Archive for the ‘Date Spots’ Category

Asta – Current Crush.

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

www.astaboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

So where does a Boston-based food nerd go for culinary romance on Valentine’s day? Why, Asta of course.

Chef Alex Crabb and co-owner Shish offer a value prop to the discriminating diner that reads like a brick house: 36-24-36, what a winning hand…

36: Chef Crabb spent time as a stagiaire at Noma, Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen-based restaurant that pretty much took the reigns from El Bulli as #1 restaurant in the world.

24: An uber-local, constantly changing, seasonal nightly tasting menu that will give you things you’ve never tasted before in a 3, 5, or 8-course format (with amuse bouche and small bites putting parentheses around the meal).

36: Very sophisticated wine program, chefs tables overlooking an open kitchen (ballsy, I like it), and absolutely no ‘tude to which I bow given the price tag and location.

Their menu reads like some innovative new form of haiku. Here’s what they were serving for $70 on V-day:

cauliflower

bottarga, anchovy

monk fish

roasted brussel sprouts

bacon broth

braised celery

black garlic gnocchi

chicken skin

beef

hearty winter leaves

chestnut

black cocoa pavlova

passion fruit, olive oil

Glance on for Pictures of Food (many readers will just skip to here and leave this page to make reservations):

cauliflower

beef.

monkfish.

pavlova.

My Favorite Dish: Delicately browned cauliflower over cauliflower puree with wonderful slight touches of the sea. The opener. Incredibly refreshing and refined. Had me at first bite. Loved the classy touch of bottarga.

Second Favorite Dish: The beef. Very nice slices of medium-rare filet with a super-interesting chestnut jus drizzled over them.

Other Highlights:

  • A perfectly-seared monkfish.
  • The most vibrantly green brussel sprouts I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.
  • Black garlic gnocchi that tasted so soft and fresh they might as well have been made on the way to our table from the kitchen or right under my eyes as I stole a glance around the place.
  • Delightful pavlova dessert that resembled a cracked egg – man the passion fruit crème on that plate will haunt my dreams for years.

A meal that made this geek’s glasses steam up. Chef Crabb’s cooking ranges from simple pleasures to subtly refined hints of genius. A nice mix of skill that puts this restaurant on par with places churning out creative New England-ish contemporary American upscale foodstuffs – think Bondir, T.W. Food, Puritan & Co., and Ten Tables.

I think I’m in love.

Coppa – Where Cured Pork Neck Meets Fennel Pollen

Friday, January 24th, 2014

www.coppaboston.com

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

According to the authoritative source on cured Italian meat, Prosciuttopedia (no joke), coppa is derived from a hock of pork neck and is dried according to a secret blend of tradition and spices.

The Coppa I’m talking about here is brought to you by Chefs Ken Oringer & Jamie Bissonette and is carefully formulated to be:

  • One part neighborhood wine bar
  • One part salumeria
  • One part wood-fired pizzeria
  • One part fine Italian dining

Indeed, this intimate enoteca and more is tucked away in the South End and keeps a relatively low profile despite churning out some eye-poppingly well-curated culinary delights, like what we ordered:

Fennel Pollen

=========================================================

HOUSE MADE PASTA

Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio  $18/$27

Little bell chestnut pasta, rabbit, kabocha squash, cranberries, bianco sardo

WOOD FIRED PIZZA

Salsiccia   $16

Tomato, pork sausage, ricotta, roasted onion and fennel pollen

==========================================================

Coniglio

When scanning menus, my eyes immediately shoot laser beams at descriptors that hint at things like rabbit, oxtail, wild boar, beef short rib, pork belly, game birds, mutton – all the stuff your average medieval kitchen would have served.

So true to my form, I zeroed-in on the fancy-sounding Castagna Campanelle con Coniglio which was utterly fantastic. The chestnut pasta was unique and earthy, the rabbit succulent (probably braised), the squash finely diced into little cubes, and the cranberries creatively sliced paper-thin as if through a mandolin slicer (meaning the raw berries were not too overwhelming). All was adorned with an extremely flavorful sheep’s milk cheese from Sardegna. A fitting winter menu item. Take a bow, Coppa.

