Archive for the ‘Fruit of the Sea’ Category
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!!!
Besides being a simply beautiful dish, this homage to cool-looking vegetables most people haven’t heard of was simple, refined, and refreshing.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Once a homely fishing town and a well-kept secret, this city has in recent years been outed as a real Foodie destination. So yeah, I’ve been there a few times.
This snapshot points you to a gathering of my flava faves and a couple poseurs to stay away from.
First, the Faves:
- Street & Company | www.streetandcompany.net | Upscale Contemporary American Seafood
- Duckfat | www.duckfat.com/ | Fries Cooked in Duck Fat, Vanilla Shakes with Crème Anglaise | Read My Review
- Portland Lobster Company | www.portlandlobstercompany.com | Awesome Lobster Roll, Best Steamers in Town, Local Beer, and Live Music on the Docks
- Micucci Grocery | www.micucci.com | New England’s Best Slice of Pizza | Read My Review
- Bard Coffee | www.bardcoffee.com | Solid Roastery and Café
- Shipyard Brewery | www.shipyard.com | Tour the Brewery, Drink Lots of Beer Samples
- Standard Baking Company | www.forestreet.biz/en/Other-Restaurants | Baller Croissant, Killer Breads, and Amazing Pastries
- The Front Room | www.thefrontroomrestaurant.com | Portland’s Best Brunch
- The Porthole | portholemaine.com/| The Best Dive Bar in Town Has Good Food Too
- Pai men Miyake | www.miyakerestaurants.com | Food from Further East than Eastern Maine – P.S. Try the Pork Belly Bun
- Harbor Fish Market | www.harborfish.com | …And when you’re done, take some fish home from here
Browse the gallery below for some snapshots of goodness devoured at said eateries:
Now, here are a couple Flops:
- J’s Oyster | Yeah, I know Bourdain came here, but it’s overcrowded and mediocre
- Bresca | Overpriced for what you eat, and there’s better food in town | Read My Review
With the busy summer season behind us and the Fall air blowing in, you might want to consider a weekend getaway to this eaters paradise to gorge on all of the above.
So, how does the fair city of Portland do it, you ask? Are their chefs better? Their kitchens more pimped out? Their eaters more discriminating? Their ingredients fresher?
The answer, my friends, washes up on shore with each Maine baby born from the salt of the Atlantic ocean.
Typically I gush forth every savory detail of my dining experiences to my loyal coterie of devoted readers.
This is the exception.
I’m going all nautical on your asses and only supplying the coordinates of my dining locale…if you are interested enough you will get in Sherlock mode and solve this mystery yourself.
Like a Dan Brown novel – this is going to be a page-turner filled with twists, turns, and biblical secrets.
It started with a long car drive. Then a scenic ferry boat ride. Then a confused walk through small streets…then we arrived at a little-known paradise.
To continue on with my food riddle, I’ll simply show and describe the foods available to us at this mystery locale. Please note that the bulk of what is described below came to us from within a five mile radius from a farm owned by the mystery dining spot.
- Light Puff Pastries at Teatime – Our first indulgences were assorted light phyllo pastries filled with chicken, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. Washed down with warm tea this rivaled a quaint cottage in the English countryside.
- Fresh Local Oysters – Beautiful, refreshing, salty, and smooth bivalves harvested a mile away and served up for a buck a piece. Delightful.
- Salad of Fancy Greens, Chevre, and Sunflower Seeds with Citrus Champagne Vinaigrette – Light, delicate, and a perfect starter to the miracle that lay ahead.
- Salad of Summer Squash, Toasted Pine Nuts, Parmesan Reggiano, and Lemon Vinaigrette – Another excellent prelude to our main course and clearly made with local ingredients.
- Lobster Bohémienne
In the middle of eating this dish, I paused, took a kneeling position on the floor near our table, and thanked the Lord for this bounty provided to us. J/K LOL All tween social nomenclature aside, this was simply one of the best lobster dishes I’ve ever had – prepared simply steamed atop a heavenly sauce of cognac cream, parsley, and lemon. Mini soft baguette and corn on the cob completed the plate. As the last breath leaves my body, I will think of this dish.
- Desserts of Caramel Apple Crisp with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Maple Walnut Ice Cream Both home-made. Both felt like being tucked into bed as a 4 year old.
- Breakfast of Homemade Granola, side of Lamb Sausage.
We awoke in the morning (no we did not sleep in the restaurant, there were beds nearby) and enjoyed a light breakfast of excellent house-made cereal and two small links of lamb sausage produced by the farm.
