Archive for the ‘Beer Snob Worthy’ Category
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
–“Men of New England, I hold you to the doctrines of liberty which ye inherit from your Puritan forefathers.” –
The puritans left England to practice what they believed without persecution. Like the intense cult-prone adventurers who first developed the new world, Will Gilson has sailed out into uncharted culinary territory with his new restaurant to worship the demigods of lamb belly, jamon iberico, and bone marrow on his own terms.
I am here to tell his story.
While I’m pretending to be an historian, I’ll throw a little more history atch’ya – a local business called Puritan Cake Company once occupied the space that now houses this immaculate new temple of gourmet righteousness. In fact, the new owners will even present their interpretation of the cake once produced here in little bite-sized pieces at the end of your meal.
I open this review with a lesson of our past, for, in Churchill’s words: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Gilson, it appears, was paying attention during his “ye olde volume ‘o cooking history” class in culinary school. The menu at Puritan & Company shows deference and respect for rustic New England favorites while taking a few chances with cuisine from other regions and incorporating interesting twists on the foods of our forbearers. This is also a restaurant strongly grounded in the fat of Massachusetts soil – with goods sourced from Savenors and The Herb Lyceum (the Groton farmstead owned by Gilson’s family).
Now, without much further ado, I present to you my analysis on my flavor fave dishes from Puritan that I had the joy of eating from our charcuterie table seats:
The softest, buttery brioche roll you will ever taste – topped with some amazing lightly-shaved sea salt. Washed down with a Peak Organic dark nut brew made specially for Puritan that involves a little ginger and honey from the Herb Lyceum.
Something called Gougeres. I’ve never seen these in France (assuming they’re a French dish), but wherever they hail from these things are awesome. Lightly-toasted warm balls of wonder stuffed with rosemary and cheddar mornay. Tasted like a gourmet cheez-it.
Rare Jamon Iberico freshly shaved from a $1,200 hock of cured ham sitting by the charcuterie station. Lightly nutty, smooth, and tender.
“Swordfish Pastrami.” One of the most unique and inventive plates on the menu, this dish incorporates spiced strips of smoked sword, cannelles of chilled mustard cream, brussels, and pumpernickel essence. Amazing.
Bone Marrow Gratin. Easily one of the best dishes on the menu here, Puritan’s bone marrow is beautifully plated on a bed of hay and roasted with an array of herbs, butter (surely) and garlic. Spreading a little of this gelatinous goodness on a slice of torched duck fat brioche was literally one of the best things I’ve done all year.
Lamb Belly. Probably the other “must try” dish on the menu here in addition to the marrow, lamb belly is similar to pork belly in terms of the presentation and texture, however it comes with an added gaminess and earthiness that is matched wonderfully with an orange + moxie sauce. I’ve never had anything quite like it but I loved it.
Clam Chowder. Pure genius. Your server will bring over a sexy-looking lineup of clams sharing their shells with a little friend named fried pork belly. A warm creamy broth will then be poured over the bowl from a pitcher. Totally creative.
Wood-Roasted Muscovy Duck – A solid classic bird paired with quinoa, wild mushrooms and thyme.
Order any of these dishes and your stomach will thank you like a pilgrim feasting on a freshly-cooked turkey.
A few words on a singular Puritan plate that, while risqué and interesting – misses the mark a bit. Lamb chop and lamb sausage. This ends up looking like a funny giant lamb lollipop. A bunch of ground lamb sausage is packed around the chop and just becomes overwhelming to eat (plus a little dry – it’s gotta be tough to cook right). If there is one dish on the menu I would replace – it would be this one. Instead – put a game bird, rabbit, wild boar or some lobster on the table!
On the whole, Puritan & Company really nails it. The restaurant itself is beautiful and will surely be a success with an array of very well-executed dishes that are unrivaled elsewhere.
The first settlers of the new land knew that they were on to something when they laid the first foundations of a society free from sexual misconduct, blasphemous words, and witchcraft. I thank Chef Gilson for bringing a few spoonfuls of sin back onto New England soil.