The sausage pizza was another dish dressed to impress. Delicious perfectly-fired pizza dough served as a fitting platter for a delicate mix of ground sausage, ricotta, good tomato sauce, and…fennel pollen? That was a new one for me – I zoned out thinking about the poor schmuck collecting pollen floating through the fennel fields to deliver for hungry hungry hipsters dining at South End restaurants. But it added a little complexity for the Foodie which was appreciated.

As a bonus, I can sound like a real douchebag when I tell people I ate fennel pollen.

In summary, Coppa is a solid establishment that has altered my worldview of Italian dining in Boston (which has had it’s rougher moments). Foodie-approved.

Cinquecento and Deep Italian Thoughts by Nick

Monday, May 13th, 2013

www.cinquecentoboston.com

Location: Boston, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

The Aquitaine Group (masterminds behind Union Bar & Grille, Metropolis, and Gaslight) have breathed a limoncello-laden breath of Italian air into the location that once was Rocca. This brings their resume of south end restaurants up to five as they apply their formulaic approach of superior service, snazzy restaurant design, and solid food to another location.

Before I go on, I present to you a few notes on the Italian food scene in the greater Boston area:

In short, we are not quite nailing it yet – but there are promising signs of change in the right direction.

  • Let’s start with the North End to get it out the way. Our most famous neighborhood for Italian food presents a sad assortment of overpriced tourist traps that are better off avoided. There are a few bright spots in the form of authentic little salumerias, bakeries, and coffee shops but none of these establishments have me jaunting over there on the reg.
  • On to haute cuisine. Spots like Rialto, Via Matta, and more recently Giulia deliver very respectable dishes and a dose of authenticity but with a heftier price tag.  I have not tried Sportello or Coppa but would guess they both sit right here as well. These guys are taking steps in the right direction and I give them a swagger and a nod – I just wish they were more accessible.
  • Then there are the down-home joints. I’ve become enamored with a smattering of more low-key joints over in Cambridge and Somerville like Pescatore, L’Impasto, Gran Gusto, and Posto that really do great things with an authentic, home-cooked unpretentious flair. Pescatore assembles sexy seafood dishes, L’Impasto bakes amazing fresh bread, and Gran Gusto and Posto are cranking out some outstanding pizza. Though you have to expect a little less consistency from these spots – they have earned my respect along with a half-smile and a twinkle of the eye.
  • What about pizza? Sigh…this is an area where I am currently very upset, stomping, and mad that I’m not getting my way. We are not doing pizza well enough in Boston. Slices range from tasteless to overly inventive (Salvatore’s) to scandalous (Upper Crust). Though there are some mentioned in this review who make an effort, we need a complete makeover in this important food group. In fact, I’ve recently made a resolution to learn how to make respectable-enough pizza in my own oven to avoid ordering out – recipes wanted!
  • Other random bright spots in somewhat unexpected places. Marliave actually is a hidden gem with some nice Italian fare. I possibly had the best gnocchi in my life at Salts in Cambridge. Dave’s Fresh Pasta is selling off excellent paninis, pasta, sauces and more…plus their recent child Spoke Wine Bar (see previous review) looks poised for great things as well. Every once in a while Area Four in Kendall will dish out a pizza that simply blows my mind, and their food truck intrigues me as well. The Butcher Shop in the south end will supply endless plates of outstanding antipasti and cured meats for you as well.

So with all that said, where does Cinquecento fit in?

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is all a very long way of saying that I liked Cinquecento, but feel that as a city we really need to raise the bar on our Italian cooking. The Aquitaine Group is definitely among those taking steps in the right direction – as evidenced by:

  • My braised rabbit gnocchi with green olives, parmesan, and a heavenly little pink sauce
  • Our Sardinian wine that wowed me from sip one
  • The burrata special that was imported creamy goodness inventively paired with rhubarb in pickled and crystalized form. Pretty dish too.

