Archive for the ‘Boston Area – Somerville’ Category

Pennypackers Porchetta Is Pure Poetry. Period.

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

www.pennypackersfinefoods.com

Location: Somerville, MA, Design Center (Boston Seaport), and Roaming Elsewhere

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Following-up my last post on large quantities of meat between two slices of bread, I bring you Pennypackers, home of the best sandwich I’ve eaten around Boston all f*ing year.

A few definitions here to get you started:

Pennypackers: An establishment committed to bringing you mostly sandwiches through a variety of delivery mechanisms:

  1. A perma-truck stationed at the Design Center at the Xsection of Tide St. and Northern Ave. in South Boston (seaport area). Open M-F 10:30 – 3PM.
  2. A roaming truck that serves other parts of Boston – maybe even your neighborhood street corner.
  3. A brick-and-mortar locale in Magoun Sq. Somerville with a few tables and a large ass kitchen.

Porchetta: An Italian culinary tradition, porchetta is a skin-on slab of pork belly wrapped around a trimmed center-cut pork loin and seasoned with herbs, fennel, and citrus. Done properly, the process of creating this masterpiece is a time-consuming endeavor that requires primary assembly before resting 1-2 days in a fridge, and then slow-roasting in the oven. So good I plan to name my first-born child after it.

Now, let me describe to you the combination of both items described above. What you read below is not a poem, it is just centered for emphasis. The poetry is all in the food my friends.

I'm Naming My Baby Girl Porchetta Jean

Pennypackers served you a Porchetta sandwich in Magoun Square.

It cost you $8.

Though Penny packs different accouterments around their porchetta-wich from time-to-time, this beast of a sandwich was served to YOU between two super-soft slices of soft Italian ciabatta-style bread. You had yours with pickled fennel.

The look on your face during the first oral encounter with this sandwich must have been comparable to the heroin addict’s expression after shooting up that next dose.

[Eyes rolling back into their sockets, mouth agape, body slouching back]

You continue to devour the sandwich, finding all sorts of treasures buried between the ciabatta and fennel: succulent morsels of melt-in-your mouth seasoned pork meat, crunchy bits of pork skin, and the odd chunk of delightful pork fat.

Soon you are finished. It feels sad. You promise yourself that you will return.

You salute the chefs and wish them well in their endeavors.

Walking out the door, you told yourself this was the best sandwich you’d eaten around Boston all year. You were right.

Kirkland Tap & Trotter – KTT & Me

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

http://kirklandtapandtrotter.com

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Dude – I had the craziest dream last night.

The Grill.

I was wandering through a corner of Somerville one Fall night and caught a glimpse of a restaurant through the fog. It had a sign with a steak knife, a fork, and a fireball.

I pushed through the doors and stepped inside.

There was a wood-fired grill (complete with adjustable cranks) powering the kitchen.

A familiar chef was inspecting the dishes as they made their way out to a floor of hungry Somervillains.

– It was Tony Maws. –

I wondered – what’s going on at Craigie on Main? Is the place burning down?  Squid tentacles, pig’s heads, snouts and trotters flying everywhere?

It appeared Chef Maws had grabbed a few of those trotters out ‘da air and planted them in a few recipes the next town over.

There were a bunch of bizzaro versions of people I know sitting at the tables. I took a seat at one of them and grabbed a menu.

The FOOD list looked like this:

We ordered. There were seasonal baller mushrooms on the menu and a new burger variation. A flurry of plates started arriving from smiling servers in flannel shirts. A Left Hand Milk Stout from the tap arrived in front of me. Under the dim lights, we ate these things:

Three Large Sardines.

Rare to find in many restaurants, KT&T grilled up three lull fishies for me. They arrive incredibly moist and flavorful despite a light hand on the seasonings…

Here's Lookin' At You, Kid.

Roasted Root Veggies.

In my dreamy haze I thought that the Trotter was only a meat-lovers palace. Turns out that wood-fired grill does amazing things to vegetables. The root veggies we ordered were scantily dressed and delightful – just like the imaginary babe beside me.

Matsutake Mushrooms.

Oh, and did we mention that our “mushroom guy” sent us some baller matsutake mushrooms today? Boom! A truly humbling and slightly spiritual experience took place as I savored the rare act of eating wood-fired fungi over a nutty pesto.

Matsu

The Burger.