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
§ A Brief History of the Gastropub §
A portmanteau of the words gastronomy and pub, the term gastropub originated in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century.
Like when the first Cro-Magnons discovered fire by rubbing two stones together, two Londoners stumbled upon a concept that would forever change the human race when they found you could please Englishmen with the drunken munchies by rubbing a pub and a kitchen together.
According to culinary beer lover’s lore, the first gastropub was born in Clerkenwell, London with the revolutionary “Steak-over” of the Eagle Pub.
The concept quickly spread far and wide when restaurateurs and pub owners alike stumbled upon an equation that puts Einstein to shame:
Dressing up a bar + employing a real chef + good beer + putting manly food on a menu = Scrooge McDuck-like Riches
Because words and trends travel quickly across the anglo nations of the world, the gastropub movement hit the United States at the turn of the 2nd millennium.
Today, you can find a g-pub in nearly any American city worth their salted fish ‘n chips, including that ever-historic town where our forefathers first raised their middle fingers in unison to the British empire – Boston.
I suppose us grizzly, bearded New England patriots have come to a point of compassion and forgiveness with our better-mannered cousins across the pond, because the gastropub is the biggest food phenomenon to hit the Bean since clam chowder.
In what has seemed like an explosion, Boston has witnessed the opening of Citizen Public House, Meadhall, Foundry on Elm, Saloon, Stoddard’s, Russell House Tavern, Five Horses, Lord Hobo, JM Curley, Park, and the Tip Tap Room. As I pound out these words, there is likely another gastropub under construction.
Today we turn our attention to the Gallows – a SoWA (South of Washington) South End destination that is one of the pioneers of the g-pub trend in the area. These guys are among the group of restaurants getting it right…
When Urrg and Gruurg first found fire, their cro-colleagues must have banged rocks together without success. Modern man suffers from the same issue, and too often gastropubs end up hitting the beer side without paying enough attention to the quality of the eats.
Unfortunately, most Boston g-pubs (think Russell House, Foundry on Elm, Park, Saloon) end up being simply snazzy places to drink a craft beer along with a nibble or two rather than propelling the food to the forefront.
The Gallows definitely joins Citizen Public House, JM Curley, Stoddard’s and Lord Hobo by successfully copying a technique that will someday lead to the next iteration of human kind.
Gallows presents a chill, classy, dimly-lit setting in which to enjoy good food and beer. With a nice menu that features several meat-and-cheese-laden “boards” (we’ll cover the charcuterie trend in a separate post), a few versions of the Canadian Classic poutine, sandwiches, burgers, and slightly more dainty dishes like grilled octopus and ginger soy tofu – the Gallows has something for both beer-bellied gluttons and vegetarians (good thing beer is plant-based).
I specifically ventured here for one item and one item only – the Our Way burger. A simple affair that is cooked in the West Coast thin tradition and topped with cheddar, griddled onion and pickles, the Our Way burger is a commendable thing that should be tried by any burger enthusiast. In fact, I have named it to my closely scrutinized and ever-evolving Top Ten Burgers in Boston List. I was equally pleased by the Pretty Things IPA and Duvel I enjoyed on draft.
As mankind continues to bang pubs and kitchens together to form sparks of frothy pints, fried food, and griddled meat parts, let’s keep learning from our less coordinated cave dwellers and really whip up flames with some decent food coming out of the kitchen.
Location: Somerville, MA
The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi
All signs pointed to glee – comfort Southern fare, tested restaurant owner, Davis locale, an aeronautical name suggesting meat missiles are on the horizon…but in reality “Meat ‘n Three Sides” was a mixed bag y’all.
The Foodie hates dishing out criticism, but in the spirit of providing a clean and honest review, I owe it to my following to keep you eating well.
Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? I’ll break it down so you can skip ahead to what you want to hear:
THE GOOD NEWS:
- Nice Concept. On a certain level, what’s not to like about a laid-back atmosphere, friendly servers, a large menu of rare and obscure beers served primarily in can format, and loads of gut-growing savory Southern grub being slung out ‘da kitchen? These guys have everything except the twang. They also cleverly constructed all table surfaces and bathroom walls to be chalk-friendly.