All this in a legitimately cool setting that is designed to power out hundreds (or probably thousands) of dishes each night to a hungry mass of Bostonians.

Bunny Taste Yummy

Nick, o ye wise food sage, tell me – what is coming in the future?

Yes, young grasshopper. I sense that the best Italian cooking is a little further afield. I intend to survey Medford (AKA Meffa) for this genre and already have a few good leads. The best slice of pizza in New England lives in Portland, ME…so there must be more hidden secrets out there in the woods beyond the route 128 belt.

Next, celebrity chefs have taken an interest in us. Mario Batali is planning on opening a Babbo Pizzeria in Fort Point. We are receiving Italian food aid from other states to assist with our dire situation.

Where do I think the Italian food scene in Bostonia should go? People are trying to do too much. I say enough of trying to be all Roman things to all people. Pick a specialty and do it right. How about a classy salumeria with house-cured meats and a bangin’ wine selection? How about a few authentic, small pizza joints pulling the real deal out of wood-fired ovens? Shit, how about a shop that just serves frickin’ awesome meatballs? How about a spot out on the docks of Fort Point serving the freshest-possible Cape Cod & MA-state seafood wrapped up in fresh-as-hell pasta?

If an enterprising chef out there happens to stumble across these words – either a Boston native or a small-town Italian chef from afar…please…make my dreams come true.

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.

Puritan & Company – The Culinary History of New England, Rewritten

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

http://puritancambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

–“Men of New England, I hold you to the doctrines of liberty which ye inherit from your Puritan forefathers.” –

The puritans left England to practice what they believed without persecution. Like the intense cult-prone adventurers who first developed the new world, Will Gilson has sailed out into uncharted culinary territory with his new restaurant to worship the demigods of lamb belly, jamon iberico, and bone marrow on his own terms.

I am here to tell his story.

While I’m pretending to be an historian, I’ll throw a little more history atch’ya – a local business called Puritan Cake Company once occupied the space that now houses this immaculate new temple of gourmet righteousness. In fact, the new owners will even present their interpretation of the cake once produced here in little bite-sized pieces at the end of your meal.

I open this review with a lesson of our past, for, in Churchill’s words: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Gilson, it appears, was paying attention during his “ye olde volume ‘o cooking history” class in culinary school. The menu at Puritan & Company shows deference and respect for rustic New England favorites while taking a few chances with cuisine from other regions and incorporating interesting twists on the foods of our forbearers. This is also a restaurant strongly grounded in the fat of Massachusetts soil – with goods sourced from Savenors and The Herb Lyceum (the Groton farmstead owned by Gilson’s family).

Now, without much further ado, I present to you my analysis on my flavor fave dishes from Puritan that I had the joy of eating from our charcuterie table seats:

The softest, buttery brioche roll you will ever taste – topped with some amazing lightly-shaved sea salt. Washed down with a Peak Organic dark nut brew made specially for Puritan that involves a little ginger and honey from the Herb Lyceum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something called Gougeres. I’ve never seen these in France (assuming they’re a French dish), but wherever they hail from these things are awesome. Lightly-toasted warm balls of wonder stuffed with rosemary and cheddar mornay. Tasted like a gourmet cheez-it.

Cheez-its, Beware!

Rare Jamon Iberico freshly shaved from a $1,200 hock of cured ham sitting by the charcuterie station. Lightly nutty, smooth, and tender.

Fresh-Shaved from the Ham Hock

“Swordfish Pastrami.” One of the most unique and inventive plates on the menu, this dish incorporates spiced strips of smoked sword, cannelles of chilled mustard cream, brussels, and pumpernickel essence. Amazing.

