Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Blue Nile – Five Lessons in Ethiopian Cuisine

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

I always preface any Ethiopian restaurant recco with a little orientation for our Western minds that are accustomed to things like steel utensils and dainty individualized dining experiences.

LESSON 1:

Let’s start with that thick, porous crepe-like bread called injera. I did some reconnaissance work on this trademark aspect of Ethiopian dining that is personally my favorite part of eating at establishments representing this corner of the world:

  • Turns out it is made using teff (also called lovegrass), which is the next undiscovered super grain soon to go mainstream since it is 1) high in fiber, 2) being consumed en masse in Scandinavian countries (known for being forward-thinking in all regards), and 3) is friendly to the stomachs of those on gluten-restricted diets.
  • The injera is laboriously made over the course of several days – the process of making it involves mixing teff with water and carefully straining the mixture while it ferments into a mild sourdough-like bread.
  • The injera mixture is cooked on a specialized flat stove (sometimes made of clay), which results in a crepe or dosa-like pancake perfectly-suited for grabbing hold of many varieties of veggie and meat dishes.

    Teff Pancake with Veg

LESSON 2:

  • Be prepared to eat with your hands (utensils are for sissies) – the injera is all you need to transport food into your mouth. Less fun to dine with strangers.

LESSON 3:

  • Bring your vegetarian friends and others on restrictive diets – the best Ethiopian dishes tend to be lovely combinations of lentils, assertive greens, and root veggies cooked with complex curries and sauces rich in spices.

LESSON 4:

  • Drink Tej, which is a nice refreshing Ethiopian honey wine that is not too sweet and is served slightly chilled. Delightful booze to wash down large quantities of good food.

LESSON 5:

  • Start your foray into Ethiopian cuisine at Blue Nile. This small, intimate eatery in JP is run by very friendly staff who will lovingly guide you through your experience. The injera is excellent and is best accompanied by a sampling of several varieties of veggie dishes. You can fill your stomach beyond full for pretty cheap, even with a bottle of Tej on the side. Best enjoyed in groups of four or fewer.

L’Espalier – Armies of Amuses, A Whole Duck, Desserts in Chocolate Vessels, and Tea Sommeliers

Monday, April 8th, 2013

www.lespalier.com

Location: Boston, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

At long last – I managed to eat at L’Espalier. A culinary pilgrimage for Boston area food lovers, one of the best high-end French restaurants in town, and a time-honoured etablissement of fine dining in this great city.

As we boarded the elevator up to the restaurant (complete with well-upholstered sitting chair), I couldn’t help but wonder – does this place live up to all the hype?

Up until now, I had only heard mention of L’Espalier through hushed whispers and quick glances…Mark took Sally-Joe there to propose, the sales team at XYZ Corp. gathered here to celebrate that big multi-million-dollar deal, Jay-Z took P-Diddy, Beyonce, and the entourage here to pop open Moet & Cristal…OK that last one was a lie (or was it?).

You enter into a sitting room and are greeted by a glass-encased spread of pungent cheeses just begging for you to slather them on a baguette and pair them with a fine bottle of bublay. Sadly, we skipped ahead and went straight to our table to get the party started.

Then, happily, a bottle of very good champagne was ordered and an assortment of little amuses were scattered across our table – and they did not stop. A veritable panoply of small treats kept arriving – both sweet and savory. A refreshing shot of hibiscus, mini-French macarons, and a delightful bite-sized éclair filled with gooey cheese were among the lineup.

None of these items were ordered, but the kitchen generously festooned our eating space with them throughout the meal…quite a treat.

And the foodstuffs we did order, pray tell? I thought you’d never ask.

I, feeling particularly carnivorous this particular evening – decided to basically devour an entire duck…roasted Hudson Valley foie gras with citrus, mushrooms and other goodies I can’t remember commenced the quack quack Armageddon, followed by the whole roasted duck for two – carved at a separate table and served with beluga lentils, spiced jus and celery root puree. A rhubarb soufflé was presented to the side of our dish as well. Bomb-diggidity.

