Archive for the ‘Street Food’ 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.

Tavern Road – Animals of the Day, Lardo, and (Drum Roll) Porchetta

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

http://tavernroad.com/menu/dinner/

Location: Boston, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

The Brothers DiBiccari just nailed a medium-rare skirt steak in the ground on Congress Street in the burgeoning Fort Point ‘hood.

It tastes good.

THE LOOK: I don’t usually dwell on the décor or ambiance of my chosen feasting grounds, but Tavern Road sports a ‘smart,’ ‘modern,’ ‘clean,’ ‘stylish,’ joint with a l’ull artistic flair.

THE COOK: Louis DiBiccari has an impressive resume that includes L’Espalier, Sel de la Terre, and the Herb Lyceum. He is also the secretive mastermind behind the infamous “Chef Louie Nights” that are one part Iron Chef, one part Pop-Up, and one part Awesome.

THE FOOD: My friends, the menu here reads like a carnivorous foodie’s last meal.  There are small tasting dishes of charcuterie items that include lardo, duck prosciutto, and smoked ham. The “first courses” take on the small plate format and feature pork, lamb meatballs, steak tartare, and smoked fish belly. There are a few dainty greens thrown in here and there as well.

Mmmmm....Lardo.

A feature called “Today’s Animal” includes one meaty dish ginned-up on the chef’s whim. When we ate here, said animal was a house-made sausage of duck, veal, and pork that made my heart skip a few beats (now and when I turn 65).

The main events include duck legs with lavender and honey, beef short rib with cinnamon and cashew, and one particular item that holds a special little space in my heart: porchetta.

=======Dramatic Porchetta Monologue=========

Let me pause right there for a moment. 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, this masterpiece is first assembled before resting 1-2 days in a fridge, and then slow-roasted in the oven. The beautiful porchetta served at Tavern is a generous round slab of herbed-crusted, crispy-skinned, tender-as-hell pig that will linger on your taste buds and strum on your soul strings for weeks (nay months) after entering your food zone.

Where Pork Belly Meets Pork Loin

=======Fin======

Back to the menu. Innovatively, the main events are served without sides and the diners are left to choose between an assortment of dishes to share amongst the table. Sides include braised kale with raisins and pine nuts, spaetzle, and creamy grits with an egg on top (my favorite).

As if all that wasn’t enough, Eater Boston reports that Tavern Road will soon have a take-out operation hitched to the side of the restaurant that will be serving plates on the go that are inspired by street foods of the world.

MY MOOD: After enjoying a hearty man’s meal and washing that down with craft beers, I felt happiness, tightness in the stomach region, subtle glee, good cheer, and slight fogginess in the brain area at the hand of Pretty Things Baby Tree.

A nice addy to Fort Point as this corner of the city becomes more of a destination for food lovers. Come to Tavern Road for the porchetta, today’s animal, lardo, beer and creamy grits. Feel like I did.

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.

Food Truck Throwdown – Boston v. NYC

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

http://www.foodtruckthrowdown.com/meet-the-contenders

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.

The Scene

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 LineWafels & 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.

Somerville Winter Farmers Market – Get Lured Into A Food Cult

Friday, February 24th, 2012

http://www.facebook.com/SomervilleWinterFarmersMarket?sk=info

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

In the first episode of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s excellent sketch series Portlandia, a bohemian couple travels from the table they’re dining at out to a farm to see where the chicken they were about to eat came from.

When they arrive out to the farm they become mesmerized by the owner Aliki and lured into an organic farm cult, spending years entranced by his spell…

I felt the same way when I walked into the Somerville Winter Farmers Market for the first time, hypnotized by local treasures sold on Saturdays from 9:30 to 2:30PM November thru May at the Armory on Highland Ave.

Following is just a sample of what was available in this castle of homegrown New England delicacies:

  • Valley Farm Natural Raised Beef (best breakfast sausages ever)
  • Great Cape Baking Company (a killer rosemary loaf and a donut that has the addictive properties of crack)
  • Local mussels, haddock and greysole from Gloucester and Maine
  • Stillman’s Farm Meat
  • Excellent seasonal produce from MA and NH farms (think celery root, parsnips, chioggia beets, exotic cabbage, etc)
  • Fresh milk and vats of butter
  • Fiore di Nonno Fresh Mozzarella and Burrata

Spending a winter morning here strolling from table to table sampling (and oogling at) all kinds of amazing goods while rubbing shoulders with the producers themselves is what food shopping was and is always meant to be.

So do your shopping here next weekend, feel like you’re walking into an episode of Portlandia, and allow yourself to be enthralled by the bounty of the earth.

