Top 10 Burgers in Boston List – 2014 Edition

January 3rd, 2015

So, due to some additional burger exploration that I decided was necessary in order to provide an accurate read on the playing field out there – my annual Top 10 Burgers in Boston list was delayed a couple months. I’m sure you were nervously checking back daily for the update, so here we go.

Each year, The Foodie carefully combs over menus, twitter feeds, and the words of food gurus to seek out the better burgers around the great city of Boston. Then I eat them. What you are about to read is the synthesis of these efforts, taking into account consistency, quality, authenticity of the burger craft, and inventiveness.

Before you enjoy, a few of the usual disclaimers:

  1. Burgers are a highly personal affair. This is just one man’s opinion, but regardless of your preferences, the meals on this list are at least 90% likely to please you, by my estimations.
  2. A little bit about my taste for burgers: I tend to appreciate a meat patty with some thickness and substance to it, and like my burgers to stick close to their roots as a comfort food while offering a little something inventive for some excitement.
  3. Many of my Top 10 are not within Boston proper. In fact, most of the best burgers around are situated in the surrounding cities of Watertown, Cambridge, and the ‘Ville.

A Smattering of Burgers that were Tested by the Foodie, But Didn’t Make the Grade:

  • Tip Tap RoomSteak Burger – Very nice juiciness and texture to the meat, but some weirdness in the flavor profile (veal demi maybe?)
  • Boston Chops Burger – Our server proudly stated that the sauce on this thing was the signature part of the dish…the burger didn’t make the grade and interestingly enough, I really never quite figured out where the sauce was to be found on this thing…
  • Bronwyn – Props to Bronwyn for excellent German and Eastern European fare, but I found the burger here (only available at the bar) to be somewhat inconsistent across tastings. It offered much promise with slaw, sauerkraut, comte cheese and an insane mix of meat varieties in the patty, but they strayed too far from burger roots for my taste.
  • Stoddard’s – I’ve tried the burger here a few times but always find it lacking in flavor, depth, and substance. In fact, I almost forgot to include them here at all because the experience didn’t really stick to my neurons.

Booted from Last Year’s List:

  • Lord Hobo – Major turn towards mediocrity on the burger here since the early days of the lord. Total lack of imagination and a wholly unmemorable experience.
  • Green Street – Honestly, just been a while since I found a reason to come here for the burger, which must mean that others have caught my eye first.
  • Neptune Oyster – Again, one of the better spots for fruits de mer in Boston, but I haven’t found the motivation to enter their doors for something that walks on all fours.

The Top 10 Burgers in Boston of 2014:

1. R.F. O’Sullivan & Son | Time and time again, R.F. captures the spirit of a burger for me.

2. Craigie on Main | The best haute burger in town. Chef wizardry meets comfort food.

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3. JM Curley | Juicy tender burger, Russian dressing, and pickle slices.

4. Strip T’s | Smoked miso, lemon aioli, pickled onion, baller roll. Full review pending.

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5. Alden & Harlow | Rave reviews from critics, trademark-worthy smokiness. Hard to get.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.02.57 PM

6. Boston Burger Company | A standard favorite with funky flavors and a nod from Rachael Ray.

7. Tasty Burger | Retro-burger stand-out beats out Shake Shack in my opinion.

The Big Tasty

The Big Tasty

8. Kirkland Tap & Trotter | Another Tony Maws burger, smaller than Craigie.

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9. Merrill & Co. | Three sliders oozing with juiciness and a baller special sauce.

photo (29)

10. The Blue Ox | Sliders with bacon and gorgonzola dolce out in Lynn. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.54.21 PM

 

Top 5 of ‘14

January 2nd, 2015

In keeping with annual tradition, I am shooting out a New Years Day post showering praise upon my top eats around Boston over the past year.  For the limited attention span of media consumers these days, I’ll get straight to the list (see below). For those who are bored, philosophical, or ravenously hungry, I’ve got some analysis below.

