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!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nathan Myhrvold: Modernist Cuisine

Nathan Myhrvold was in town recently to present his lecture at the Harvard series on Science and Cooking, a fascinating program that we have attended and written extensively about in the past. In fact, we were one of the first to write about it on the very night Harvard welcomed Chef Ferran Adria years ago to initiate a discussion of the course to be offered School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  It has been such a success that now schools all over the country are attempting to emulate it.  Because we couldn't make it to the lecture we did stop by the Museum of Science for a short talk and meet and greet he gave to introduce his temporary exhibit "The Photography Of Modernist Cuisine".

His name may be familiar as the mega millionaire former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft. Since leaving that post he has taken up an avid interest in food and especially the inventive photography of it.

The hallmark of the photography are the stop action and cutaway shots of food in the process of cooking.  It's actually quite fun to see the playful times one can have with all that money, expensive photographic equipment, time and a penchant for cutting things in half so we can see what food looks like as it is cooking.

We hadn't been to the MOS in years and I have to admit we had just as much fun as the kids roaming the place with their parents or the surprising number of couples enjoying a fun date experience. If you haven't been in a while, we suggest a visit.  We especially enjoyed the Polar Express 4D Movie where it actually snows (real flakes of ice crystals not that plastic stuff) in the theater.  Very fun, indeed.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Naumkeag Ordinary

We were recently invited up to Salem to dine at Naumkeag Ordinary, a place we'd never heard of but that never stopped us from checking out a newer dining venue before.  The restaurant has a warm, upscale, tavern-like feel and seemed to be filled with locals enjoying a craft beer and some inventive comfort food featuring new twists on old favorites.  It's  the kind of place one would make a regular spot for dining.  Set just off a small patch of green space in the very heart of Salem, it was a great, casual yet refined dining experience.

We began with the Lettuce Wrap (above) With Duck, a fresh, flavorful bite that was a great starter to our dinner. Crispy duck and fresh, soft lettuce leaves worked well together as a great contrast.

The Meat And Cheese Board was not a disappointment, either.  Fennel Sausage, Pepper Jam, Grilled Bread and House Made Mustard was a bright sampling of many flavors, textures and colors.

The mild goat cheese in this crispy phyllo dough wrapping was another great appetizer, the crispy texture of the wrap perfectly done.

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash:  Barley risotto, roasted root vegetables and a meyer lemon and black pepper vinaigrette.  Hearty and flavorful and a nice vegetarian choice, for a change of pace.  The lattice chips and greens were the perfect addition to this filling, very satisfying plate.

I went with a special of the day:  Sloppy Joe Tacos.  It was warm and meaty with pickled banana peppers and crispy onion strings, bursting with comforting taste.  It was a pleasant surprise to enjoy a Sloppy Joe without the heavy, filling bun.

Dessert was Bread Pudding, a rich, eggy take on this standard served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Delicious.

Starters range from $8-13 (for the Meat and Cheese Board) and Entrees are $15 to $22 (A Short Rib Pappardelle Au Poivre).  Everything on the menu looked very tempting so we can't wait to get back and try more.  The craft beer selection and wines by the glass offered enough to satisfy any diner. The menu changes often under the helm of new chef Scott Jensen and owner Matthew Brady with a focus on locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients and all dishes are made from scratch.  The service was excellent.  If you haven't been up to Salem in a while we say it's certainly worth the trip to spend some time there and enjoy Naumkeag Ordinary when you do.  It was a great discovery for us.

Naumkeag Ordinary
118 Washington Street
Salem, MA  01970
Telephone:  978.744.4968

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Apples With Amy Traverso

Take a quick guess as to what that is.  Chances are, you did probably not guess an apple!  Yet, that is a sliced Mountain Rose Apple, just one of the thousands of varieties you can enjoy.  We had no idea that these even existed.  That brilliant color and the strong berry flavor profile was just one of the many things that we tasted and learned on an afternoon spent with Amy Traverso of Yankee Magazine, undoubtedly New England's apple expert.

The history of apples is fascinating.  Did you know that they are not native to America?  Their DNA structure is more complex than humans?  You can't just plant an apple seed and expect it to grow? Johnny Appleseed was a real person, not a legend?

The author of THE APPLE LOVER'S COOKBOOK, Amy spent an very informative afternoon with us at Bestsellers Cafe and we even tasted some of her favorite food treats.  This would be a great gift book for the holidays.  We can't wait to bake an apple pie with these!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Snappers Snacks

Yes, as you know, we get a lot of product samples to taste and test and most of them never make it into the blog because, well, they are not all that impressive.

The minute we tasted these Snappers snacks, though, we liked them.  Both salty and sweet, crunchy but drenched in caramel and a rich chocolate, we'll definitely put them on our shopping list.  They are brought to you by the same people at Edward Marc Chocolatier, a quality name we've been a fan of for years.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Burtons Grill

The dining scene in Burlington is heating up.  Suddenly, there seems to be a plethora of dining spots and over the past few months we've been invited to sample several spots for memorable meals.  We began the tour at Burtons Grill, which has been there for years but we had never been.

Firstly, all of the food at Burtons is made from scratch following the new wave where even chain restaurants don't relay on entrees prepared way ahead of time.  Everything we tried from appetizers to desserts was very fresh, starting with the Beet Salad pictured above.  A constructed salad, this was beautiful on the plate and certainly creditable. Goat Cheese, Roasted Sweet Onions and Candied Walnuts provided nice layers of both texture and flavor.

The Risotto Fritters were just as good:  Mild Italian Sausage and Provolone Cheese was deep fried to a golden crisp and served with a fairly spicy tomato sauce.

