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

Merrill & Co. – For Your Next Dining Spree

May 2nd, 2014

www.merrillandcoboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Thinking that this was some new retail clothing chain selling hearty American outdoor-wear (sounds like it should be, right?), I came into Merrill & Co. looking for sturdy shorts but came out with my stomach stuffed full rather than my cargo pockets.

The South End spot, which opened in March, is a bit of a collab-o between the restaurant group behind Bin 26, Lala Rohk, and JM Curley and talent from the latter of the three joints.

Their funky menu spans Asian-influences, American comfort classics and fruits de mer. The offerings are organized as follows:

  • Raw Bar – oysters, shrimp, and ceviche
  • “Jump Offs” – bar snacks
  • “Lil’ Guys” – plates designed for sharing but many large enough to be enjoyed by one hungry Northeastern student. Largest section of the menu, so I guess that playing nice with your food is encouraged here.
  • “Big Boys” – even a Tufts frat boy couldn’t handle something like a “Big Ass Bone-In Ribeye” with lardo and beef butter on his own. These guys are meant for splitting.

Let me lay it down for you in more detail – retail style.

AISLE ONE

We started the meal off with a nice dish of artichokes, king trumpet mushrooms, and queso fresco. Very rustic flavor and an inventive dish. Plus One for Merrill.

AISLE TWO

Next, we moved on to the octopus with kimchi, pimento, and burnt onion. The tentacle was cooked well with the right mix of tenderness, seasoning, and char. The ‘pus went better with the sauce of pimento/onion than the pickled stuff, which was more of a palate cleanser. Overall, a well-conceived dish. Another point for Merrill.

AISLE THREE

The classic progression of a refined French meal: artichokes, octopus, then mac et fromage. Merrill’s take on a classic dish included a light and airy parmesan-cheddar sauce over some nice little elbows and bread crumbs. Refreshing to not have a mac ‘n cheese that hit my gullet like a ton of bricks. In the end though, I was hoping for a little more flavor from this bad boy – maybe some funkier cheese like Gruyere and some added kick from some chives? Minus a point for Merrill.

Mac Attack

AISLE FOUR

Awwwwwwww yeah. Sliders. Juicy frickin’ sliders. Special sauce. Pickles. Melty Cheese. Delicious. Perfection. Making the Top 10 Burgers in Boston List this year. I’m certain. The guys here must have ripped a page out of the JM Curley burger handbook (currently the #3 burger in the area by my count) with this one. A home run for Merrill & the whole damn company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT

Finally, the drink spread here is pretty decent too – I sipped a tasty Devotion Belgian Pale from Lost Abbey (CA). Though not my thang – they also have a large selection of sherry.

This was a fun night of shopping for my tongue, teeth, nose, and innards. We all enjoyed the meal. Though the menu is a little helter-skelter without really hitting on a core theme, the food coming out of the kitchen is quite respectable and worthy of your time and money.

 – ESPECIALLY THE SLIDERS!!! – 

Commonwealth – Wiggling Into Multiple Mealtimes

April 18th, 2014

http://commonwealthcambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Restaurants usually come to occupy a certain space within ourselves – we file the place away in our gullet and food funnels within our brain (yes, that is a term from the field of neuroscience). You know, there is that part of us that wants:

…this type of food

…at that time of day

…with those people

…and for that price tag.

Let me illustrate.

  • Olecito: A quick meal when I have cash in my pocket, a long ride ahead of me, and a hankering for pork and spices on my tongue.
  • Bronwyn: Beers and pretzels with friends any night, weekend dinner with anyone, or the Bronburger…alone.
  • A4: Friday night dinner, good red wine and a movie with me’lady – meow.
  • Ribelle: When I know my schedule 3 weeks ahead of time, I want to be guaranteed a memorable meal, and I just got paid a boatload of $$$
  • Simon’s: Triple medium cubano latte. Every single Friday.

Commonwealth is starting to wiggle its way into my subconscious in a way that has them coming top of mind at multiple mealtimes.

For example:

Sunday Brunch: With a spacious, chill, sunny vibe and a wicked fun menu filled with sinful fat-laden things and good coffee – there is not much more to think about when considering Commonwealth for an 11:30am double meal.

ORDER THIS: “Ginormous Sticky Bun with Crispy Bacon” – Serves 4, but can easily be eaten by a single hung-over glutton.

ORDER THIS: “The Dirty Jersey” – Yeah, it’s a ham, egg, ‘n cheese sandwich…but on steroids. Super delicate bun, baller ham, gooey egg, and pimpin’ queso. Homefries on the side are actually amazing.

Weekday Lunch:  Starting at about 12:15 every weekday, a small army of tech geeks, high-powered consultants, pharma phriends, and INTP software engineers descend upon the luncheonettes and café cars of Kendall Square for their midday intake. Without disclosing which one of those suspects I am, I have found myself flocking here with the rest of the crowd for some lunching.