The List

  1. Asta
  2. Ribelle
  3. Alden & Harlow
  4. Sarma
  5. Coppa

Analysis

Eating was good in 2014. From newcomers like Asta, Alden & Harlow, and Sarma to longtime favorites such as Coppa. For the first time ever in the history of Nick the Foodie, a restaurant made the list for two consecutive years running…and that restaurant was Ribelle – who on my most recent visit was serving up things like crispy fish head, cacio e pepe (corn spaghetti, pecorino, crab), a take on lobster fra diavolo, and veal cima (the equivalent cut of veal to belly of pork). Pair that with a baller bottle of Italian wine and I have no alternative but to proclaim Ribelle one of the best meals in Boston right now.

Asta is serving tasting menus of stunningly beautiful and inventive cooking, and Alden & Harlow has received copious press elsewhere and rightfully so (read burgers and small plates with big flavor).

Sarma, the latest from Chef Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra), expands the range of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired food in the area with a very solid third restaurant in a quiet corner of Somerville. Finally, Coppa impressed the hell out of me with fennel pollen, chestnut pasta, and coniglio.

As always, an eclectic list featuring old and new and spanning Contemporary American, Inventive Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine.

If I may suggest a few words on culinary trends in the Boston area this year, see below. Make of it what you will.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 7.34.15 PMSource: wordle.net

 

La Brasa – Sauce me. 

November 26th, 2014

www.labrasasomerville.com

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Space: La Brasa is a modern newish restaurant hidden in an unlikely corner of East Somerville on Broadway.  I suck at describing interior design and would never aspire to write for Dwell Magazine, but let’s call the inside of La Brasa rustic and wood-toned with a sort-of modern farmhouse vibe. Open kitchen with a large wood-burning stove.

Why Eat Here, You Ask?

  • Helmed and operated by Daniel Bojorquez and Frank McClelland,  who are both heavy culinary hitters from the famed L’Espalier. Bojorquez respectably spends ample time in his own kitchen, and was proudly cooking up dishes on a Saturday night.
  • The menu does fusion with style while not being pretentious. You’ll find everything from moles to Thai sauces on things like fried chicken and roasted carrots. The influences draw from Central and South America, Southeast Asia, France, and… Georgia?

Signature Moves: The sauces. Really the stand-out of every dish on the menu. Rich and complex moles, a funky escargot sauce on fried chicken that was actually good, a mustard-seed and tomato-based sauce on a razor clam dish – all excellent and I couldn’t even tell you everything that went into them. I have much ‘spect for those chefs who can nail the sauce game because this is one of the hardest aspects of cooking to pull off well in my opinion. In other liquids, the wine list is also stellar.

Complaint Department:

  • When is the “small plates” trend going to fade away?
  • Though plating and food art doesn’t really get to me, others may not love the layout of some of the dishes here.

Pics (For the 90% of Readers Who Look Here First, I Give You  an iPhone Photo Shoot):

Oven.

Oven.

Fried Chicken.

Fried Chicken.

Carrots w/ Mole.

Carrots w/ Mole.

Razor Clams.

Razor Clams.

Alden & Harlow: The Secret Burger

September 1st, 2014

http://aldenharlow.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Dutifully, I fulfill my role as a local burger forager – digging through menus and spelunking into restaurant dining rooms to report back on the state of the meat patty around Boston.

With the annual refresh of my Top 10 Burgers in Boston List fast approaching this Fall, I have been picking up the pace of discovery.

* Alden & Harlow has been at the forefront of my hunt for the area’s best burgers for a while now. *

So, follow me fellow foodies, as I put on my meat helmet, flip on my headlamp, and apply my beef gloves…

I’m going in.

AVAILABILITY:

  • Sun Brunch…..10:30AM-2:30PM (until they run out)
  • Sun – Wed…..5PM – 1AM (until they run out)
  • Thu – Sat…..5PM – 2AM (until they run out)

TIPS ON ACCESS:

One has to be willing to organize their mealtime around the availability of Secret Burger if one wishes to eat Secret Burger. I have been told that only 3 dozen are prepared per night, and have been denied access on one occasion. Here are a few tips on getting some:

  • Arrive right when they open for dinner – that means around 5PM or 5:30.  They informed me over the phone that I would “definitely get the burger” arriving around that timeframe. You just need to be willing to hang with the early bird special crowd.
  • Come to brunch – You are probably more likely to access the burger during a time when people are lured to breakfast-like things….or who said a burger couldn’t be for breakfast – particularly if you add a 60-degree egg on top.

