Archive for the ‘Outdoor Eating/Drinking’ Category
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi
My curiosity was piqued as I strolled through Madison Square Park and saw an extraordinarily long line snaking its way from a petite steel cottage, or “shack” if you will.
“What on earth are they serving from that little stand?!?,” I thought.
- Turns out it was burgers, fries, hot dogs, and custard being vended,
- The shack was not a shack at’all but a singular outpost representing a much larger string of burger joints across Manhattan…and that chain was again part of a larger entity – the Union Square Hospitality Group of Danny Meyer fame.
I was intrigued by this stealth operation that appeared to be growing quite rapidly.
>>>>Fast Forward to May 2013>>>>>>
…and grow they did – with locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to, yes my dear friends, our very own land of the pilgrims – Boston.
It appears that the ‘shack ain’t stoppin’ there either – there have been sightings in London, JFK airport, and the Saratoga Race Course.
But, fellow Bostonians, Somervillains, and Cantabridgians – you’re most interested in your neighborhood Shake Shack located in Chestnut Hill, aren’t ya?
So let’s cut to the chase – how was the burger?
DISCLAIMER: Burger reviews are a highly personal affair. One woman’s precious meat heaven is another woman’s mickey D’s. So know that this food blogger (a man, it turns out) likes his burgers thick, medium rare to rare, well-seasoned, and usually pretty traditional – with some flair welcome. The following discussion is based upon this set of preferences.
My heart was racing, mouth salivating, hands clammy, and tummy full of butterflies as we waited for our little order status thing-y to vibrate and light-up.
The Shack had us in its clutches, as our existing hype around the place had been amplified by a 20-minute line to order (a short one for Shack standards I’m told) and then another 15 minutes awaiting our just reward.
But finally our piece of plastic lit up along with my heart as I triumphantly retrieved our tray of two standard “Shack Burgers”, two orders of “Shack Fries,” and one Frozen Custard “Hand-Spun” Vanilla Shake.
This is what our prize looked like:
As I began the burger tasting, I swore to myself that I would not utter a single judgment about the sandwich until the whole thing had been eaten.
At the end of the experience I thought: “That was a mighty-fine burger patty with good texture and a beautiful soft little bun – but all I tasted was the cheese?”
DUM DUM DUM….
It’s true – this is a decent burger, people. Do not get me wrong. And it is a fun location with a careful eye for marketing and design. But I was disappointed by the poor seasoning of the burger patties and the very flavorless “Shack Sauce” that promised to magically sweep me away to a land of plenty but left me wanting.
I do applaud the ‘Shack for rekindling our love affair with the simple fare you used to be able to trust from your local street cart and burger cottage before the behemoth burger chains pumped evil into their food with no shame….I’m happy that I can now walk through Terminal 4 at JFK and choose a trustworthy, made-to-order burger that was not freeze-dried before it was defrosted in a nuclear pressure chamber.
… and that is where the whole value of Shake Shack comes in.
They ARE NOT McDonalds, Burger King, or Wendy’s. They are making it OK again to eat simple burgers and fries in a casual setting without worrying that you’ll wake up with a badonkadonk and diabetes the next morning. Words like “all-natural,” “100%,” “Angus Beef,” “no trans fats,” and “no hormones and antibiotics ever” are found plastered all over the menu to reassure us. The burgers are in-fact hand-pressed from ball form into thin patties using large metal pressers with handles.
It was refreshing to see a grill being operated again in the kitchen of a burger chain.
…For that, I applaud the ‘Shack and wish them well in their quest to quickly rise to glory and steal large chunks of market share from Jack in the Box…
So I say “bravo” with two hand-claps and a strong nod to the ‘Shack for it’s mission and vision, but when it comes down to flavor – I’ll stick with my local favorites.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Four wheels, cheap meals, innovative nom noms. What’s not to like about food trucks?
Inspired by my recent night of mobile gluttony at the Boston vs. NYC food truck throw down, I’ve been ardently seeking truckin’ munchies.