- A Few Decent to Tasty Dishes. As you’ll find out, you gotta order skillfully here to enjoy your eating experience. Some plates that will make ‘yer belly say “gurgle gurgle yum yum” include: Fried Maine cheese curds, shrimp ‘n grits, anything pickled (they have a thing for pickling), and mac ‘n cheese. That’s about all I would seriously order.
THE BAD NEWS:
- Many Mediocre to Pretty Bad Dishes. The real bad news about M3 is that their menu is weighted more heavily towards cement-heavy cooking; ill-conceived concoctions, and “just Ok” food that is done better at places like Tupelo, Highland Kitchen, and Blue Ribbon BBQ. Such dishes include the rainbow trout (flavorless), fried chicken (sooooo dry), watermelon salad (lips puckering with vinegar overdose), fried catfish (overly breaded), oyster po’boy (a po’ attempt at a classic sammich) and duck fat burger (sounded good but had my buddy looking pretty ill with fullness all night – like he swallowed a cinder-block).
- Trying Too Hard and Going Over-the-Top. Sure, consumers are a fickle bunch. You really have to try hard to catch people’s attention. But fried fluffernutter? A burger cooked in duckfat and topped with bacon? A mini-hen served with a beer can shoved up its butt? Cornmeal fried frog legs? Such heavy-handedness had even I, an unabashed meat eater who feasted on applewood-smoked-bacon-wrapped-rabbit-loin-skewers” in celebration of a movie involving kids brutally murdering each other while roasting squirrel in the woods, saying “Arrêt.
So there it is, Billy Bob. The true story. The real deal. In the end The Foodie recommends hitting M3 for some late night fried cheese curds and beers or a day-drinking snack. Also give the brunch a shot (haven’t ventured into that territory yet).
But – buyer beware when it comes to dinner.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi
Like a blind date, a cult, or that new sub-prime mortgage – Park was promising at first but ended in tears.
Little too dramatic? Let me walk you through my mixed experience at the reincarnation of Redline – now a restaurant and bar in the gastropub mold (hasn’t that model been tapped out yet?)
- Positive reviews from the Globe
- 4-stars on Yelp
- Hip-looking location – the kind of place where you’d expect good food to live
- Decent crowd on a Friday night
Let’s start out with the positives of my dining experience here, shall we?
- Beer-snob worthy brew menu (think Pretty Things, Titan IPA from CO, Left Hand Milk Stout also from CO, and Spaten Lager)
- An entire page of whiskeys and other spirits
- A nice complimentary cheese and crispy flatbread cracker presentation at the start of the meal
- Salt and Pepper Shrimp. Holy shit. This was the best thing we ate at Park and had us riding high into the entrée round. Nicely-cooked shrimp atop Napa cabbage and bathed in a zingy jalapeno/salt/cilantro essence – had me wanting to sing “Shoop, shoop bay doop.”
What happened between the four bullets above and our main plates I’ll never know…did the “A” team chef finish her shift? Did we just order WAY wrong? Was it something we said?
Here’s what went down:
- I ordered the grilled Lamb Belly over summer succotash and Madeira. Sounded a little risky but I thought the upside could be heavenly if Park brought their top game to the kitchen. My risky investment ultimately turned out like a Facebook share. They made a mockery of the succotash by overdoing the fennel, and managed to kill a nicely-grilled lamb belly with an overtly bitter sauce that lacked anything resembling good flavor. Nobody in the kitchen had ever tasted this dish.
- My dining chum ordered the Roasted Half Chicken – something a little easier for the kitchen to handle than lamb belly. Somehow our bird was a little overcooked, lacked flavor, and was perched atop an ill-conceived panzanella salad (cucumber/tomato/balsamic-soaked bread chunks).
My overall assessment is that you should gladly park yourself at Park for beers and maybe a few snacks – but find another lot before moving on to the main dishes. Sadly the fate of many other g-pubs in town (think Saloon, Foundry on Elm, etc).