VIEW FROM THE MENU:

SECRET BURGER* (limited availability)

Our 8oz House Creekstone Grind, Your Faith, House Made Roll – 15

ARIAL VIEW:

From Above

From Above

SIDE VIEW: 

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.02.57 PM

VOYEURISTIC VIEW:

 photo

A PEEK INSIDE:

 Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.06.21 PM

NICK THE FOODIE’S BURGER NARRATIVE:

We live in a world where hamburgers are agonized over for years before hitting restaurant menus. The art of burger-making has become akin to hand-crafting a fine timepiece or weaving an Afghan carpet.

Alden & Harlow’s sandwich is no exception. Make no mistake – each component of the Secret Burger is agonizingly thought-through. Apparently, Scelfo and team tinkered with the burger grind for a year-and-a-half until they arrived at what goes into your mouth today.

Highlights of eating the Secret Burger:

  • House-Made Bun: Hats off to whoever is responsible for creating these on a daily basis in the A&H kitchen. This is about as close to perfection as a burger bun can be.  Soft yet sturdy, this bun is the perfect instrument through which to cradle the meat.
  • Burger Patty: The most stand-out aspect of the meat patty is the signature smokiness that Alden & Harlow injects into it. I will not speculate further as to how they do it – but Chef Scelfo says it’s a closely guarded secret. The meat comes from Creekstone Farms which is a producer of Black Angus cattle that emphasizes humane treatment of the animals. I also respect the fact that the patty is minimally-seasoned to allow the beefy-ness to shine through as the main event of any burger. I was unsure of how I felt about the seasoning issue at first, but have come around to appreciate Alden’s perspective.
  • The Sauce: A wonderful mixture that leans towards the thousand-island profile, the sauce incorporates things like ketchup, aioli, pecorino cheese, and anchovy. I like.

Critique:

  • The Cabot Cheese Tuile: Though inventive and flavorful in it’s own right, my personal preference is for melty cheese on my burger. Call me a purist…

Synopsis:

This burger is true to its roots yet inventive in all the right ways.  A pleasure to eat and an excellent addition to the Boston-area burger scene. A “must” for local burger enthusiasts, food writers/bloggers, and any carnivore. Yelpers – stay away and stick to reviewing your local shoe cobbler, gas station or McDonald’s.

Other Opinions:

Boston Magazine“Anatomy of a secret burger” 

Josh Ozersky“More than lived up to its reputation”

Boston Burger Blog “New favorite burger in town”

Top 10 Worthy?  Yes

Beer Reflection – Aeronaut Brewing

August 14th, 2014

www.aeronautbrewing.comphoto (33)

Location: Somerville, MA (It’s hard to find, click here for a map)

The Foodie: Recommends

That’s right people – Somerville has a new craft brewery. Joining the ranks of hyper-local operations such as Slumbrew, Night Shift, and Idle Hands – Aeronaut Brewing opened this summer in a humongo warehouse on Tyler Street.

photo (34)What’s cool about this news is that Aeronaut not only brings us quality craft beer, but also a hip little tasting bar and a regular schedule of fun events to boot.

The Beer: From what I can tell, these guys are focusing on lower-octane brews such as table beers and session ales ranging from 4 – 5% alcohol. This is somewhat of a disappointment for me – a passionate beer snob who greatly enjoys my Belgian trappiste ales and American Double IPAs. I tend to find that session beers lack flavor and come off a little flat and flabby.

Nonetheless, Aeronaut does manage to pack a decent amount of taste into their lighter beers, and they churn out a tasty Brown Ale and Stout that pack a little more punch in the alcohol department.

The beers that I’ve seen on draft in the Aeronaut Tasting room include:

  • A Session With Doctor Nandu (4.5%) – A session American Pale Ale
  • Armadillo (4%) – A hoppy “table beer”
  • Saison of the Western Ghats (4.7%) – A low-alcohol saison that has decent flavor
  • Lark and Linnet (5%) – American Brown Ale
  • Imperial Stout (8%) – Nice stout with a classic chocolate, smoke, and coffee notes

I’ve so far been impressed by the quality of the stout and brown ale, but found the saison to be lagging behind its Belgian counterparts.