Lobsta Love – A Mobile Food Disco

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Location: Harvard Yard, Science Center, and Oxford St. – Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Man I’ve wanted to review a food truck forever. Good food on wheels is to foodies what a mobile disco would be to cokeheads. Party anytime, anywhere.

And what could be better than fresh lobster – the ultimate food drug – served out of something called “Lobsta Love” in crimson land?

The only thing going up my nose at this truck was the wafting scent of lobster chowder and a mini lobster slider packed into a tiny soft brioche bun in the afternoon sun.

The guy in the truck told us these guys are open from something around 10am to 10pm most days of the week – he was new, so don’t quote me…but rest assured I’ll be hitting the ‘yard for more lobster rolls and perhaps some grilled cheese from lobsta love’s rolling nearby compatriot Grilled Cheese Nation.

The beauty about food trucks is the mystique, the “limited time only” mantra that has also made pop-up restos so successful. I see much more in store for the food truck trend, especially with a gourmet touch detailing these vehicles…

The Best in Class – Burritos – Olecito

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

http://olecito.net/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Few things in life are as comforting as a good burrito.

When your job sucks, when the economy is imploding, when you’re feeling down and out – there’s always a bundle of tortilla-wrapped goodness out there with your name on it.

Nick the Foodie has surveyed a broad range of the more well-known burrito joints across the [refried] Bean and would like to lay down a summary of the results for you right here:

 

  1. Olecito (Cambridge and Brookline) – The lovechild of nearby upscale Mexican eatery Olé, Olecito has been serving the best burrito in Boston for a while now. You can see that the street food progeny of Olé takes after its mother with some of the amazing flavor you get here. The standard carnitas burrito means something totally different at Olecito. The meat is perfectly cooked and seasoned, the flavors come together delightfully, and their picante sauce is out of this world good (and hot). Bring your appetite and order a baja taco to start, a carnitas burrito, and a carbonated apple beverage.
  2. El Pelon (Fenway R.I.P., now in Brighton) – The El Guapo burrito here (steak, rice, beans, lettuce, jack cheese, fried plantains, etc.) was a rising star on my burrito scene before the Fenway locale burned to the ground *tear* and is still the #2 that I’ve tasted in the Boston area. I promised to meet El Guapo again at the new location in Brighton which appears to be doing well, see here.
  3. Anna’s (Everywhere) – Anna’s will always hold a special place in my heart as this spot has fed me for at least six years. As many an anna’s-goer will tell you, it is a no-fuss burrito packed with all the standard goods. This is a solid go-to in my book and I’d highly recommend a super carnitas with gauc, beans, jalapenos, and hot sauce. For something different, try their HUGE cheesy quesadilla.   
  4. Felipe’s (Harvard Square) – I swear I’ve recognized the same members of the burrito-slinging staff at Anna’s in this place before. That might be why they are comparable. Consistency is not quite as solid here as at Anna’s so I’ll knock them down a spot but still worthwhile.
  5. Chipotle (Everywhere) – OK, I know, this is a chain. But I’m not the kind of Foodie that will only give props to local spots. Let’s admit, their burritos are tasty. My real beef though is that the creations here are so huge they’re almost over the top and you leave with that “I’m American fast-food full” feeling in your stomach.
  6. Boca Grande (Porter Square, Fenway, elsewhere) – Oh, Boca. The notorious “competition” with Anna’s, I personally find these guys to be a far leap from my lady. These days I only turn here when there’s nothing else edible around and find their burritos utterly boring. It says something that flavor-wise they fall below a national chain.

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas – The X-Rated Experience

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

http://doradotacos.com/

Location: Brookline, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

I often find myself comparing Mexican street food to sexual positions – they’re all good, but everyone has their favorite.

First, you’ve got the plain ‘ol standard burrito – the missionary position if you will. Everything so stationary, rigid, wrapped up securely.

Then you got yourself the taco, a little wilder – like she’s the fish, cabbage and baja sauce on your tortilla.

On special occasions, you might find yourself with a torta – little different, no tortilla, sort of like a burrito between two slices of toasted bread or bun. Compare to doggy-style perhaps.

But every once in a while, when the mood is just right and there’s a full moon and you’ve both downed too much wine, something crazy happens…something new and different…the preying mantis or superman or some shit like that.

Well, you’ve got yerself a Cemita my friend. That’s right – toasted sesame bun, black beans, avocado, Oaxaca cheese, chipotles en adobo, cilantro – topped with choices like house-made ground chorizo and pork loin milanesa.

