It was a great way to get out of the house and enjoy a meal with fellow food writers and friends.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kennedy's On The Square

There are large, black and white posters of a young and vibrant J.F.K hanging everywhere, familiar images. Tufted, red leather banquettes, high-top walnut tables and a very well stocked, large bar fill in the comfy look and space reminiscent of a bygone era clinging to tradition, yet redone for Generation Z.  As we sit to dine at the invite of Kennedy's On The Square in Harvard Square it is early, snowy and cold outside.

Before long, a crowd of Harvard types will stream in, including a gaggle of Prepsters in button-down and tweed wrappings, with excellent haircuts, Andover Shop all the way, who look like they could easily be the sons of Senators or members of the Porcellian Club, just around the corner.  They slip into the exclusive vault room, once an actual bank vault, for a private dinner.

The most popular drink is also called The Vault:  Gin, St. Germain, ginger liquor, fresh lemon & lime juice with muddled mint.  Very nice.  We also tried the Moscow Mule, the first time we've ever seen it not served in a copper cup, forgoing tradition with little discernible effect on taste.

Meanwhile, we tuck into the P. E. I. Mussells, served sizzling on the cast iron platter and with hickory and sea salt, a sun-dried marinara and grilled sourdough to sop up the delicate juices. They've burst open, clean and fresh and perfect for a freezing night.

Smoky Meatballs arrive next, an aged ground beef, pork and veal combination with the same marinara and cast iron.  Covered in a grated Parmesan, the meat is soft and chewy, full of flavor.

The Seared Wild Salmon with Crab Parmesan Couscous, Roasted Corn Cream and Bitter Greens. Flaky and flavorful, the salmon falls in chunks onto my fork, thoroughly seared but not overdone inside and with one side of  the nutrient-rich skin still on, just the way I love it..  The larger beaded Israeli style couscous is packed with the cheesy flavor.  Instant hit.  Great dish.

The Dunster Street Classic is a house-ground burger blend of shortrib and sirloin, meaty and moist. The fries are very good.

The Bread Pudding dessert is underwhelming but the ice cream topper is good.  This is, after all, the former home of Herrell's legendary ice cream.

Overall, a nice spot, seemingly an Harvard enclave, with a good selection of beers and wines (the Coppola wines seemed to have grown beyond a hobby for the famed filmmaker) and solid gastropub food.  The desserts, always elusive in a setting such as this, need a helping hand.  And we loved the clubby, 617, old-school atmosphere.

Kennedy's On The Square
15 Dunster Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
Telephone:  617.497.0900

Monday, February 9, 2015

5 Napkin Burger

We recently headed on over to the Back Bay where we'd been invited to a blogger dinner at 5 Napkin Burger located in the Prudential Center.  Lots of fellow writers were talking about the "burger bubble" being ready to burst just on the heels of the "cupcake bubble".  My opinion is that in 2015 there is going to be a more widespread burst in the restaurant bubble across the board.  To me, there just does not seem to be enough diners to support all of the new restaurants (many of which are great) that have opened.  I think downtown will be hurt the most as new dining destinations such as Assembly Row and all of the new options in the Burlington area push large, upscale, casual dining out into the suburbs, with the added attractive benefit of plenty of free parking.  It's now quite easy to find food on par with the level of quality one could only find in the City just a few years back without having to go into the city.  Of course, that's just my opinion but we'll see how it plays out over the next year or so.

A stack of thick-cut panko-encrusted fried onion rings were just one of the appetizers that we enjoyed.  These were very good, full of flavor, with a delicate crunch.

We sampled several flatbreads as well, all of which were very good.  For those not familiar with 5 Napkin Burger, it is not just another upscale, fast food burger spot with counter service.  Here, one sits at a table with linen and china and table service as one would at any other restaurant.  In that way, it has set itself apart from the plethora of burger-and-fries upscale eateries that have ensconced themselves on the Greater Boston food landscape.

This Edamame Hummus with miso-tahini, sunflower seeds and warm flat bread was excellent and my favorite of all the appetizers served.  It may sound odd but I enjoy having a vegetarian option before I tuck into a juicy, meaty burger.

I went with the Asiago Turkey for my burger.  With seasoned ground turkey, asiago cheese, roasted tomato, pepper relish, arugula and pesto mayo on a sesame brioche.  The bun was nicely grilled, a very important part of a great burger, the meat was well-seasoned and moist.  As turkey burgers go, it was great.  My side of Macaroni And Cheese was, however, quite dry.  I prefer my Mac to be creamy and cheesy with a generous dusting of crunchy bread crumbs.  It needed at least another ladle of sauce and less time under the broiler.