All of the above-mentioned brews are available in growler, flight, and pint formats.

photo (1)

The tasting bar and the space are perhaps the two contributions that I am most excited about, especially given the sweet lineup of events that Aeronaut has on tap. See a sampling of upcoming shindigs below:

  • Thursday August 14

Taco Party Truck, BEER RELEASE: berlinerweiss & biere de garde.

  • Friday August 15

Pennypacker’s Truck, BEER RELEASE: imperial IPA

  • Saturday August 16

BACON! BANDS! BEER!

info: https://www.facebook.com/events/256202344583997

tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bacon-bands-beer-tickets-12431309381

  • Wednesday August 20

Aeronaut meets Journeyman

  • Saturday September 20

Octoberfest…with special guest Blue Ribbon BBQ

So in this week’s Beer Reflection, I salute Aeronaut for creating a hip new drinking space, planning some cool events, and mixing up a few delicious beers…I’m still waiting for that baller IPA though guys!

Dog Like, I Like. Lark & Linnet.

Dog Like, I Like. Lark & Linnet.

Hot Doug’s – A Pilgrimage.

July 23rd, 2014

www.hotdougs.com

Location: Chicago, IL

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

For those who have never heard of Hot Doug’s, let me just lay down some facts and stats for you:

  • Facebook: 4.7 out of 5 Stars (based on 4,676 ratings)
  • Urban Spoon: 88% Like It (based on 1,442 votes)
  • Yelp: 4.5 out of 5 Stars (based on 3,163 reviews)
  • Google Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 Stars (based on 364 reviews)
  • Zagat: Chicago’s 10 Best Hot Dogs
  • Anthony Bourdain:This is like the greatest thing that ever happened
  • Mario Batali:
  • Aziz Ansari: Approved (Even those who make people laugh do not laugh about the food here). See Here.
  • Book Written About It: True. See Here.
  • Has Its Own Theme Song: Yes, true. See Here.

 Now, a shocking statement:

¡¡¡THEY CLOSE SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4TH, 2014!!!

The good news (for me, at least): I ate here.

The good news for you: I’m going to tell you about it.

I decided that the best way to document my experience would be to walk you through my journey from the end of the famous line to the legendary sausages themselves.

THE LINE:

The Hot Doug’s lines are famous. We waited 2 ½ hours (at about 10:30am on a rainy Saturday) from the point depicted below to sausage time. The crazy part is that every minute of the wait is worth it. By about the completion of first meat roll, all memories of the line melt away like shredded fontina on your celebrity sausage.

THE FENCE.

As the 2 ½ hour climb bore on – we began noting various trail markers along the path to the country’s best encased meats. The first such milestone was the fence and the painted pig.

THE WINDOW.

Down the trail a piece, you come to the infamous window. Spend time here salivating and scoping out the show schedules for various music venues around town.

THE DOOR.

So close you can smell it. Here one makes nervous small talk and shoots dirty glances at those finally crossing the threshold.

THE MENUS.

If by now you haven’t ferociously finger-poked the Hot Doug’s menu on your ubiquitous mobile device, this is the time to strategize your order.

GAME OF THE WEEK.

Awww Yeah. You reached the “Game of the Week” plaque. We visited when a Pernod-infused pheasant sausage was on the menu. More on that inspiring item later.

CELEBRITY SAUSAGE (ALMOST THERE!)

At this stage your palms are sweaty, your legs are tired, and butterflies are going ape shit in your tummy. You are unable to think of anything else besides mentally rehearsing your order and any questions you have for Doug.

THE COUNTER. THE MAN.

Your turn. The rest of the world fades to black and burning spotlights beat down upon your one-on-one interaction with the legendary sausage king of Chicago. But soon you realize that Doug is a chummy, down-to-earth dude who proudly stands (literally) behind every order. A 2-minute interview ensued between this food blogger and the Oracle of Meat Pipes.