As if things couldn’t get better – a burger arrived. It was a simple enough affair from the outside – poppy bun, provolone, horseradish cream, and a few thin slices of tater on the side. But that patented meat-wizardry that Chef Maws brings to the kitchen was definitely present in every bite of this tender, well-constructed patty from heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choucroute Garni.

The meats kept rolling in – next we had a slab of pork belly, two types of sausage, and kraut along with a trio of house-made mustards.

Skate Wing.

The meal finally devolved into a hearty bowl of fish and clams with beans and smoked tomatoes.

There were cheers, beer spilling, laughs, and huzzahs all around as my REM-friends and I devoured our meal.

As with most dreams, in retrospect it moved quite quickly.

Next we move into one of those fast-frame camera shots where I speed-up and slow-down walking my way out of the restaurant (you know, that film effect that they used to show in every episode of cribs).

Fog clears. I awake.

Not sure if it was all real or not. But I will be adding a new burger to my Top 10. I’ve got a new joint where I’d love to call myself a reg’lar. I can smell the wood fire already.

A4 – High 5

Friday, September 20th, 2013

www.areafour.com

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Seems I blinked and Area Four multiplied several times over.

The popular coffee shop-cum-pizza spot-cum-antipasto bar-cum-gastropub that ambitiously took on so much has given birth to triplets with more singular interests. The Area Four “family” now brings chow right to your jowl via food truck, hot dog cart, and a neighborhood restaurant that serves *GASP* primarily pizza!

The newest member of the family is A4, an operation serving a similar menu of pies to papa Four along with a nice selection of salads and options marked “NOT PIZZA.”

A smattering of mouthwatering menu items to whet your palate:

  • Margherita pizza simply but beautifully adorned with tomato, mozz, pecorino and basil
  • Pizza of fennel sausage and pickled banana peppers with mozz, pecorino, and parley
  • Wellfleet cherrystone and bacon pizza with clam sauce, pecorino, hot pepper and parsley
  • Heirloom tomato and watermelon Greek salad (seasonal option)
  • Seasonal veggies, mixed greens, almonds, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette

It appears that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in terms of the quality of the pizza here. A4 sports a pimpin’ new oven that churns out some lovely circles of heaven that definitely rival dad.

I particularly enjoyed the margherita actually – so simple yet mouthwateringly juicy and flavorful with everything coming together just right. Huzzah!

Beyond the solids, A4 offers a neat and tidy little beer and wine menu with decent options.

Here’s a few poorly conceived pics to give you a sense for the place. Unfortunately I think restaurants are getting savvy on the whole iPhone phenom and have started deliberately dimming lights to discourage flash photography.

Marg

Somervillains are gettin’ it all these days: low-key pizza joints from Area Four, upscale German fare from the team behind T.W. Food, a hotly-anticipated follow-up from Tony Maws – sky’s the limit.

So head on over to the cute youngest sibling in the Four Family to get mostly pizza cooked up with the same gastronomic genes.

Union Square Donuts – Join the Revolution

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

https://www.facebook.com/UnionSquareDonuts

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Something has been slowly brewing in the donut world these last few years…and I don’t mean coffee (hardy har har).

What used to be a cheap fried lump of dough from an international chain of fast-food restaurants has morphed into something different. Much different.

Indeed, things have changed since the “Time to Make the Donuts” days (at least for those readers who remember the 1980’s). 

  • Higher-end restaurants started serving delightful fresh donuts, fancily dubbed “beignets” or going by another alias
  • Places like the Donut Plant in NYC started specializing in the heart-clogging little snacks and treating them with the creativity and quality that they truly deserve. Vanilla bean and blackberry jam-filled square donuts, anyone?
  • Something called the “Cronut” was invented by Dominique Ansel and promptly went as viral as Gangnam Style. A hybrid pastry that combines the DNA of a croissant and a donut, this creation has practically revolutionized the donut industry overnight.

Hard to believe, but the food world is apparently larger than New York City. Union Square Donuts has been among those blazing the trail for the donut revolution a few states north. With flavors like maple-bacon, honey almond, cherry hibiscus, and sea-salted bourbon caramel, their roundies are bound to make you happy.

The glazes are flavorful without being overpowering and really add a gourmet swagger to a humble food. The honey on that honey almond is something special and will transport you to a wild grassy field in the prairie sunshine. The sea-salted bourbon caramel will give you a balanced dose of all three of those wonderful things while you picture yourself on a porch swing during a Kentucky sunset. The dough is light and airy and is surely the product of some tightly-guarded recipe refined to perfection.