Like that new sales job promising millions once you “move up the pyramid” – Park’s entrée menu might just have your friends laughing at you.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
That dimly-lit neighborhood bar that everyone loves now offers outdoor drinking. Game on.
This is just one of those local places where you’re likely to meet people from everywhere but wonder how people from everywhere end up there. Too far from any T-stop for citizens of SoChuck (South of the Charles) to venture – Atwood’s tends to be packed with drinkers from NoChuck and their associates from afar who own a car or walk from nearby.
After a few encounters with this approachable, chill, laid-back spot it has quickly risen to become one of my preferred places to meet-and-drink in town. They feature live bluegrass and Americana some nights, a spacious outdoor wood-toned patio, local brews and good cheer.
Things have seemed to “click” when I’ve been here. The right company, the right number of pints, the right conversations, people laugh at my jokes etc. You know – the right balance. Minimal social awkwardness and multiple good connections. Not too crowded and not crickets.
Atwood’s offers a modest yet respectable beer lineup – last time I was here they were pouring Pretty Things American Darling and a zany green-tea-hefe-crossbreed concoction from the nocturnal brewing operation over at Night Shift Brewing
With the end of this scorching summer in sight and cooler weather on the horizon – I think I know where I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons outside the next few weeks. See you there.
OK, this wouldn’t be a food blog unless I threw a post on the big city up here.
I know the type of New Englander with a gut full of Fenway Franks, a habit of dropping their “R’s”, and a closet full of Northeast pro sport team memorabilia will shun these words – but I really like NYC.
A true Foodie could not ask for more – I swear I’ve eaten at hundreds of restaurants in Manhattan and the Burroughs over the years and always leave with a different perspective on the food scene here.
This time I’m zoning in on the strong “Farm to Table” and “House-Made” trends that continue to bring great things to my belly. Though these are big movements that have been transforming the American dining world for years – it can be especially challenging to find fresh, local, and house-made gastro-ware in a place with so much edible noise.
So here’s a few tips on doing Farm to Table during one day in NYC this summer:
Bomb lattes, crumpets, and brekkie. | Ace Hotel
This Midtown, Chelsea-area Hotel is one of those places that hands you a few cool points just for walking in the door. They also serve bomb lattes from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a pretty decent scone, and “cute” house-made granola. Start your day chilling in the lobby here for breakfast.
The best of New York state and beyond. |Union Square Farmers Market
Wind your way down 5th Avenue to Union Square Green Market (open from 8AM to 6PM on Saturdays) to experience what has got to be one of the largest farmers markets in the land. Our heads were spinning at all the amazing produce, cheeses, breads, and funky new stuff we encountered here including samples of the following:
- Finnish yeast-free rye breads (Nordic Breads)
- Chilled exotic tea mixtures (very refreshing on a 95 degree day)
- Home-made liverwurst (NOT as refreshing on a 95 degree day)
- Solar-powered-grill-cooked zucchini latkes
Late Lunch, cheese, and a few brewskies | Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses
Head uptown a block or two once you’ve enjoyed all that the Green Market has to offer to witness a home-grown cheese operation. Beecher’s is a huge shop that sells cheeses from all over and actually makes a few of their own in-house using a huge contraption displayed in plain sight of customers. Oh, and they also feature breakfast, a selection of melty, gooey, cheesy sandwiches, mac ‘n cheese, and a downstairs cellar where you can water down your cheese with it’s natural bedpartners – wine and beer.
Golden beets, arugula, rabbit, fresh pasta, and peas. Bliss. | Calliope
Once you’ve taken a couple hours to digest all the aforementioned goodness, hit Calliope for a late dinner. This intimate farmhouse bistro in the East Village serves up a small and very well executed menu of Contemporary American dishes with a nod or two to Europe. The whole meal here was amazing from start to finish and featured:
- Salad of arugula, thin shaved rounds of golden beet, and goat cheese. Our server emphatically claimed these items had literally come in from a NY-state farm that day.
- What had to be house-made delicate wide pappardelle with generous rabbit meat and sweet English Shelling Peas.