The Cheddar Tots were very creamy.  Almost too much so.  The potato seemed to be pureed.  I do like a little more bite to the potato but these were definitely worthy of a try.

We all tasted the original 5 Napkin Burger, which began the whole thing.  Using the best European-influenced ingredients this gourmet burger featured at the owner's Mediterranean restaurant proved so popular that it launched the chain.  Ten ounces of fresh ground beef, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aoili all served on a soft white roll.  An absolute standout of a burger.  I fail to see how any burger-lover could be disappointed.

I had skipped the wine served for a Black And White Malted Shake much to the envy of my fellow writers and diners who wished they'd thought of the idea.  It was rich and deliciously malty.  They were not to be left out, however, when the Smores Shake was brought out for dessert.  Again, creamy deliciousness.

In all, fine burgers, great shakes, fun atmosphere, excellent service and with a bit more attention to the details of some of the sides, a great, casual dining experience and certainly a place to take friends in search of a greater burger find.

5 Napkin Burger
105 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA  02199
Telephone:  617.375.2277

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mohegan Sun Winefest 2015

It was snowy and cold but we had a great view from our room at Mohegan Sun for the Sun Winefest 2015.

Who doesn't love it when the daily paper is delivered to your door?  It's so relaxing to just fall into that comfy bed with room service coffee and read a real paper, quiet and slow.

When we weren't taking pictures we just wandered around having our pictures taken.  The extravagant Dine-Around event was probably the best way to have dinner with Jasper White, Andy Husbands, Will Gilson, Jason Santos and a symphony of other great Boston Chefs all in one room.

Look serious.  Don't look serious.  And that was a theme with the wines, too.  The trends continue to be sweeter wines: Rieslings and Moscato blends to which the millenial enthusiasts flock and the vinters are okay with that. Surprisingly, the wines of summer 2015 seem to be less fizzy and darker, more full-bodied.

Michele Ragussis gave up the most fun on the demo stage, preparing a great scallop, corn and prosciutto dish that was beautifully simple, classic and delicious.

We also spent some quality time bonding with Michele and were lucky enough to hear Jasper White comment on how great her chowder dish was.

Chef Chris Coombs of dBar, Deauxave and Boston Chops let us in on the exacting preparations for a 23 ounce ribeye.  Heat that pan until it is smoking!

And, of course, Dean got a very closeup interview with Chef Georges Mokbel.  From Lebanon, his refreshing book EVERYDAY TO GOURMET is a new perspective on how to approach the joy of food in your life.

As always, the Sun Winefest is a great winter getaway and one of our favorite events of the year!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Boston Wine Expo 2015 Tickets Winner

A few weeks back we announced a contest for readers to win tickets to the Boston Wine Expo 2015. For loyal followers, the correct answer was:  Arlington is named after Arlington National Cemetery, the interment place for those who so valiantly served our country.

And the winner is ... Katie P.  Congratulations!  Katie and her guest will enjoy a day of tasting wines from all over the world, meeting winemakers and enjoying demonstrations from some of Boston's best Chefs.  You will be contacted via email for instructions on how to collect your tickets and thank you to all who participated!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Paul Bakery

Several years back, on my first trip to London, I found myself out very early in the morning, still getting used to the time difference but also because I love roaming the streets of a new city as it comes to life at sunrise. The rows of white townhouses, stately and large, that lined the streets of this South Kensington neighborhood were just like those I'd seen in the movies.

Eventually I wandered into a small cafe, the scent of fresh pastry baking and coffee brewing drawing me inside. It was the first time I discovered a Paul Bakery and we went back every morning for delicious morning treats. The place was beautifully laid out with a level of quality rarely seen in the USA and everything we tasted was a match to that sophistication.  It was all was as fresh as it could be, served beautifully, elegantly.  I was in love with this place.  When I returned home and began singing the praises of my find other friends who'd traveled abroad joined in.  I learned, unbelievably, that it was a chain of shops that began in France.

So, you cannot imagine how thrilled I was when I learned they were coming here.  And almost in my backyard! With Natick and Assembly Row locations now open and Downtown Boston opening soon, you will have a choice and whichever one you visit will be, I'm sure, the same quality.