The maple bacon is, well, the maple bacon. The rest you will have to experience for yourself.

Oh It's On...

 

Bronwyn – A Faint Whiff of Meaty Air from O’er the German Alps

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

bronwynrestaurant.com

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

The Boston area has always been seriously underrepresented in the category of German and Eastern European cooking.

PREFACE

Up to this point, Jacob Wirth and Café Polonia have been the only establishments raising flags lined with wurst, bier, und kraute from the kitchens of our fine town.

A new era is upon us, dear friends, with the opening of Bronwyn.

There has been a lot of noise and chatter in the cyber-sphere about this restaurant from many months before opening until now – As your indubitable Boston seer of signs and reader of food riddles, allow me to clear the air and give you a real, true opinion from one foodmensch to another.

A casual search of the world wide web will bring you to idle rumblings from the masses and should not be trusted in the case of Bronwyn:

  • Under the ad for liposuction on the Yelp page for this restaurant, anonymous phantoms will bitch about how this place doesn’t compare to Ronnarong (formerly housed in this space…a weird place and a travesty for Thai cooking) or Machu Picchu (any Peruvian would scoff in disgust). They may also complain about wooden benches, the weather and other non-food-related minutia, when they should really be concerned about their own lack of food knowledge, taste, and ability to handle any form of discomfort.

Let’s also set-aside the fact that we are not in Germany for a second here. We all know that authenticity cannot be matched outside of the source nation due to differences in well water, the air, terroir and hundreds of years of tradition.

  • If you have tasted currywurst and ketchup from street vendors in Berlin, noshed on those delightful little Nurnberger sausages (my personal favorite), or gulped down a Weisswurst in a Munich biergarten…you cannot hope to match those experiences abroad.

Ahhh, now we can talk about how one of Boston’s best chefs, Tim Weichmann (of T.W. Food Fame), and his wife (after whom Bronwyn is named) have created a place that respectfully pays homage to a certain region of cooking while adding a dose of their own creativity.

FOOD REVIEW:

Seated in Bronwyn’s delightful little outdoor Biergarten, my compatriots and I sampled a nice selection of sausages and other treats while enjoying beverages like Bear Republic Czech Pilsner and Erdinger Hefe.

I will start with a dissection of the “Giant Wurst Platter” that was indeed a seven-sausage meat fest. Observe:

Here is my wurst-breakdown:

  • Zungenblutwurst – A tasty blood sausage made with pork, tongue, and roasted pears. For the real mann.
  • Lemon Weisswurst – Bronwyn does an excellent rendition of one of my favorite Bavarian treats. This delicate light-colored sausage of veal, pork, and herbs is tricky to cook but Bronwyn pulled it off well.
  • Currywurst – Definitely not exactly to specification of this Berlin staple, but a delight to eat nonetheless. As the name suggests, this sausage is made with a little curry, veal, and pork.
  • Spicy Bierwurst – Though I’ve never tried this variety in Germany, the bierwurst here kind of tastes like a milder chorizo and was cut more like liverwurst in a thick round patty form.
  • Krauterwurst – A very juicy, herby little wurst made with chicken, pork, kohlrabi and beefsteak tomato
  • Kielbasa – A much different version than the spicy Polish creation that I’m used to, Bronwyn’s Kielbasa is a mighty fine and unique chunk of pork with garlic, coriander, marjoram, and farm greens poached in cream. Shazzam!
  • Bockwurst – Probably my least favorite sausage on the plate, the bockwurst came off a little dry and bland for my liking. But with 6 out of 7 sausages striking my fancy, I was pleased.

All of the above Bronwyn sausages were hand-cased and tenderly cared for. Our sausage pile was served over sauerkraut along with roasted potatoes and a refreshing little cucumber-dill gurken salad.

Beyond the wurst, we pulled apart one decent Bretzel and dipped that bad boy in a nice spicy little house-made mustard, and ordered a traditional Swiss dish called Rosti which was quite different than what you would get across the pond but was lovingly cooked together with beet, potato, arugula, radish, and chevre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN ZUSAMMENFASSUNG (summary):

Bronwyn is not T.W. Food in that the owners have definitely created a unique identity that sets this spot apart from their upscale contemporary American hotspot in nearby Cambridge.  It is also not a substitute for eating in Deutschland. But it is one mighty-fine swag at good quality German and Eastern European cuisine in a city badly in need of this style of cooking.