- Steamed halibut over romesco toast swimming in a small pond of beautiful saffron mussel broth.
- Dessert special of the evening that was a twist on fresh berry clafoutis (tastes as cool as it sounds)
Where beer snobs go when they die.| Top Hops Beer Shop
If you have any room left in the organic section of your stomach – make a final stop at this beer-lovers paradise to enjoy a selection of 20 taps of mouth watering craft brews and 700 (700!) bottles. Far less crowded than the average Lower East Side bar on a Saturday night and guaranteed to have a better beer selection.
In this first installment of what Nick is calling the “Beer Reflection” segment, we’re going to be going OM over Somerville’s newest brewer – Slumbrew. You’re busy, so here’s the quick breakdown:
- Launched last Friday, November 4th with a bash at the Independent (lovingly known as the Indo) in Union Square
- Local brew team bringing their craft tradition to the mainstream Somervillain by testing out recipes at a small scale “brew lab” in the ‘ville ‘hood and then smartly producing large scale by utilizing space at Mercury Brewing Company in Ipswich, MA
- Currently offering an IPA and a Hefeweizen with a soon-to-be-born Porter. The IPA is well-balanced, crisp and ripe in citrus with lots of galaxy hops and a refreshing, home-brew feel to it. The Hefe is famously brewed with 1,000 blood oranges. Tasty, but lagging behind a beer snob’s German fav’s. Can’t wait to try the Porter with Taza choco nibs.
- Slumbrew can be purchased in bottles at Pemberton Farms, Liquor World, Somerville Wine & Spirits, Kappy’s Medford and Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont.
Give these guys a try – they clearly know their beer game and are brewing some good “home-cooked” shit.
Location: New York, NY
The Foodie: Recommends
Kids – In one of our previous installments from the foodie, we talked about visions of a glorious afterlife lush with lobster rolls. But if I go down below dear friends, I’m going for gluttony.
…and if there’s one place that may have just put me over the edge from a severe epicure to an outright glutton, it was probably Eataly. I’ll now proceed to tell you why this devilish enterprise created by celebrity chefs with last names like Batali and Bastianich pushed me into the fiery depths (of a brick oven).
- WARNING: Ingenious Store Layout Meant to Trap Foodies. Enter at your own risk and prepare for the prospect of never leaving. Be assaulted by a diverse range of fresh fruits and veggies, some of which you may have never seen before (can you say witch finger grapes?). Hit a huge circular room where you’ll be encircled by bread, antipasti and wine. Just try to resist at this point. Explore a little further and you’ll see Il Pesce restaurant serving amazing fruit of the sea, a selection of rare Italian and imported bottled beers for purchase, a butcher shop, pizza and pasta eateries, and a breath-taking selection of dried pastas, jarred goods, and, yes, more wines.
- DANGER: Rooftop Biergarterrini Called Birreria Will Be Your Last Glimpse of Heaven. If you ever leave the first floor, make it to level 15 to sample the excellent beer and wine selection and hearty fare on the rooftop restaurant Birreria. Prepare to eat Italian-style sausages you may not have heard of before in German fashion complete with fresh bread and ‘kraute. Sip on amazing local beers like Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. Holy shit that brew was good. But wait, there are also cask beers brewed in-house by a collab-o of brewers including meisters from Dogfish Head. Sample from an impressive selection of salumi, formaggi and more. Your head will be spinning.
- ATTENTION: They Have Every Meal Covered So Don’t Think You Can Weasel Out After Dinner. As if all that wasn’t enough people, there’s also a coffee bar and gelateria back down on floor uno that will keep you caffeinated enough to stick around and continue your gluttonous ways. You may be enticed to combine these two elements into the ultimate Italian treat: Affogato.
That concludes my final communication from my (donut) ring of hell…my “phone call” so to speak…with the rest of the gluttons down here. I see Yelpers, Homer Simpson, and Julia Child down here people. Don’t think you’re safe too.
Enter Eataly if you’re the kind of person who thinks that limbo isn’t living dangerously enough.