Nick the Foodie: [Bowing, showing praise]

Doug: “Haha – you got the wrong guy.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what are you going to do after October 4th?”

Doug: “I’m going to take a nap and then I’m going to go out for lunch. A lot of chefs in the city owe me lunch…I heard that people were saying that I would be opening a gourmet restaurant – that is totally untrue.”

Nick the Foodie: “How about a food truck?”

Doug: “I don’t get the economics of it – I don’t know how people make any money.”

Nick the Foodie: “Well, if anyone could pull it off, I bet you could.”

Doug: [Smiling] “I’d rather sell crack to kids.”

Nick the Foodie: “So what do you eat when you aren’t in the restaurant?”

Doug: “Oh, I eat everything. We end up with a lot of extra sauces – so most of the time I cook with those. Spaghetti is one thing that I make with all the leftover tomatoes.”

Nick the Foodie: [Places order, walks away, drools in anticipation]

THE TABLE.

Our Order:

  • Game of the Week (2) – Pernod-infused pheasant sausage with rhubarb mustard, goat cheese and truffled radishes
  • Celebrity Sausage (1) – Jaymee Tigzenskee (1) – Hungarian smoked pork sausage w/ smoked paprika mustard, fontina cheese, and smoked onion marmalade
  • Hot Doug’s Cassoulet (1): Saucisse de Toulouse with fresh herb mustard, great northern beans, duck confit and black sea salt
  • The Paul Kelly (1) – Bratwurst with everything (mustard, caramelized onions, relish, tomatoes, pickle, celery salt)
  • Duck Fat Fries

THE ENCASED MEATS. 

There was nothing but silence interspersed with groans of pleasure for the 10 minutes that encompassed taking the initial first bites of each sausage. When I was able to formulate speech and weave together thought fragments again, I came to the following impressions:

  • The pheasant sausage was bursting with flavors and perfect seasonings – totally juicy and perfect in every sense. A sweet and complex rhubarb mustard was the next thing that I noticed – were those black currants in there too? I was then hit with rich waves of  goat cheese and thin wafts of radish atop my meat.
  • The celeb. sausage was insanely good too. I ended up wishing that I had ordered two of these as well. The spicy pork sausage with smoked paprika mustard, cheese, and onions embodied everything that encased meat sandwiches should be.
  • I wanted to sample a bratwurst just to get a sense for how well Doug does a classic, basic sausage in addition to the zany “full meals on a bun” that he creates with his specials. I was glad that I did. The bratwurst was among the best that memory can recall – complete with all the traditional Chicago toppings.
  • Cassoulet: French-style sausage, herby moutarde, beans, confit, and sea salt? What’s not to like? This one was a bit more mild than I had anticipated and I found myself wanting slightly more flavor – but perhaps that’s because I had already eaten 2 lbs of pheasant and Hungarian pork sausage.

I came, I saw, and I conquered the trek to experience an iconic American restaurant before closing. After eating here, I can fully understand why Hot Doug’s has spawned such a fervent cult following and I, too, have joined the ranks of loyal followers.

City Snapshot (Part Deux) – Chicago

July 18th, 2014

Occasionally, the Foodie hosts a travel segment. Word. This time, we revisit one of my favorite food towns: Chicago. The windy city should derive its name from the furious breezes created by the arms of hipsters eating muy rapido.

The last time we visited Chicago, I listed out the top things that I consumed. Lucky for you, I’m going to do that same thing again.

So here it is – the best of Chi-town, served up on your favorite food blog.

TOP NINE THINGS THAT I DEVOURED IN CHICAGO (IN RANDOM ORDER, BUT ALL EQUALLY ABLE TO PLEASE)

1. Au Cheval – A Burger to Remember

Oh mah gawd.  There were murmurings about a diner. Tales of waiting in limbo with no reservations. Whispers scattered throughout the streets of what might be the best burger in town. Fittingly, Au Cheval (which means Horse in French) pulled some reverse-whisper judo on a human through what may be the ultimate hamburger.