ENJOY BRONWYN FOR: Steins of lager in the biergarten, sausage-fests, sharing with friends, schnitzel, rosti, pretzels, and a faint whiff of fresh air from the Bavarian Alps.

Beer Reflection – Night Shift Brewing

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

http://www.nightshiftbrewing.com/

Very sporadically, I will kvell about a local brew that strikes my fancy. This time, it’s Night Shift Brewing, an operation started by a few nocturnal hausbraumeisters (or home brewers) who branched out into their own “nanobrewery” in Everett.

Why you’ll want to try their beer:

  • It’s unique.  Night Shifters have a flair for innovative flavorings in their beers. They infuse a rye ale with agave nectar and habanero. They brew a Belgian-style IPA with coriander and cardamom. They make a saison with honeydew melon essence. There’s a wheat ale with orange blossom honey and green tea. They do a stout with chicory root, ginger, and cacao nibs.
  • It’s local. You gotta love that these are just some local beer enthusiasts working with other nearby companies like Taza Chocolate and MEM Tea Imports to make great drink.
  • It’s real. The brewers take their craft seriously and try to make drinking their creations a personal experience. They hand-write the ABV and Batch #’s on their bottles and share their story with the world.
  • It’s available. Liquor stores that carry Night Shift include Downtown Wine & Spirits, The Wine & Cheese Cask, Pemberton Farms, Cardullos, Formaggios (Cambridge) and Sav-Mor Spirits. A full list is on their website. Bars & restaurants like Puritan & Company, Spoke Wine Bar, Meadhall, Area Four, Oleana, and Redbones are pouring on draft as well. Finally, you can visit the Nightshift Tap Room M-F from 5PM – 9PM and Saturday’s from 12-5PM for tours, tastes, and tees.

I recently sampled the Trifecta (Batch #18) – A Belgian-Style Pale Ale made with vanilla beans and three Trappist yeast strains. The beer had a nice smooth flavor with some lovely Belgian fruit notes and was slightly hoppy. I didn’t really pick up on the vanilla, but it may have added a nice touch to the overall flavor.

Spoke Wine Bar – Cheers to Goodness Upon Goodness

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

www.facebook.com/SpokeWineBar

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie:  Recommends

Neat Bar Trick

After a few weeks in which Boston has seen badness spawned by badness, I’m thinking that it’s about time for an uplifting story for a change.

Am I talking about that puppy rescued from a dumpster, free snow cones on a summer day, or motherhood and apple pie?

Close, but no cigar. I’m talking about Spoke Wine Bar.

Spoke is what you get when a solid S’ville mainstay (Dave’s Fresh Pasta) branches out into new territory with a team led by the grape pro behind their excellent booze operation.

Whereas youngsters flock to the sandwiches and raviolis at Dave’s like tweens to Bieber, the cool kids will be taking a seat at Spoke for my fave gourmet pop stars Barbera and Burrata instead.

Spoke is small and intimate as any wine bar worth their sauvignon should be, whilst eschewing the ‘tude held dear by so many of it’s cabernet-pouring compatriots.

There are two main reasons to come here:

1.     FOOD

  • Nice selection of cured meats and cheeses presented on wooden planks
  • Spreads, flatbreads, and snacks ranging from marinated olives to the more glamorous peekytoe crab crostinis.
  • A small but respectable selection of small plates and more substantial dishes categorized into vegetables, seafood, and meat (oh my).
  • Though we only sampled the charcuterie, I am drawn to the handmade cavatelli, stinging nettle vellutata (just sounds cool but no idea what it will be like other than that it contains burrata) and handmade garganelli with lamb ragu, fava, and ricotta salata.
  • So yeah, the menu leans Italiano. As well it should at any fine wine bar. As well it should.

 2.     DRINK

  • The night we arrived, Spoke was pouring six whites and five reds by the glass, as well as three wines mysteriously set aside in the “other” category. We sipped on an excellent frappato from Sicily (close to a nero d’avola)  and dolcetto (also fantastic). Whites included a muscadet, a riesling, and gruner veltliner.
  • For those who like to palm their alcohol vessels rather than daintily cling to a glass stem, Spoke offers a respectable selection of bottled beers that will probably have something good on it that you’ve never heard of before like Baxter Phantom Punch Winter Stout (Maine), Nectar Ales Nectar IPA (California), and De ‘Proef’ Brouwerij Reinaert Wild Ale (Belgium).
  • I must also say that the bar staff here is genuine, knowledgeable, fun, and a pleasure to sit across from.