The macarons are my favorite and, without question, on par or better than any other in Boston.  For that alone it's worth the trip.

Paul Bakery
Assembly Row
631 Assembly Row
Somerville, MA  02145
Telephone:  617.440.1049

Photo Credits:  Lisa Richov

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tony C's At Assembly Row

It's a sports bar.  It's a very large sports bar with an avalanche of flat screens (90 in all), a large crowd, a theme built around the local sports legend and Boston Red Sox player Tony Conigliaro and fare that is quite better than one would expect at the average sports bar haunt.  The plasma may give the place a slightly Vegas feel but the crowd (and it IS packed) doesn't seem to mind at all. "You should see it on a game day," our waiter, Tim, says. And, from the looks of it all, I am sure that it would be quite the event.

On a very chilly recent night we made the trek to Assembly Row for dinner at Tony C's Sports Bar and Grill for dinner.  It was so packed that there was a wait for seats on a Friday night but, reservations in hand, we were shown to a table near the center of the large room just to the side of the long bar with that tidal wave of electronics looming above us.

The cocktail I chose to begin the evening with was The Im"Pear"sible Dream, a moniker only Red Sox fans of a certain age would fully comprehend.  With Absolut Pear, St. Germain, Lemon, Thyme and Sparkling Wine, it was a light, refreshing sip, not overly sweet and something I would order again.

The Philly Cheese Steak Wontons, crispy fried and served with Sriracha Aioli were the first tastes on plate and a hit.  These were exactly as what you are imagining them to be right now; crab rangoon with a Philly Cheese Steak filling.  Nicely shredded beef and creamy cheese wrapped in a crunchy, golden-fried wonton.

Next up was the New Orleans Shrimp.  With a spicy Creole Sauce and a nice hunk of Grilled Sourdough, this was a mouthful of hearty flavor.  The shrimp was good but that chunk of bread, seemingly griddled in butter and soaking up that sauce, was the best part, satisfying in a way that only delicious carbs can be.

The Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp IPA was calling me.  How could one resist just such a name? I have found the Clown Shoes craft beers to be not only playful but also rewarding beyond the fun names. This Belgian IPA had a lot going on for flavor:  citrus, a subtle taste of clove, malty and interesting, slightly bitter at the end.  I just loved this beer and look forward to trying more of their others.

We were now into the flavorful 6th inning.  I opted for the special of the night:  Pork Loin with Garlic Mash. Crusted with fresh peppercorn for a nice, spicy bite, yet not overwhelming, the meat was tender and moist but seemed to us to be far more of a pork chop than a softer, richer loin.  Still good but not the hit we envisioned.

The Orecciette with Italian Sausage, broccoli, spinach, garlic and Parmesan cheese was, however, a certified home run.  Red pepper flakes added some heat but the sausage was meaty and mild, the pasta perfectly al dente and the overall taste excellent.  The highlight of the night.

Dessert was this beautiful Creme Brulee.  Packed with a rich vanilla flavor, smooth and creamy.  The top could have used a bit more torch, not offering quite the crunch as the perfect brulee might yet, again, still good.

Overall, we were impressed.  It's definitely not a quiet, intimate dinner but a very fun, casual place, a must-see for sports fans, good food, a great drinks program and, with acres of free parking, a nice choice when one doesn't feel like driving into the city.

Tony C's Sports Bar and Grill
699 Assembly Row
Somerville, MA  02145
Telephone:  617.666.8282

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Menotomy Grill and Tavern

Lovers of local history will be intrigued and those enamored with a warm, modern tavern space and great comfort food will enjoy a visit to Menotomy Grill and Tavern in Arlington.  Steeped in local colonial lore, the setting combines a new take on an accurate tavern experience with an excellent, inventive cocktail program and affordable eats featuring classic fare with a twist.

Our cocktails included the "Impeared" Ginger (left): Burnett's Pear Vodka, Domaine de Canton and Fresh Lemon for a bursting, light taste without being overly sweet. The Cooper's Flip (right): Privateer Rum, Cask Ale, Molasses, Egg and Pumpkin. This was truly like a taste of the Colonies with a generous dose of molasses that I loved.  Very different and a great take on the Molasses/Rum trade that enriched the Colonial Era neighborhood where the place literally now stands.  There is a great back story on the name of the drink provided on the menu but I won't ruin the tale of deception and intrigue for you.