I ordered it without any questions. Note:  In Horse-speak, “A double cheeseburger with bacon” means “three thin patties instead of two, topped with slab high-quality bacon that is almost as thick as the burger meat.” Tackling this stack of wonder, I found myself tucking into the finest quality beef, perfectly melty cheese, a special sauce, thin-sliced pickles, tomato, and a divine bun.

A flawless burger is like true love: You can’t really describe it adequately, but you know that it’s there.

Flawless.

2. Frontera – The Guac

Eager to try one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants, I headed over to Frontera to sample authentic Mexican fare done local, fresh, and inventive. You’ve gotta praise the man for omitting burritos from the menu in favor of complex moles, duck enchiladas, and tamales.  The real stand-outs here are the sauces, but I enjoyed the humble Guacamole the most – perfectly creamy and flavorful.

3. Hot Doug’s – The Pilgrimage

This sacred stop on the American food trail deserves a separate post, which will be forthcoming. All I will say here is that I waited in line, met the man, and ate the sausages in time to experience Hot Doug’s before they close later this year. Stay tuned for a full-on food porn special.

4. Yusho – Chicken Wings, Yakitori Style

I had never before tried yakitori anything. Now it’s all I can think about. The chicken wings with bonito salt, lime, and Thai chile are definitively the best way that I have EVER experienced this ubiquitous bird. So good we placed another order instead of dessert.

Quick Tutorial on Yakitori: Literally meaning “cooked chicken,” yakitori joints are a staple informal street food in Japan. The cooking method usually involves placing your desired protein on skewers and then grilling them over a unique smokeless charcoal called bincho-tan. This charcoal burns hot and white (like Scarlett Johansson), contains no chemical additives, and is much sturdier than the kind you use in your Weber. This stuff is expensive and goes for $50 for a 5-lb bag according to one source.

Though the yakitori chicken really blew me away, Yusho serves a wealth of excellent yakitori-driven dishes including octopus (with delicate enoki mushrooms, micro-greens, and egg yolk vinaigrette) and kakuni pork belly (with a creamy polenta-like version of the okonomiyaki savory Japanese pancake, hon shimeji mushrooms, and a sweeter, mild sauce).

The yakitori grill gives meats a unique and indescribable flavor. The lack of smoke produced by the charcoal means that the meat is infused with the pure essential vapors produced from the juices released onto the white-hot embers. If that doesn’t make you hungry, I give up on you.

Yakitori-san

5. Intelligentsia Coffee – Quad Latte

These guys have actually established a dominant presence throughout Chicago and are the best option for coffee around in some neighborhoods. They epitomize the highest-end of the coffee scene with new-age gadgetry, futuristic beatnik baristas, and words like “extractions” used in lieu of “pulling an extra shot,” because that would be so Dunkin’ Donuts of them.

The espresso drinks here are among the best in town. Luckily, I can also get Intelligentsia coffee at Bloc 11, which is where I first discovered them.

6.Parson’s Chicken & Fish – Amish Fried Chicken*

This Logan Square spot is one of those places that makes me angry that they weren’t also located somewhere around Boston. They do only a few things but they do them extremely well – including fresh salads, some of the best fried chicken, and a lightly crispy fish fry.

*Amish Fried Chicken = The most humanely and purely raised birds possible from regional Amish farms, fried expertly.

 

 

7. Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter – Croissants, Waffles, and Other Delights

They would have had me with a mighty good croissant, but with apple turnovers and liege waffles, this hidden bakery magically transported me to Europe after a single bite. I left singing their praises in French.

8. Revolution Brewing – Anti-Hero IPA

I usually stumble across at least one new baller beer each time I voyage to Chicago. With so many excellent local craft brewers, it’s hard to go wrong. Anti-Hero by Revolution Brewing is a big, bold, and hoppy IPA that is supremely drink-able and would be stocked in my fridge at all times if it was available in MA.

9. Vosges Haut-ChocolatTruffles & Wine

This is the first chocolate shop that I’ve seen with a tasting room, wine pairings, “flights” of truffles, and absinthe. I was unable to leave the place without turning back to sip on big Spanish wine and down boozy truffles.

Finally, and randomly, I leave you with an unforgettable scene from Taste of Chicago:

Sarma – Defying Definition.