Pastrami of the Sea

Bone Marrow Gratin. Easily one of the best dishes on the menu here, Puritan’s bone marrow is beautifully plated on a bed of hay and roasted with an array of herbs, butter (surely) and garlic. Spreading a little of this gelatinous goodness on a slice of torched duck fat brioche was literally one of the best things I’ve done all year.

Will You Marrow-Me?

Lamb Belly. Probably the other “must try” dish on the menu here in addition to the marrow, lamb belly is similar to pork belly in terms of the presentation and texture, however it comes with an added gaminess and earthiness that is matched wonderfully with an orange + moxie sauce. I’ve never had anything quite like it but I loved it.

Lamb - The Other Delicious Belly Meat

Clam Chowder. Pure genius. Your server will bring over a sexy-looking lineup of clams sharing their shells with a little friend named fried pork belly. A warm creamy broth will then be poured over the bowl from a pitcher. Totally creative.

Not-Your-Mother's Clam Chowda

Wood-Roasted Muscovy Duck – A solid classic bird paired with quinoa, wild mushrooms and thyme.

Order any of these dishes and your stomach will thank you like a pilgrim feasting on a freshly-cooked turkey.

A few words on a singular Puritan plate that, while risqué and interesting – misses the mark a bit. Lamb chop and lamb sausage. This ends up looking like a funny giant lamb lollipop. A bunch of ground lamb sausage is packed around the chop and just becomes overwhelming to eat (plus a little dry – it’s gotta be tough to cook right). If there is one dish on the menu I would replace – it would be this one. Instead – put a game bird, rabbit,  wild boar or some lobster on the table!

On the whole, Puritan & Company really nails it. The restaurant itself is beautiful and will surely be a success with an array of very well-executed dishes that are unrivaled elsewhere.

The first settlers of the new land knew that they were on to something when they laid the first foundations of a society free from sexual misconduct, blasphemous words, and witchcraft. I thank Chef Gilson for bringing a few spoonfuls of sin back onto New England soil.

West Bridge – Pure Magic.

Friday, June 15th, 2012

http://www.facebook.com/westbridgerestaurant

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Watch out David Blaine, David Copperfield, and Michael Caine in The Prestige – there’s a new illusionist in town, and they rolled in with chef’s knives instead of a deck of playing cards.

Having opened their doors just a few weeks ago, West Bridge (which takes its moniker from the former name for the Longfellow Bridge) is really on top of their game right out of the gate without any smoke and mirrors.

I went into their sleek, modern, hip [insert another superlative from the food blogger’s dictionary] locale on a weeknight with a certain set of preconceived notions about another Cambridge spot serving up modern French cuisine with “a twist.” I had no idea what I was in for…sort of like when a magician says “I’ll need a volunteer from the audience.”

Here’s how West Bridge had me asking “How the f*ck did they do that?”

  • Crispy fried chicken skins with aioli were the first item to hit our wooden table…at first glance you think some yuppie thought like “ooohhh, some new type of flatbread?” but in reality nicely-seasoned, crispy and (amazingly) flat thick crunchy slices of chicken sheath.
  • Appetizer of red quinoa, favas, goat cheese, and what you’d think is bacon essence (but in reality soy-treated crispy shitake mushroom bits that will blow your mind). The vegetarian dish every meat-lover has always wanted.
  • Radish Toast. If the quinoa was the meat-lovers vegetarian dish, this appetizer is the vegan’s prelude to hell. Just think…some unassuming leaf-eater orders this dish without realizing what “lardo” is. They bite into really nice sourdough toasts topped with baller butter, thin-sliced radish, wild mushrooms, some electron-sized greens, and this nice herby richness they can’t quite put their finger on…that’s right – you just sank your teeth into a nice layer of kingly pig fat.
  • A Sancerre that was…get this…RED. Forget that crisp seafood-friendly white you gulp down with your fruits de mer…this was a pinot noir from the same region. Absolutely delicious.
  • Duck liver terrine that was smooth as hell with a nice chutney and what I thought were chickpeas done in a way I’d never tasted before – salty and nicely crispy.
  • Duck breast with hibiscus beet vinaigrette, black rice, and rainbow carrots. This sumptuous entree was like when you think you know how David Blaine did that card trick before he pulled your card out of his ass cheeks. Duck was nicely scored and treated very simply with just high-quality salt and pepper…perfectly succulent. But then carrots the color of the rainbow? Rice that was neither white nor brown? “Hibiscus beet vinaigrette?” Where am I? Outstanding dish.