ORDER THIS: “Pork Belly Banh Mi” – A respectable take on the epic BLT sandwich from the East.

Oh, and I’ll have you know that I do eat my veggies in addition to large quantities of pig and carbs.

That’s right folks – Commonwealth has just the thing for you on that front too. Think spinach and strawberry salad, lush green salad with watermelon radish, asparagus and faro, and a beet/goat cheese salad with pistachio pesto and dill. Bounty of the earth.

Randomly, they also have an insanely good oatmeal raisin cookie. So they also occupy the “snack time” part of my brain too.

So – if you have empty spaces in your meal schedule – I’d recommend you hit up Commonwealth, stat.

State Park – Tobacco Onions & Shuffleboard Lure, But Foodie Unimpressed

April 1st, 2014

http://statepark.is/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

I will resist all temptations to reference a popular cartoon featuring a dude named Cartman.

I will descend into a faux dive bar engineered by the good people over at the Cambridge mainstay restaurant Hungry Mother.

I will select “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg from the Jukebox and order these things from the menu:

TOBACCO ONIONS – Best tasting dish we ordered, served in an ashtray (and no, there is no real tobacco in these to my knowledge)

Most Appetizing Ashtray Contents I've Ever Seen...

FRIED PICKLED OKRA – An appetizer that always sounds fun and tasty but manages to be a bit of a let-down everywhere.

Ehhh...

FRIED CHICKEN – By New England standards, not bad. By U.S. standards, not good.

I've Had Better...

I will review the beer menu and see four respectable yet unexciting brews on tap, wishing I was at Cambridge Brewing Company or Meadhall instead.  I will search for other good beers and see pricey “top shelf” bottles stretching up to $40 a piece – no thanks. I will briefly contemplate a ‘gansett or a high life and order something from Smuttynose.

I will be moderately enjoying myself at this point, but not raving about the food and bev. scene here so far.

I will glance over at the pool table and check out the pinball machines and shuffleboard table. As cool as shuffleboard is (and looks) I will remember why I never play bar games – overcrowded, and perennially plagued by the village douchebags. Pass.

I will pick at the remnants of tobacco onions, sip something brewed by Harpoon, and want to like it here…unique joint, helmed by some pro chefs, a person can feel cool here…etc. etc.

In the end though, I will conclude that State Park is best enjoyed for tobacco onions and getting wasted on cheap beer. I would have enjoyed drinking here more about seven years ago, but probably would have felt the same way about the grub. Sorry guys.

In a few hashtags: #tobaccoonions #narragansett #shuffleboard #notfordinner #beersnobsdrinkelsewhere

Asta – Current Crush.

March 1st, 2014

www.astaboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

So where does a Boston-based food nerd go for culinary romance on Valentine’s day? Why, Asta of course.

Chef Alex Crabb and co-owner Shish offer a value prop to the discriminating diner that reads like a brick house: 36-24-36, what a winning hand…

36: Chef Crabb spent time as a stagiaire at Noma, Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen-based restaurant that pretty much took the reigns from El Bulli as #1 restaurant in the world.

24: An uber-local, constantly changing, seasonal nightly tasting menu that will give you things you’ve never tasted before in a 3, 5, or 8-course format (with amuse bouche and small bites putting parentheses around the meal).

36: Very sophisticated wine program, chefs tables overlooking an open kitchen (ballsy, I like it), and absolutely no ‘tude to which I bow given the price tag and location.

Their menu reads like some innovative new form of haiku. Here’s what they were serving for $70 on V-day:

cauliflower

bottarga, anchovy

monk fish

roasted brussel sprouts

bacon broth

braised celery

black garlic gnocchi

chicken skin

beef

hearty winter leaves

chestnut

black cocoa pavlova

passion fruit, olive oil

Glance on for Pictures of Food (many readers will just skip to here and leave this page to make reservations):

cauliflower

beef.

monkfish.

pavlova.

My Favorite Dish: Delicately browned cauliflower over cauliflower puree with wonderful slight touches of the sea. The opener. Incredibly refreshing and refined. Had me at first bite. Loved the classy touch of bottarga.

Second Favorite Dish: The beef. Very nice slices of medium-rare filet with a super-interesting chestnut jus drizzled over them.

Other Highlights:

  • A perfectly-seared monkfish.
  • The most vibrantly green brussel sprouts I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.
  • Black garlic gnocchi that tasted so soft and fresh they might as well have been made on the way to our table from the kitchen or right under my eyes as I stole a glance around the place.
  • Delightful pavlova dessert that resembled a cracked egg – man the passion fruit crème on that plate will haunt my dreams for years.

A meal that made this geek’s glasses steam up. Chef Crabb’s cooking ranges from simple pleasures to subtly refined hints of genius. A nice mix of skill that puts this restaurant on par with places churning out creative New England-ish contemporary American upscale foodstuffs – think Bondir, T.W. Food, Puritan & Co., and Ten Tables.

I think I’m in love.