Before we knew it, our mystery eats were exhausted and we were on the ferry back home. As we journeyed back from this magical place, we recalled fond memories of hand-scrawled items listed on a chalkboard of fresh goods du jour, a homey yet stylish dining and drinking area, an intimate setting, and a food experience that will forever be etched into my mind.
There are few places like this anywhere – and for that, I wish to keep it a relative secret (while bragging publicly about what I ate).
Interested yet? Well break out that compass (or app equivalent) Columbus and you too can share in this wonderment.
Hit me on the ‘Chirp or the ‘Book if you think you’ve cracked the delicio code.
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
Lord, if I go tomorrow, take me to an immaculate oyster bar in the sky. Let there be good fresh oysters from Wellfleet, Duxbury, Maine, and the West Coast. Let there be a nice selection of white wines that include an amazing Sancerre not to mention some baller beers. Let there be prompt service, friendly smiles, and a classy- upscale-neighborhood-but-not-snobby-and-still-chill vibe.
And upon entering the “pearly” gates into oyster bar heaven, drop this plate in my arms:
The cold Maine lobster roll at B&G is well worth it’s price tag and delivers amazingly succulent lobster meat in a soft bun along with amazing tarragon fries.
It’s as if Jesus hand made it himself.
Here’s praying I make it to the bright side of the afterlife and that they don’t knock me for a diet high in meatfat.
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Island Creek, lovingly referred to as ICOB, rekindled my love affair with oysters.
I once was quoted saying that Neptune Oyster was set up as oyster foreplay. If Neptune is foreplay, Island Creek is shucking.
I crack myself up. But seriously dear reader, I made out with several creatures from the sea here and loved every minute of it.
Let’s pause and recognize the fact that this restaurant marries a culinary dream team (of Lineage and Eastern Standard fame) with a local producer of excellent goods. Man that is something beautiful that we need to see more of.
ICOB delivers amazingly fresh oysters from Island Creek, New England, and all over as well as outstandingly executed cooked-food in a superbly classy setting.
Cue food blurb:
We were seated in front of the ‘oyster-wall’ that is decorated with protruding crates filled with real oyster shells and enjoyed a dozen of nature’s finest…a little Cape Cod action, a little Duxbury, and a huge mofo from Maine that was absolutely the most interesting-tasting oyster I’ve ever sucked down. Amazing. I had a craving for fish ‘n chips and enjoyed their take with lightly-battered cod atop fries and house-made malt vinegar. superb. I had a bit of my buddy’s lobster dish and it nearly knocked me out of my seat. I salivated for other menu options, and heavily enjoyed the Duvel green and specially brewed High ‘n Mighty offering that I gulped down throughout the meal.
All the while I took in the amazingly cool atmosphere at this place. Instantly became one of my fav. spots around and I’ll be back for more…oyster shucking. Yum.
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Typically Neptune is known as the God of the sea, but who would have thought he could also wield that trident on land?
Neptune caught me a hell of a burger and spiced it up with three of his most prized fried oysters topped with garlic mayo over relish over melted cheddar over a perfectly-cooked medium rare round of high-quality beef – all sandwiched between a perfect brioche roll.
In case you were wondering, yes it does make the Top 10 Burgers in Boston List.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fruits de mer for which Neptune is named. And by that I mean the lobster roll and insane selection of fresh oysters of course.
The Maine lobster roll is kingly – starting from the $25 price tag to the generous portion of lobster to the perfectly soft roll. They serve it hot cooked in butter or classically cold in mayo.
Last but not least, oysters are obviously the main event at this place, regardless of what else you order. The whole spot is structured to serve as shellfish foreplay – from the nautical decor to large metal chillers filled with bottles of champagne – it will get you in the mood.
They place a card down on your table before you’ve even ordered drinks with the list of oysters, their homes, and market prices. Wellfleet, Duxbury, Nova Scotia, Rhode Island, and even far-off Washington State are represented. To say that these creatures are served exquisitely fresh and delicious is an understatement.
No other restaurant in the Boston area features oysters this good and this fresh and with such a plentiful selection. And I challenge any place that claims otherwise to an Iron Chef throw-down.
Unfortunately, others have figured out how good this place is. I recommend coming early at 4 or 5pm to beat the crowd (no reservations), or to hit them up on an off night or snowy day.
Earth, Sea, and Seabed – After that first bite you won’t be able to get Neptune out of your head.