The menu at West Bridge is sorta structured as follows:

  • Hey, we know you’re probably coming here to get plastered on great beer and wine after work…but while you’re at it choose from at least ten amazing and generous-portioned appetizers to share amongst your project team.
  • But if you’re here with your honey and want to bring some game – we’ve got four solid mains to choose from (plus a special of the evening)…whether you need veal, fish, or duck…we’ve got you covered.
  • And if you just got a raise, announced your engagement, or lost your virginity, we’ve got some humungo “share-for-two” plates like cote de bouef, lamb shank, and (what’d I’d assume is) whole roasted chicken.

The staff at West Bridge has trained with the greats and learned from the masters. Co-owner Alexis Gelburd-Kimler was a former GM for Tony Maws at the old Craigie Street and the Exec Chef/Co-owner Matthew Gaudet learned his chops in NYC. Both hail more recently from Aquitaine Bistro, another excellent restaurant. The service was of course stellar – so good that you’d think our waiter (James) went to culinary school himself.

All these forces came together to give us the show of our lives. A fanstastical crew, a superb evening, a magical experience.

P.S. My duck breast levitated before I ate it.

L’Impasto – So Real It’s Unreal / So Real E ‘Unreal

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

So real, so authentic, this review is being posted in both English and Italian (the Google translate dialect, or Googlielmo of course). The review will read like a gangsta ride or die anthem but that’s because the grubbolo here is so good they should require an initiation. Are you a (tomato) blood, or a (Roman) crypt?

  • Run by a real life Roman owner who also mans the kitchen single-handedly each night

  • Too real for a website. The web is for posers.
  • Serving real traditional pasta dishes, salads, and a few pizza selections
  • The pasta is the real deal shit – house-made. From lasagnas to bucatini to ravioli.
  • The bread is the real deal shit – house-baked and beautiful. From light focaccia, to dense olive. All breads are also sold separately by the loaf for a real good price.
  • Our meal was the real shitReal Burrata with prosciutto, sweet roasted peppers, fig balsamic.

  • Real bucatini (thick, hollow noodles) with small chunky morcels of pancetta and white wine tomato sauce.
  • Real, miraculously thin and delicate ravioli filled with tomato and mozz and swimming in some real pesto.

The only slightly-less-than-real aspect of eating here was that we weren’t slurping down flasks of house red or white wine during the experience (no liquor license yet). I’ll chalk that up to the “quirk” in my formula for what makes a good Italian joint (simple + fresh + quirky).

L’impasto is real. L’impasto is legit. More reasonably-priced quality real Italian food on this side of the Charles? L’impossible.

Ride or die!!!

Not a bong, fool. Evoo and Balsamic.

===============================Translation ===================================

Così reale, così autentica, questa revisione è stato scritto in inglese e in italiano (il dialetto Google translate, o Googlielmo naturalmente). La revisione potrà essere letto come un giro gangsta o morire inno, ma questo è perché il grubbolo qui è così bene che dovrebbe richiedere una iniziazione. Sei un (pomodoro) del sangue, o un (romano) cripta?