July 4th, 2014

www.sarmarestaurant.com

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Sarma = “wrapped; enveloped; rolled up; a bundle of food that is bite sized and served as a meze. An embrace.”

Also: A third restaurant by Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra), this time in partnership with her Chef de Cuisine at Oleana, Cassie Piuma.

Meyhane = A traditional restaurant or bar typical of Iran, Turkey and the Balkans. It combines copious booze with meze plates. “Meyhane” literally means, “wine house.”

Crab & Red Lentil Kibbeh = An interesting take on the meat torpedoes that come to mind when I think of Kibbeh. This time, India meets Middle East meets Maryland. A lightly crispy cake of delicate crab and lentil swims in a fragrant coconut curry and is crowned by a refreshing green papaya slaw and zhoug, which is Israeli hot sauce. Perfection.

India, Turkey, and Maryland

Lamb Souvlakia = Tender skewers of shish-kebab style lamb over gigante beans, olive and dill. Refined and absolutely delicious.

Shish Up

Feta Cheese Gnocchi = Fresh gnocchi oozing with warm feta and topped with VIP mushrooms and peas. All of which is engulfed in a tomato-based broth with metaxa (Greek brandy). Though I don’t like the way both the Greek and Italian footballing teams play the beautiful game, combining the culinary traditions of both these great countries is gorgeous.

Greek Pasta

Kunefe = A dessert-worthy sweet cheese pastry topped with citrus, saffron honey, and pistachio accompanied by a delightfully refreshing salad of crinkled cress, golden and red beets and orange supremes.

Dessert.

Passed Plates = An ingenious way to do the nightly specials. Servers will periodically present heartier meze plates to your table throughout the meal which, should you choose to accept them, are tallied on a little card that is placed on your table. I found these plates to be more gratuitous than uniquely special, and decided that they would be better enjoyed as bar snacks should one choose to eat dinner around Sarma’s spacious bar area. I selected a fried soft-shell crab plate (because I couldn’t resist). Though tasty, it didn’t exactly mesh with the meze-theme of the menu.

Loukamades with Halva Caramel Topping = And then comes dessert. Just ‘cause. Ricotta munchkins made up of hot, moist fried dough. Drenched in halva caramel. Cue the Marvin Gaye and Barry White.

Order this now.

Sarma is a place that requires a panoply of definitions to begin to define, and even then I can’t do justice to the experience of dining there.  At the end of the day, you’ll just have to put down the dictionary and opt for experiential learning.

Foodie out.

Alden & Harlow – Another Reason Why Our Food Scene is Heating Up

June 18th, 2014

http://aldenharlow.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

I don’t know exactly when this started happening, but the eating scene at Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville restaurants is beginning to look a lot like the dining dynamics in other major food meccas across the U.S. – think San Fran, Chicago, and NYC. Case in point:

  • Reservations at an increasing number of HOT spots are required at least a week in advance, and then the only available opening is at 9:30PM for two
  • The house on Friday and Saturday nights is packed to the gills
  • Kitchens run out of things that are very special and handcrafted in small quantities…”We only make 30 of those, and they’ve all been eaten.”
  • The food truck revolution has struck the city hard
  • Many places have “secret,” “limited,” “exclusive,” items that are only order-able in certain seats
  • Small plates, small plates, small plates
  • Hipster beards, ‘staches, tattoos, flannel and garb from the early 1900s
  • Reclaimed wood, vintage x, exposed y
  • Speakeasys, burgers 1000 ways, fermented everything, and innovate vegetables
  • Celeb chefs have their eyes on opening new outposts on our soil

Indeed, for those who haven’t noticed, our food game is coming up in the world.

Slowly but steadily, this area has amassed a strong cohort of excellent chefs and restaurateurs who are doing it and doing it and doing it well.

Michael Scelfo and his team at Alden & Harlow are a shining example of the good things happening across the local food scene. This is fun, exciting, pretty, and interesting food at it’s best. Sure, there are a few dishes that fail to launch in the process, but overall A&H is killing it.