It was a very snowy, cold night so after warming up by the fire and a sip of our drinks we started right in on these P. E. I. Mussels.  Steamed in Spy Ponder Ale with garlic and herbs and served with a grilled sourdough, we felt more like Tories as we tucked into the elegant bowl.  The broth was rich, the garlic light and the mussels were tender, without a trace of grit, a very pleasant start.

The room was full but not rowdy, a nice mix of young couples, families, hipsters treating the folks to a drink and appetizer, locals enjoying dinner out on a stormy night, the kind of place a  democratic neighborhood tavern should be - the extension of one's home but more convivial and social.  It was nice to see.

Julia Child always said that one can tell the mettle of a Cook by the roasted chicken.  This Herb Roasted Chicken features a Giannone Farm, all-natural, free range chicken, muscular, meaty and tender.  Served on a mound of Edna's Potato Sausage Stuffing (the co-owner's Mom's own recipe) with green beans and au jus, it was flavorful, rustic, homey and savory and an absolute favorite of the night.

The 18 oz. Porterhouse, that night's special, was also a meaty, rich plate of flavor, with horseradish mash and steamed asparagus, bone-in, for, again, a level of iconic rustic fare.  Very good.

Dessert was the Mocha Creme Brulee with just the right amount of crunch and burn one would normally find in a great pastry shop and an unnecessary biscottii cookie placed on top.  The classic dessert that covers all the senses of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell, otherwise perfect, seemed amateurish with a cookie, as good as it was, thrown on top.  Pull it off and enjoy.

We also visited for brunch which showcased an excellent Eggs Benedict on a thin layer of hash (very nice touch) and a rotating, chalkboard menu.

Hearty New England fare with a nod toward the local and historic, simple pub food with modern tweaks, a great drinks and bar offering and a nice neighborhood feel is what you'll get here. Cocktails will run you $10, as will the appetizers, and entrees about $20, making this an affordable, easy alternative with plenty of free parking.

Menotomy Grill and Tavern
25 Massachusetts Avenue
Arlington, MA  02474
Telephone:  781.648.1775

Do you know that almost every state in the USA has a town or city named Arlington?  Tell  us why. The first five people to correctly respond via email will be entered in a drawing to win free tickets to the Boston Wine Expo 2015, valued at $80 per person, where we will dine with some of Boston's most historic Chefs and probably take selfies with them.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

All We Did Was Add The Cooking

Apparently, the people over at Just Add Cooking know exactly how busy we are during this holiday season.  So, they asked us to sample their meal preparation service and we have to report that the results could not have been more pleasurable.

What they do is deliver all of the top quality, fresh ingredients one needs to prepare a great dinner. All you do is, well, add the cooking.  My package arrived Sunday afternoon at precisely the time when I am usually home and ready to whip up a weekend meal.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it but there was a text on my phone saying my cooking kit had arrived.  I went downstairs and there was the box.

It was filled with all of the ingredients I needed including an excellent selection of produce and quality meats and seafood.  The scallops were so fresh that I decided to make that meal first.  Now, I am pretty picky about fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses.  Everything that I received was of the quality, or better than, I would have found myself.  This amazed me more than anything and saved me hours of carefully scouring the grocery stores (usually more than one) for the best of the best.

Every meal comes with a full recipe sheet listing all the ingredients, measurements, prep and cooking times - virtually everything you need to know to put together a gourmet meal as easily as possible.

Everything is sent according to the recipe with just the right amount measured for proportions.  You don't have to bother at all spooning, measuring or eyeballing - none of that.

And in case you don't have a huge spice pantry they also include all of the spices you will need for each dish.  SO easy!

Throw the ingredients together, mix up according to directions, set the oven and/or skillet temperatures and you're done.  A child could do it.  In fact this would be a great intro for any teen seriously interesting in cooking.

They even sent us the butter needed for one recipe and it was superb quality Vermont Creamery butter, the best there is (in fact, it's so good that Thomas Keller uses it).

We melted the butter and dropped the scallops in with the bay leaf provided in the container.

In thirty minutes we had this delicious, beautiful dinner of Scallops In Peppery Butter.  Served with the rice and squash basil vinaigrette this was a restaurant-worthy meal made in our own kitchen.  We have two more meals to make but from the results here we are sure they will be equally as fabulous in both flavor and presentation.

The meals are ordered online from Just Add Cooking.  The cost is $79.00 for three full dinners that will serve two people, a great value for us considering the top quality sourcing, time saved and easy preparation.  Why didn't WE think of this?  Congratulations on a great idea!