  • Gestito da una reale proprietario vita romana, che equipaggia anche la cucina da sola ogni notte
  • Di servizio veri e propri primi piatti tradizionali, insalate, pizze e una scelta di pochi
  • Troppo reale per un sito web. Il web è per posers.
  • La pasta è la merda vero affare – fatti in casa. Dalle lasagne al bucatini ai ravioli.
  • Il pane è la merda vero affare – casa cotto e bello. Dalla luce focaccia, denso di olive. Tutti i tipi di pane sono venduti anche separatamente dal pane ad un prezzo veramente bene.
  • Il nostro pasto era la vera merda – Burrata reali con prosciutto, peperoni arrostiti, fig balsamiche.
  • Reale bucatini (pasta di spessore, cavi) con piccoli morcels grosso di salsa al vino bianco e pomodoro, pancetta.
  • Real, ravioli miracolosamente sottili e delicate piene di pomodoro e mozz e nuoto in qualche reale pesto.

L’unico aspetto un po ‘-meno-che-reale di mangiare qui era che non eravamo giù slurping fiaschi di casa, vino bianco o rosso durante l’esperienza. Io gesso che fino alla “stranezza” nella mia formula per ciò che rende un buon italiano comune (semplice + fresco + stravagante).
L’impasto è reale. L’impasto è legit. Più qualità a prezzi ragionevoli vero cibo italiano su questo lato del Charles? L’impossibile.
Ride or Die!

Pescatore – Legit Italiano for Less

Monday, April 30th, 2012

http://www.pescatoreseafood.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

File Pescatore in with the other great Italian restaurants that are not in the North End.

I’m slowly building a case to save millions of innocent diners from wasting their money on overpriced grub from Italia, one amazing eatery at a time.

Tucked away on a side street in Ball Square, this intimate little spot has been on my short list of affordable places to get my pasta on for a few years now.

These guys are all about uber-fresh pappardelle, ravioli, and fusilli with (as the name suggests) lots of food from the deep blue sea. Hop in your dinghy, grab some flour, eggs, and a fishing rod and I’ll row you through some of my favorite Pescatore-ian dishes:

  • Fusilli Amalfi – homemade pasta with a veritable fruits de mer of scallops, lobster, and shrimp cooked up with some broccoli rabe.
  • Gnocchi Sorrentino – This dish is painfully good. The gnocchi are as soft as a supple bosom. The lightly creamy tomato-basil sauce is so delightful I would bathe in it. Finally, melty buffalo mozz just puts me over the top with glee. Got to be one of the best gnocchi dishes around for the paltry price of $14.
  • Pappardelle Capri – with noodles as wide and thick as a big booty, arugula, cherry tomatoes, evoo, white wine, garlic and shaved parm, the Capri is another crustacean-inspired beauty of a dish served by the good people at Pescatore.

Gnocchi-riffic

Love those Capris girl

Recently I pontificated (excuse me) on the three common qualities of good Italian restaurants: Simple, Fresh, and Quirky. Here’s how this locale meets the trifecta of all things tutto bene.

  • Simple – No ‘tude here in the cooking at all. Just very well-made dishes with fewer than 10 ingredients.
  • Fresh – Gotta give anybody props for cranking out their own pasta and gnocchi. The fish and shellfish are all fairly good quality as well, not to mention the uniquely tasty homemade sauces up in here.
  • Quirky – the quirk here must be the location. Though the inside is warm and inviting, Pescatore is located in a concrete-exterior building that was probably a former Elks Lodge at the corner of a quiet neighborhood.

I suggest you add Pescatore to your little black book of quality neighborhood Italian joints too. I look forward to rowing by you on your way out here in the future.

The Painted Burro – That Colorful Donkey Got Moves

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

http://www.thepaintedburro.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Its tough to displace a neighborhood mainstay – but the Gargoyle has morphed into a little painted donkey quite well.

The owners of nearby upscale Italian pizzeria and wine bar Posto have proven themselves skilled restaurateurs by branching out into a completely different culinary genre and doing it well.

I’ll walk you through why their new, stylish, “Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar” is going to become one of the more popular eateries in Davis (maybe at the risk of cannibalizing foodies from their other spot).