The Pork Loin was served with a colorful, flavorful Cranberry Chutney and Cider Mustard Jus.  I love pork tenderloin and this was, again, very well done, served with a nice stuffing.

The Scallops we sampled were served over a bed of fresh corn and Baked Stuffed Zucchini were sliced paper thin and stuffed with an herbed cheese (neither pictured).   Again, fresh, flavorful and very fresh.

All of the desserts are also made in house and this Key Lime Pie was exceptional.  Let's face it, most places do not go to the lengths of making desserts like this every day.  The difference is easy to discern once you've had the good stuff.

The clean, modern design is about what one would expect for suburban dining, the place was absolutely packed with a lively bar scene and the service was very good.  It's clear that Burtons is maintaining their high standards in order to keep up with the growing competition.

Burtons Grill
Middlesex Commons Shopping Center
Middlesex Turnpike
Burlington, MA
Telephone:  781.221.2281

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ming Tsai and Simply Ming At Twelve

We were invited by one of our favorite Boston Chefs, Ming Tsai, recently to help him celebrate the twelfth season of his hit PBS cooking Show:  Simply Ming.  We gathered at Blue Dragon in Fort Point, Boston's new food mecca.  If you haven't been there's a real tavern-like homey feel to the place that invites gathering with friends for a cocktail and some excellent small plates.

We sipped cava and devoured passed plates of Shrimp Shumai, Pork Belly Bao and this, our favorite, Lobster Cakes, fried to perfection and loaded with lobster meet.

It was a great night to catch up with Chef (we asked about his Finding Your Roots segment with Henry Louis Gates which resulted in the oldest documented genealogical tree he's found to date) and an opportunity to meet a slew of new food bloggers we have never met before, including Elizabeth of Little Moments Of Happiness.

The new series explores comfort food across cultural influences and includes a visit to Australia for a peek at their cutting-edge cuisine.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All Hallow's Eve 2014

We all love it;  the night as dark as black, a streetlamp shrouded in fog, the rustling of leaves, a distant scream in the night.  We'll stay home, shut off the lights in favor of just candles to give out candy then head out to scare up some fun of our own.  If you are still looking for some frightening ideas, here's a few suggestions.

Start out the night with sips of Black Ink wine.  As dark as blood, poured into Gothic wine glasses, it's an ideal start.

After that head over to Pier 6 in the Navy Yard (spooky enough after dark as it is) for a special authentic Transylvanian Cuisine Dinner being served October 31st only.  You'll dine on Goulash and Apple Tart while you sip a drink called "Dracula's Kiss." 

Proceed ominously to the the brand new statue of Edgar Allan Poe near The Boston Common for an appropriate Instagram pic. Dressing in black is advised.

After that it's just a short jaunt up the street for the Gatsby Reloaded Masquerade and Fashion Show at Liquid Art House.  It's their very first Halloween party so it's guaranteed to be fabulous. Get your decadent on and still be home before sunrise.

All one needs to do now is provide the soundtrack.  Happy Halloween everybody!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mohegan Sun Brewfest 2014

If you're going to have a craft beer fest then quite possibly the best place to have it is Mohegan Sun. So, we threw a few things in the Armani overnighter and headed out of town for a relaxing, fun weekend away at Brewfest 2014.  We were not disappointed.

We spent the afternoon meeting with brewers and sipping some very nice beer.  Shiner Beer was there with a great Oktoberfest, Blackhog had a Granola Brown, Yuengling gave us their Black and Tan, Victory Brewing Company featured Old Horizontal and then there were our perennial favorites such as that Thomas Hooker Brewing Company Watermelon Ale.

I'm an IPA kind of guy and we sampled some great IPAs from Grey Sail Brewing, Mayflower Brewing and good old Long Trail.

As if all that wasn't enough we had heard in advance that one of our favorite bands, Everclear was slated to appear in the Wolf Den that very night.  For those who may not be familiar with Mohegan, this is the spot where free concerts are held nightly.  We met lots of new friends from around New England, fellow fans, as we gathered for the show.  The concert was great, Everclear playing all of their big hits as well as some new songs from an upcoming album.  

After a bite to eat and some prerequisite people-watching we were exhausted so went up to relax in our room.  Impeccably clean and invitingly comfy, we flipped channels on the large flatscreen, our legs up on the foot pillows of the huge beds.  Ahhhh.   We've never had a room yet that did not boast a gorgeous view of the countryside and Thames River, rain or shine.  That night a thick fog had rolled in as the new arrivals snaked their cars around to the valet entrance.  We rested, feeling spoiled that there was plenty of dining, clubbing, things to do and people to see all without even having to take a step outside.

The next morning we awoke to a tray of fresh coffee. We snoozed and relaxed more, reading the Sunday paper delivered to each room and catching up on all the social media on our tablets and phones from people near and far, including other attendees. Eventually we prepared and dressed for the Brew Brunch.  This year it was held in the Uncas Ballroom as the smaller venue where it usually takes place was under renovation being turned into, so we hear, a mini palace of magical modernist cuisine.  We can't wait to go back for that!  Mohegan is also undergoing a major addition that will feature a 14 theater multiplex due to premiere in January 2015.  We've often thought that maybe it would be fun to catch a new movie while there for the weekend.

Needless to say, the Brunch was appropriately decadent.  Just look at that Schnitzel Benedict drenched in Bearnaise Sauce.  There was also a carving station and some great pastas with brew-based sauces and brew-braised meats, fresh pastries and rolls along with all the coffee and juices one could want.

So far, we've attended every Brewfest and it remains one of the great Fall events we look forward to each year.  Hopefully, we'll see you there next year.