Wellfleet Oyster Fest (Oct. 15-16)
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Watch out Munich, salty Cape Cod has something going on that your little celebration called Oktoberfest cannot match.
Sure, you’ve got chesty dirndln-wearing beer maidens, world-class beer and sausages, but you don’t have:
- Wellfleet oysters overflowing into the streets served by the producers themselves from a multitude of makeshift raw bars.
- All manner of crustacean-inspired treats from fried clam cakes to New England clam chowder to fritters.
- A rare special brew from Sam Adam’s called Oyster Stout – only unveiled at this occasion since it may be a turn-off out of context for the average beer snob.
- BBC (Berkshire Brewing Company) selling off the season’s latest brews such as a delightful classic Oktoberfest and a refreshing, crisp, Harvest Lager.
- An oyster-shucking contest that spans two days and features local shuckers from all over
- All manner of local artisan crafty-work and live music (think bluegrass, Cape Cod indie rock)
In fact, after sucking down more oysters than I could count along with a few of the aforementioned beers and sitting in the sun-drenched vine-covered outdoor terrace at Winslow Tavern (the Hofbrauhaus of Oysterfest), I realized that Wellfleet really has created something special here.
Here’s the play-by-play of our day at the ‘Fest:
We arrived early and just barely snagged walking-distance parking. By the time we hit Wellfleet center, the festival was already bumping and packed with oysterfesters.
Our first action was buying a half-dozen raw oysters at the paltry cost of $9 – which was the standard price set by every raw bar oyster-slinger at the festival. Amazing.
We then navigated the crowds to scope out some of the goods and festival tents, scarfed-down some fried clam cakes from Harmon’s then made our way to the central tent near the main stage for, of course, some beer.
The alcohol spread at the festival featured delicious Sam Adams “Oyster Stout” for $6 and wine from the nearby Truro Vineyards. Oyster Stout was a deep dark dry stout brewed using oysters and possibly the best tasting brew I’ve had from Sammy A. I grabbed an oyster brew and enjoyed the musical vibes emanating from center stage while wandering to scope out more oysters. In the process, I chanced upon a grilled baked oyster with spinach and cheese and some other goodness…totally different yet amazing.
By the early afternoon the bulk of the crowds had arrived and the penguin-shuffle became the only way to get through the streets, so we hit Winslow Tavern where they had their own little party going down, which featured bloody-mary’s, BBC beers, live music, and awesome seafood. We chilled at Winslow in the sun for what became a long time and enjoyed the respite from the masses.
After Winslow, we made our way back to center stage to check the oyster shucking contest. Man I’ve never seen someone shuck 24 oysters in under 3 minutes…incredible. I had to try another oyster stout, and then we sampled a few more oysters (thicker this time, grown in deeper waters) before heading out early to beat the crowds.
I left with a good buzz, a belly full of some of the best oysters anywhere, and a T-shirt that said “The Joy of Shucking…and what a joy it all was.
Peace, Love, and Oysters,
Nick the Foodie
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
In a few words: Pork, pork, and more pork. Homage to Pig. Come hungry.
Man, it’s been a while since I got so pumped about a restaurant based solely on the name.
Might as well call the place “The Truffle Cottage,” or “The Rare Ribeye,” or “The Crispy Duck.” Marvelous.
Once I was able to get past the name and onto the menu, we sampled the following lineup of “salty pig part”goodness:
Beer: Pretty Things Magnifico (obvi)
First Eats: Personalized charcuterie board. They’ll basically let you customize your block of meat and cheese by picking from a wide selection of offerings. We settled on a local VT cheddar and a euro fromage (believe it was a Robiola) as well as something called porchetta, which is essentially the fast roadster of ham products.
Second Eats: Wood grilled pizza. A creation called the Tony Rocco that was house-made spicy sausage, onion, tomato, ricotta and mozz. Heavenly.
Third Eats: Pork belly. Nicely crispy, very succulent. Great dish.
So, this culinary homage to porky is really a great addition to the downtown scene. In the end, the food was fairly solid and I’ll be returning to their spacious laid-back slaughterhouse shortly.