This quest most recently brought me to a quiet side street in Kendall Square here: http://goo.gl/maps/tJ9tc
Lured by the sound of revving engines, the queues of smart kids, and the clank of portable food stuffs – I stumbled upon a veritable cornucopia of food trucks. Here’s the lunchtime lineup in Kendall:
- Momogoose (M-F, 10:30AM-4:30PM)
- Clover(M-F, 8AM-8PM)
- Your mandatory halal truck
- José’s Tacos
Let’s start with Momogoose. These guys have several trucks posted up around the Boston area and sling some mean Asian dishes served in four formats:
- Twelve inch baguette
- Rice bowl
- Noodle bowl
- Salad bowl
Just choose your delivery mechanism and add proteins like Korean BBQ, bulgogi, spicy pork, chicken teriyaki, and more.
I tucked into a humungo spicy pork baguette sandwich (basically a banh mi) and enjoyed every bite. Observe:
Now, on to Clover. If you haven’t heard of these guys yet, then you are not truly up on your local food game. Clover runs a few brick ‘n mortar locales in Harvard Square and Inman and have a small army of trucks serving up their ever-famous chickpea fritter and a host of other rotating inventive vegetarian health-conscious specialties.
Though I love their chickpea fritter, I branched out and tried their seasonal Fall sandwich of roasted turnip, fresh spinach, apple spread, and sharp cheddar in a wheat pita. Washed down with an iced sweet hibiscus drink in the late-day sun – I could have melted into the loving arms of motherhood and apple pie. Observe:
I scoped out José’s Tacos and the Halal truck and was less impressed both by the lines and the look of their vehicles, but think they’re probably worth a shot at some point. It will be hard to pull myself away from Clover and Momogoose though.
So if you find yourself in Kendall for work, for school, or for play on a weekday, be sure to hit up one of these excellent meals on wheels and support your local truckers.
People can take their conversations, work, school, families and friends with them anywhere these days – the food truck revolution makes it easier than ever to take your meals with you anywhere too.
Last night on the greenway, a ring of mobile eateries encircled thousands of gastro-enthusiasts hungry for tacos, sliders, and all manner of portable munchies. I was one of those enthusiasts.
You’ll hear all kinds of analysis from food writers in the area, but here’s my take of the action along with a few “NTF Awards” for best of the best.
14 Trucks – 7 from Bawston, 7 from New Yawk. Serving from late morning to 9PM at Dewey Square on the Greenway. T-shirts sold as shwag. Mobile diners voted for NYC or BOS by dropping some cash into a bucket for each town. Cash donations went to Food Banks from each respective city – classy.
The Grub Gallery:
The NTF Food Truck Throwdown Awards:
- Best Overall Food – Mei Mei Food Truck
As the night went on, it became clear that the longest lines were not necessarily indicative of the best grub. Mei Mei had a more modest queue but was slinging some incredible eats. We kept coming back to Mei Mei for more as the night went on…and when we thought they had run out of goods – they unveiled a ‘secret’ late night menu. They reeled us in with their signature “Double Awesome Sandwich” which was an amazing scallion pancake wrapped around cheddar cheese, an Asian-leaning pesto, and slow poached then fried eggs. We came back for frickin’ awesome stir-fried noodles with beef, amaranth, and ginger and fried Chinese crullers. Baller inventive Chinese cuisine.
- Longest Line – Wafels & Dinges
This NYC favorite was serving up Belgian wafels served a thousand different ways. Need I say more? Though we did not brave the line to enjoy one of their European Pancakes, they definitely deserve some props for exposing nearly 10,000 Americans to what a real wafel should taste like.
- Best Taco – Staff Meal
Tacos are a popular food truck item. So it says something to be serving up the best. Compared to Big D’s Grub (an NYC truck serving up Asian-Latin fusion fare), Staff Meal packed more flavor into their Mexican pancakes with a chorizo and wild mushroom offering.
- Coolest Truck – The Munchie Mobile
A bright purple truck with glowing green eyes? How could you miss it?