Let me elaborate:

UBIQUITOUS KALE SALAD, FENNEL, CREAMY PISTACHIO

It looks like the Grinch in this picture, but might just possibly be the best kale salad I’ve ever had. The fresh kale, fennel, citrus, and pistachio come together beautifully. Our server even snatched the recipe for us upon request – this isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have to share it!!!

ROMANESCO, FIDDLEHEADS – with Other Goodness

Besides being a simply beautiful dish, this homage to cool-looking vegetables most people haven’t heard of was simple, refined, and refreshing.

Pretty Veggies...

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD – Raisins, Pecorino, Hazelnuts, Brown Butter

This was one of the dishes that didn’t quite do it for me here (and other critics have agreed). The squash in nearly-raw shredded form – though inventive – was far less flavorful than the roasted version and came off a bit bland.

BURRATA, ENGLISH PEA, & RADISH – Mint & Peperoncino Honey, Garlic Crostino

Burrata is a long-standing fixture that has been popping up on menus for a few years now and is one thing I am always compelled to order in an instinctual purely amygdala-driven primitive decision-making reflex. Alden & Harlow’s version was creamy, fresh and paired nicely with the accouterments.

Burrata

CHILI & HONEY GLAZED OCTOPUS – Pistachio & Spring Onion, Chick Peas, Pickled Lamb

The A&H octopus was killer, perfectly cooked, and so flavorful with the chili, honey, and…pickled lamb? Somehow they pulled it off. Damn-skippy.

SECRET BURGER – 8oz House Creekstone Grind, Faith, House Made Roll

Remains a secret – they were all out! Maybe I’d have a better shot at accessing one at brunch?

CHICKEN FRIED LOCAL RABBIT – Celery, Apple, Blue Cheese, Chili Oil

Though very well-marketed and alluring, the chicken fried rabbit is the other dish that didn’t wow me. I love rabbit in all its traditional forms but the version here failed to come together – the rabbit got lost in the picture and the celery, apple, and chili oil adorning the plate was not a flavor combo that sung for me.

Chicken-Fried Hopper

ENGLISH PEAS & WILD MUSHROOMS – 60 Degree Egg, Pine Nut Crumble

I have no idea what a 60 degree egg is – or all those fancy eggs cooked in delicate ways. I guess I should have asked (being a food blogger and all) but instead I just enjoyed.

Egg Dish with a Number

SLOW ROASTED BEEF NECK – Parsnips, Vinegar, Radishes

Beef neck – new part of the cow for me. Not too different from the cheeks though – little fatty, though succulent and tender when cooked with chef magic.

Beef Neck Meets Chef Magic

OLIVE OIL CAKE PANZANELLA – Rhubarb, Harry’s Strawberries, Fennel & Frozen Crème Fraiche

Olive oil desserts are all the rage right now, and this one was outstanding. Loved every bite and found this dish to be crisp, fruity, and soothing to the core.

Yum.

On the whole, A&H delivers well-crafted food that is worthy of being included in the wave of Boston restaurants that are putting this city increasingly on the map for good eats.

Three cheers for Alden, Harlow, and Scelfo. You are destined for greatness.

Message to the Secret Burger: I’M COMING TO GET YOU – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Sophia’s – This is a Public Service Announcement

May 30th, 2014

http://www.sophiasgreekpantry.com/

Location: Belmont, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

There’s a new drug on the street people, and we need to fight back.

Stories are beginning to surface on kids and adults of all ages getting hooked quickly and finding themselves in the throes of a wild addiction.

Empty containers of the creamy, thick, sweet substance have been turning up in alleyways, so-called “yo’dens,” cars, and even the offices of high-profile politicians.

Slang terms for the new drug include “yo,” “sophies,” “the Greek sh*t,” “probiotic pete,” and YOLALA. Keep your ears out people.

Recent reports have shown that users are obtaining the drug from a few different sources, although there may be more:

Though the government has yet to make the substance officially illegal, it may consider doing so in the near future given several cases of lactoverdose, a serious condition that can be caused by consuming five or more full tubs of the yo’.

Be warned, citizens of Boston. Be warned. We need to stop this problem before it becomes a new designer drug epidemic.

The Culprit