So if you want that rare wild night to come whenever you please, swing by Dorado to feast upon their Cemitas. After the ravenous, sweaty, sloppy experience of eating one you’ll feel satisfied beyond belief.

And when you’ve both had yours…cool down with an aqua fresca.

City Snapshot – A Street Food Guide to Paris

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Paris is often lauded for its restaurants and higher-end eateries, but I appreciate the fruit of footpaths, the pleasures of “les places”, and the riches of “les rues” as much as fine French dining. As a visitor in the city, the more travelled, touristy areas that are dead-zones for good restaurants often offer great street options.

Here’s a guide to the best types of Parisian street food and where you can find the best of it:

Crêpes  

About as traditionally French as you can get, these amazing thin pancakes present endless possibilities for passerby. Sure, you can find great sit-down establishments to munch on crepes but some of my favorite spots are street-side in the Quartier Latin.

Here’s a couple spots to look out for:

 

  • Nondescript miniscule joint affixed to a shop selling touristy goods next to a “MacDo” (pictured above)

Location: 5th Arr., near intersection of St. Germain and St. Michel

My personal favorite is this tiny shop serving locals and tourists alike. You can get any combo of egg, cheese, shrooms, and ham you like. The generous portion of cheese envelops the other ingredients and when wrapped together all the components ooze out this rich, buttery, fragrant juiciness that coats the whole inside of the creation and dominates your last few amazing bites. Beautiful. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the heart-attack provoking “hot dog double avec fromage”: 4 hot dogs wrapped in melted cheese and inserted into a Dijon-coated baguette.

  • Rue Mouffetard, 5th Arr.

This beautiful small walking street is lined with eateries and small shops serving all manner of great French goods. There are also a couple good crepe joints along the way as well. My fav. Is a Greek-run spot that serves up mega-sized crepes that can be stuffed with a huge selection of options.

Sandwich Turc/Sandwich Grec

I developed my love for gyro sandwiches while studying abroad in Paris. It started as a quick, cheap option to sustain myself and developed into a sort of passion. The best part is, nearly every neighborhood in the city has it’s token Sandwich Turc/ Sandwich Grec shop.

Usually served with fries on the side (or stuffed into the sandwich) these delicacies typically include some combination of meat shaved off a rotating log of lamb, chicken, or other mystery meat, lettuce, tomato, and a tzatziki-like sauce. Can be packed into a pita, sub roll, or baguette. Perfection.

The Two-Step Guide To Selecting a Good Sandwich Turc/Sandwich Grec Shop:

1.       Inspect the Rotating Meat Log. What you want here is a thick, juicy-looking log that has some texture to it and actually looks like ‘layers’ of meat stacked upon each other rather than a single-shaded smooth grey cone. The more you can clearly distinguish what type of meat it is the better. You still may not actually know, but inspecting the meat log is the most important part.

2.       Know the Area. The best sandwich shops from my experience are in the more touristy or highly-travelled parts of the city. The more foot traffic in the area, the better chances of a good meat log. Better not to go for a shady dimly-lit spot in some random sketchy neighborhood.

Falafel Sandwiches from the Marais

Visitors tend to flock to the Marais for it’s beautiful ambiance, small boutiques, cafés and shops, however the big draw for me is a good falafel sandwich from a Jewish-owned joint.

Pretty much any spot selling falafel sandwiches in the area will impress you. Just the most moist falafel balls, red cabbage, pickles, and other goodness stuffed into a soft pita. I like mine with a little hot sauce.

 

The excellent French foodie guide, www.lefooding.com recommends L’as du Falafel but the lines can be huge here compared to other spots that will be comparable.

Lebanese Food

Paris has the best Lebanese food I’ve had anywhere. Great cooking and nearly anything you order at these places will be outstanding. The shawarma, kafta, and kibbeh sandwiches tend to be excellent however you’ll find all kinds of good options.

 

 

Neighborhoods for good Lebanese:

  • Rue St. Andre Des Arts, 5ieme
  • Les Halles environs, 2ieme
  • Rue Mouffetard, 5ieme

Marchés Alimentaires de Paris

Anyone who knows anything about Paris will direct you to check out the many great fresh food markets throughout the city. This is a quintessentially French experience and you’ll find some of the best food in the city here.

One of my favorite markets is the Marché Maubert, however you can get the locales and hours for a range of Parisian markets right here on an interactive map: http://marches.equipements.paris.fr/

So, on your next trip to Paris consider some of these options for a quick lunch, easy dinner, or delightful snack. You’ll avoid big prices, reservations, and your stomach will thank you.

Bon appétit,

Nicholas