- Best Fusion Dish – Bon Me Hot Dog
Food Trucks are about fusion. We saw all kinds of influences weaved together throughout the night – Latin-Asian, Asian-American, Latin-American…a true testament to global citizens of the world. Bon Me was handing out hot dogs slathered with spicy mayo, carrots, daikon, and cilantro. Topped with sriracha, I was pleased. Good thing these guys are opening a brick and mortar location in Kendall this January!
- Most Underwhelming Food – Bian Dang
These guys were the first to run out of food which made my tummy mad. When they surprised us with a steamed pork bun after announcing all the supplies were spent – it came up real short.
- Friendliest Staff – Mei Mei Again!
Serving countless members of the general public from a cramped truck can crush the spirit of even the most well-intentioned food service professional. Mei Mei held it together with ease.
Who Won? Boston or New York?
Who cares? This event brought together so much goodness it doesn’t matter. It hit all the key values of the Gen Y’er: lots of choice and diversity, local “sustainable” cooking, supporting small business, a social purpose component, reasonable prices, and good food. This event was a good way to support the Food Trucks of Boston and the Big Apple while showing many a good time on a Saturday night. My only hope is that the mobile eating trend continues and that there will be more such events in the years to come.
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.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
If you’ve been a reader of the Foodie for long, you’ll know that I like to stay hip with the newest, swankiest grub parlors in town…but every once in a while I like to throw a shout-out to one of my long-time favorites.
That shout for this week is going out to Oleana.
This is an all-star restaurant with stats like [insert your favorite jock here]. Here is what the back of my “culinary card” would look like for Oleana:
- A.N.R. (Average Notice for Reservation) – 1 to 2 weeks advance call-ahead for party of two
- G.M.R. (Good Meal Ratio) – 100% (4 out of 4)
- All-Star Chef Award Winner – Ana Sortun has been one of my favorite local kitchen-wizards for years and deserves praise for legitimately expanding my palate as an eater.
- K.A.M.L. (Kick-Ass-Meals-Lineup):
- Fish filet cooked sous-vide in paper with butter, truffle, and cauliflower.
- Awesome little greek sausages
- Delicate fish and chorizo in broth
- Fresh burrata with zucchini fritters with greens and a spicy sauce
- Filet of halibut in mild broth with crispy prosciutto and couscous “cubes”
- Y.I.B.C.H. (Years I’ve Been Coming Here) – 7
- Gourmet Food Sourcing Award – Sortun owns a farm that supplies a good many ingredients incorporated into the meals here and at her bakery, Sofra.
- A.P.E. (Awesome Patio Eatery) – Oleana’s outdoor eating area is spacious and beautiful – adorned with herbs, plants, and Mediterranean pieces of flair. Heck, they’ve even got a pear tree back there.
- U.D.S.P.R. (Ubiquitous Dollar Sign Price Range) – $$$ (25-30 per entrée)
Beyond these key stats, I’ll throw in a lil’ narrative here as well to guide your next meal at Oleana. Looking at my patented “K.A.M.L.” metric above, I’ll say that these guys definitely know how to cook their fish. I have never gone wrong with a dish harkening to the sea here. Also, there are always a ton of well-appointed appetizers rich in exotic spices, purées, veggies, and cheeses. So, load up on the front end, order yourself a baller main plate, and sip a little vino from the always-excellent wine list. Finally – Oleana has some bench strength in the kitchen and always has a pimpin’ pastry and dessert lineup spearheaded by the pastry chef.
With stats like this – what’s not to like? So choose Oleana this winter sports season along with the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins (that is if they’re not extinct due to bickering between millionaires and billionaires)
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.
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: Somerville, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be my best cream of wheat ever?
Could you be my locally-made spicy Portuguese linguica?…
It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty of an outdoor eating space under the cover of real grape vines.
Would you be my rice and beans with eggs sunny-side?
Could you be my bottomless cup of Joe?
I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you (and I do).
So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be my huge gut-busting brunch?
Could you be my hour-long wait?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?