  • Drink menu is twice the size as the food menu. There are countless tequilas, a nice selection of south-of-the-border beers, and a sexy bar area.
  • The house margaritas are a simple yet effective affair made with good tequila and lime juice (skipping the Cointreau). At just 8 bucks these babies are smooth and will please even the most discriminating spirits snob.

  • The tortilla chips. Ohhhh…the tortilla chips. Usually that part of a Mexican meal relegated to being mindlessly devoured by hungry gringos waiting for their mains – the Burro kicks these babies up a notch. These chips come out warm, are well-salted, and are thick while still managing to be light and airy. So delightful we must have gone through nine buckets of the things. I was still clinging to a handful on our way out the door after a huge meal.

  • The Guac. Though not the best I’ve had in town (that award still goes to Ole), the version here is slightly creamy and smooth and still thoroughly enjoyable.

  •  The platos principales. The entrees feature whole fish, rabbit leg, carne asada, a snobby-looking yuppified enchilada stuffed with maitake mushrooms and goat cheese, and a drool-inducing short rib barbecoa with poblano and Oaxaca grits.
  • Dos tacos. In addition to the aforementioned platos, the Burro is passionate about tacos judging by a selection of soft tortillas filled with things like chorizo, gulf shrimp, pork ‘cochinita,’ skirt steak, and my favorite – crispy Maine redfish. Though I loved my redfish with cabbage/jalapeno slaw and baja sauce – I was less impressed by the other tacos ordered by my fellow table chums.

The Burro is a welcome addition to the square as Davis continues to maintain a fine veneer of loveable piss-soaked college bars while becoming a breeding-ground for yuppie-friendly fun and games. I wonder what’s next for the Posto-Burro team…are they going Asian? South African? French?  Time will tell.

Mi nombre es Ryan. I bebe como el diablo.

Marliave – Boston, Under New Culinary Management

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

http://www.marliave.com/home/

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Boston. An historic town under modern cultural management.

Sure, we’ve got lots of stuff that’s been around for over 100 years – Fenway Park, the T, the Bell in Hand Tavern, Mayor Menino, and a strange accent to name a few…but we’ve really tried to keep up with the times. We ditched an ugly raised highway in favor of a nice greenway, we finally constructed a proper modern art museum, we’re educating lots of smaaaht kids each year on the latest academia has to offer, and we are growing a solid base of world-class eateries that are following food trends on the frothing edge.

What does all this have to do with Marliave? Patience, young grasshopper.

This Boston mainstay has been around for ages and has to be one of the oldest dining locations in the city, but under the management of Grotto chef/owner Scott Herrit, they are still slingin’ some very well-executed grub that spans Italian and French-inspired dishes that are worthy of the 21st century.

Typically you’d expect that restaurant established in the 1800’s that is downtown right smack in the tourist action to be mediocre at best, but Marliave is a welcome exception to the rule.

The restaurant really is a hidden gem that had remained more rumored than real to this native for several years. I’m glad I picked up my britches and gave it a try. It’s a beautiful space with a laid-back bar area on the first floor and gorgeous intimate dining room above street level.

I’ve waited long enough – here are the menu highlights:

  • “Sunday Gravy” – pillow-y gnocchi (yes I’m a fouchebag) and delicious creamy San Marzano tomato sauce laden with tender lamb, pork and beef. Down-home comfort, upscale technique.
  • Seared scallops with pumpkin ravioli and wild mushroom risotto. Beautifully-plated, inventive combo, perfectly-cooked scallops. Terrific.
  • Chicken breast seared ‘under a brick’ over risotto with mushrooms and roasted garlic. I don’t know if it’s just clever marketing, but I typically drool over chicken under a brick. Marliave’s take on this dish was outstanding.

Other menu items that caught my eye included beef wellington, a sexy-looking burger, “Henry’s Soup” (French onion, gruyere, short rib, crouton, mouthgasm), beef carpaccio, and a nice duck confit app (coming to your iplate soon).

In the end, Marliave is a fine example of how Boston can marry old school colonial charm with new school culinary chops. Bravo.