I am pleased that I can now eat the Cubano sandwich at Dave’s, buy a dozen wild mushroom raviolis, then sip a few glasses a couple doors down before stumbling home.

So remember, even in the midst of badness – goodness upon goodness is still possible in and around this great city. We’ve seen all the 021.XX zip codes and beyond produce such an impressive swell of giving, solidarity, and strength following the Marathon – we should wash it all down with some good vino to boot.

Cheers, Boston – and here’s to goodness upon goodness in times ahead.

Amsterdam Falafel Shop – A Red Light District for Chickpeas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

http://www.falafelshop.com

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has been to Amsterdam and ventured outside the famed red light district will tell you that there is much more to this beautiful city than x-rated window shopping…great food, a beautiful riverboat tour, one of the skinniest buildings in the world, and lots of Van Gogh (best enjoyed after a few space cakes).

Similarly, there is much more to the world of falafel than Amsterdam Falafel Shop – but for an area starved for good fried chickpeas it’s a start.

AFS is a falafel shop with roots in Washington, DC that has decided to branch out and open a shop in the area where most future presidents get their Harvard degree and where most future diplomats pick up a few classes at the Fletcher School. Might as well feed your future leaders well as they feed their brains, right?

Here’s how the assembly-line format at AFS works:

  1. Order your falafel sandwich or falafel plate
  2. Load up on a wide assortment of toppings that include: pickled everything, cucumber + tomato, tahini, cabbage, hummus, yogurt sauce, spicy red stuff, etc.
  3. Devour

The falafel sandwich is pretty good, but I’ve had much better elsewhere. I take issue with the hard, crunchy, and slightly dry variety they are serving here. The toppings really save the day along with the pillow-soft pitas that they serve the falafel with. But the main event is a bit lackluster.

Amsterdam also boasts fries with a variety of interesting dipping sauces. Again, the fries are seriously lacking but are saved by an especially good curried ketchup dipping sauce.

So it appears a trend is surfacing here – AFS dresses-up their fare pretty well but misses the mark on the main events.

Like a tourist making a beeline for the red light district, AFS needs a better map of falafelville. But until better eats in this genre hit the area, I’m sticking with my Chickpea Fritter from Clover Food Lab.

MF Dulock – From the Top of the Meat Pyramid

Friday, September 21st, 2012

www.mfdulock.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

There once was a dark period when small butcher shops didn’t really exist. Observe the bottom of my patented meat pyramid below.

The only red meat you could buy was the “manager special” with a clump of pinkish sirloin tips wrapped up in a ball of plastic…or something shelf stable drenched in sodium and scientific wizardry soaked in a briny liquid and reconstituted vegetables.

Then came Whole Foods. The first mass chain that had their meat behind glass, that sold quality shit – cuts like ribeyes, filet mignon, and NY Strip. The world was changed.

Well, dear friends, the local, sustainable food movement has ushered in a new era.

Pioneered by shops like Savenors, there is a new breed of butcher that will sell exotic meats you’ve only seen in upscale restaurants and gladly slice up a dainty cut of beef from a whole cow shank right before your eyes.

This is where M.F. Dulock comes in.  I will illustrate my point with a story.

I walk in the door, and the first thing I notice is an impressive array of industrial-looking meat machines behind the counter and a small but well-endowed array of beef and pork behind the glass case.

 

 

 

 

 

I take a look at a large slab of excellent-looking beef marked “New York Strip Steak.” I order one. The helpful butcher behind the counter grabs the slab and asks “How thick do you want it? I’ve been cutting them about an inch and a quarter.” He then proceeds to slice up a NY Strip Steak right before my eyes using a power tool that looked like it was featured by Mike Holmes on HGTV.

As I await my hand-cut strip steak, a couple behind me orders some ground sirloin. The guy I’d suspect is M.F. himself starts cutting up sirloin chunks and feeding them into a large grinding machine – sweet! As he does his chopping and grinding, M.F. tells me about their operation and how they basically receive a cow at the beginning of the week and slice it up according to their whim and the requests of customers.

I requested ribeyes – and I will be back. Oh, and here is my strip steak ready for the skillet – we’ve come a long way in the butchery game.

NY Strip

M3 – Meat ‘N Hurting Sides

Friday, August 31st, 2012

http://imwithmeat.com/home.html

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.

Shrimp 'n Grits

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.

Cinder-Block

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.