Duck, Duck Baby

Before you peg me for some sort of glutton – I did share the whole duck with another meat-lover and still got a generous helping of bird.

The others in my dining party feasted on things like:

  • Beef tenderloin with short rib, bone marrow custard, Jerusalem artichoke and spring garlic.
  • Slow poached and roasted guinea hen with black truffle-turnip “risotto”, pear puree, and foie gras jus
  • Seared sea scallops with braised pork jowl, little clams, English peas and roasted garlic
  • Salad of Fresh lettuces that incorporated some crazy flavors of ice cream
  • Some seared leek with cauliflower, egg, peas and sauces that looked lovely and was ordered off of – get this – a full vegetarian menu. Take note, herbivores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dessert was a whole separate event in itself and well worth ordering here. The Bananas Foster with caramel pots de crème was a really unique treat – the server literally cracked open a (presumably) white chocolate tube on the plate, sending a river of warm caramel flooding the ice cream and honey roasted pecans that lurked below. Jiho’s chocolate banana macadamia bread pudding similarly involved the ‘cracking’ of a chocolate vessel to expose the goodness that lay within – inventive and tantalizing.

Before I close this review I should mention the service. We ate here on a Monday night and the place was practically empty – consequently we had a small army of servers attending to us. A well-spoken commander-in-chief deftly articulated the menu items as if rehearsed for hours, while separate representatives filled water, consulted on wines, served the plates, cleared the plates, and fanned away unpleasant odors with a napkin (sorry, guys…my bad…must have been the foie).

A delightfully upscale dining experience that does indeed live up to the hype. Save up your pesos and hit L’Espalier the next time you want your dinner to say ‘I’m one of a kind.’

For the Ulta-Curious: Other Things About L’Espalier:

  • If you are rich enough to just ‘swing by’ here for an impromptu meal and find the place crowded, you can eat in the salon to enjoy caviar, oysters, cheese flights and small bites.
  • This place actually has their own Tea Sommelier! Come for the Saturday and Sunday tea times to enjoy awesome food paired with some fine featured tea selections…or just sample the tea alone for only $15 bucks.
  • As mentioned before – L’Espalier does indeed have a vegetarian menu…just ask and you shall receive at this type of real classy joint.

–Fin–

Bon Me – It’s a Restaurant, Not a Truck, Silly.

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

www.bonmetruck.com

Location: Cambridge, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Breaking news, America.

In a shocking turn of events, Boston-area food trucks are trading in their wheels for solid foundations. Just in time for the spring selling season in real estate, folks.

Case in point – Bon Me. Once a truck. Still at truck. But now also a sandwichery and noodle-shop at One Kendall Square? Bonkers.

They are basically churning out the same goods as their roving kitchens, but with slightly extended hours.

The ordering process is about as simple as that new iPhone app you downloaded for free:

CHOOSE DELIVERY MECHANISM:

  • Bread (banh mi sandwich)
  • Rice (bowl)
  • Noodle (salad)

CHOOSE PROTEIN:

  • Spiced-rubbed chicken
  • Chinese BBQ pork
  • Roasted soy and paprika tofu
  • Miso-braised pulled pork
  • Other specials du jour

CHOOSE SIDES + DRINKS:

  • Edamame
  • Asian greens
  • Asian slaw
  • Thai basil limeade
  • Thai iced tea
  • Vietnamese iced coffee

Regardless of your delivery mechanism or filling, your meal will come loaded with veggies and extras. Add some sriracha sauce or really really spicy chili sauce (if you are man enough).

Bon Me definitely assembles a respectable banh mi sandwich (pork recommended) that comes with an assortment of veg and a little spicy mayo. All packed into a long slab of French bread.

It’s good.

This is The Foodie reporting from – you guessed it – Boston. Keep chomping, Beantown.

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.

More Food Trucks – Kendall Style

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

http://www.cloverfoodlab.com

http://momogoose.com/

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:

  1. Twelve inch baguette
  2. Rice bowl
  3. Noodle bowl
  4. 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:

Asian Hoagie

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:

McTurnip With Cheese

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.