Archive for March, 2012

RJ Gourmet – Colonizing East Cambridge with Good Coffee

Friday, March 30th, 2012

http://www.facebook.com/rjgourmet?sk=wall&filter=2

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, the Europeans once thought the earth was flat, like the Cantabrigians thought that East Cambridge would never have decent coffee.

Then there was Columbus, and La Marzocco.

RJ Gourmet sailed in a couple months ago on an espresso ship piled high with quality Barismo brew and a brand spanking new Marzocco machine.

The experience here is about good coffee, plain and simple. A few chairs and tables (Ten Tables would be proud), a small storefront, a couple dudes, an espresso machine and an iPad and you’ve got yerself a coffeeshop…

But what really sets these guys apart is just damn quality espresso drinks and solid technique. I’ve settled on a quad latte (they pull doubles) and have loved every minute of every drink I’ve guzzled down.

I really wish RJ all the best blazing new trails in this part of town – its sort of like Plymouth Bean trying to lure in enough countrymen to form a small coffee colony…or is this analogy sort of done?

In any case, thanks for your patience. And try RJ soon!

Journeyman – Simplicity, Complexity, Surprise, Abstraction, Travel, and Life

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

http://www.journeymanrestaurant.com/

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Life is a journey. The path isn’t always clear but sometimes we’re provided clues along the way. Just when we think we’ve experienced it all – something new comes along to surprise and bring us back to the present.

Enter Journeyman.

As if to say “We’ve seen the Way, and are putting it on a menu,” Journeyman presents just two simple options of a five or seven course tasting, with just cursory descriptions of each dish like:

But in reality, you end up floored with all kinds of gastronomical gotchas in each of those haiku-esque menu items, like:

  • When we said XO Sauce, we meant house-made XO Sauce painstakingly cared for over the course of 6 months with house-cured bresaola and shrimp oil.
  • Notice: your first dish is called “Alliums.” Curious? That’s the name for the onion genus. You’re going to get onions deconstructed countless ways on your plate, and yes, there will be caramelized onion ice cream.
  • So, if we put “Lamb” on your plate it will typically be accompanied by a lamb foie gras mousse
  • Oh, yeah, and by “goat cheese” we meant a light fluffy goat cheese mousse-like creation
  • Did we write just “Steak” on the menu? Silly us, that is cooked sous-vide,  tender-as-hell
  • P.S. when we title your dessert “Bergamot” that means we made bergamot ice cream

You may also find yourself transported across multiple continents and religious gatherings with each passing plate, like:

  • A Jewish family living room in Manhattan for Yom Kippur (Amuse bouche of house-smoked salmon, a deconstructed egg custard mixture  and hard boiled quail egg)
  • Tea time in a London hotel (Bergamot ice cream, orange-infused cake, toffee and walnut)
  • A bagel shop on the Lower East Side (Allium starter that came together like the most decadent everything bagel with onion cream cheese)
  • A Shanghai street corner food cart (Soft rice, black bean sauce, seared tender octopus, house-made XO sauce)

Travel with me for a few minutes:

YOM KIPPUR

ALLIUM

OCTOPUS

LAMB

STEAK

As you may have noticed, they do things differently here – and you are guaranteed to leave having tried something you’ve never seen or tasted before. And I say that as a bartender climbs a wooden ladder to pick fresh herbs from the wall-sized garden that hangs at the restaurant window-front.

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.

Sweet Cheeks – Pork Belly ‘N Biscuits ‘N Baseball

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

http://www.sweetcheeksq.com/

Location: Boston, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

Barbecue. It’s about as ingrained in the blood of the New Englander as grits, confederate flags, and born-again conservatism. But we try.

First of all, I ho-heartily applaud anyone brave enough to put a pit in the ground north of New Jersey and Sweet Cheeks is a welcome addition to the Boston BBQ Scene.

Others are thankful too – we pulled up on our hogs to eat some hog on a Friday night and the place was packed to the brims. Spacious, wood-toned interior, nice vibe, fun atmosphere. Like the typical roadside Texas smokehouse they don’t take reservations, but we managed to snag a seat in no time.

Sweet Cheeks is all about emulating the authentic experience – think metal trays, pay-by-the-pound options, and huge portions.  Naturally, the menu revolves around the meat. Choose from the following formats:

  • Tray: Pick one meat, one “cold scoop” and one “hot scoop” ($16-$25 depending on your meat)
  • Big Cheeks Tray: two types of meat along with your cold and hot scoop ($24)
  • Fat Cheeks Tray:  three types of meat with ‘yer scoops ($26)

THE FOOD THESE GUYS DO BEST:

Sweet Cheeks should rename their establishment to pork belly ‘n biscuits, ‘cause those are the menu items that will really wow you more than anything else. Amazing Berkshire pork belly with this nice smoked-cherry-wood-essence to it. The biscuits are humungo and a meal in themselves but are about as comforting as a warm gun on your lap during a Tennessee sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A COUPLE GRIPES:

  • Kick the draft beer menu up a notch – let’s see some big IPA’s and rare finds on tap
  • Seeking a little more flavor out of the non-pork-belly meats
  • Re-engineer the BBQ sauces…the mild sauce came off closer to an Asian sweet ‘n sour and the “hot” was closer to what my local taqueria would serve rather than a southern US meat house

FOR THE SUGGESTION BOX:

You’re right by Fenway Sweet Cheeks. Take advantage of that. If you really want to smoke your way into the heart of the average New England patriot, try to break into Fenway Park during the season. Set up a food truck or food cart or find a way into the stadium.

Southerners figured out years ago that the only thing that goes better with a slab of smoked brisket than baked beans is a baseball.

City Snapshot – Philly

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Forget the Food Pyramid and MyPlate. Nick the Foodie’s patented dietary guide is called the goblet of delight.

Equal parts coffee, meat, and beer to provide the average human with just the right mix of protein, alcohol and caffeine to perform at optimal levels throughout the day.

In an incredibly brief snapshot on the city of brotherly love, I’ll share how to most effectively fit all these vitally important food groups into a trip through the town.

THE MEAT GROUP | Reading Terminal Market 

 

 

 

 

Any self-respecting carnivore would make this downtown marketplace their first stop in a food tour through Philly. Essentially a huge indoor space devoted to everything from fresh produce to fine cheese to hot pastrami (Hershels East Side Deli) to – Yes – thinly-sliced seasoned roast pork.

That’s where DiNic’s comes in.

Love me.

After wandering through the Reading Market leaving a trail of drool behind me, the one piece of culinary mastery that grabbed and reeled me in was the advertised allure of roast pork sandwich.

Though my DiPic doesn’t really do DiNic much justice, this was one of the tastiest sammiches I’ve devoured in recent memory. Beautifully succulent thin roast pork rubbed with rustic Italian spices and elegantly resting inside a bread bed and quilt of melted provolone. Thing was so good I could forget all about wanting to try a cheesesteak.

THE COFFEE GROUP | La Colombe 

Generally I assume that the best of the best eats are far from the tourist attractions in most cities. I was wrong in this case.

Literally across the street from City Hall, this immaculate coffee shop is serving up very legit beans with great technique on the espresso drinks. I thoroughly enjoyed a double latte infused with espresso that was refined, smooth, and understated (could I sound any more like a fouchebag?). It’s worth the loss in cool points to attempt accurately describing how good the coffee was.

So there’s your second basic food group.

 

THE BEER GROUP | Monk’s Café 

Our third and final entry into the trifecta of wholesome eating lies on a quiet side street not far from the awesome dining neighborhood around Rittenhouse Square.

“The soul of Belgium in the heart of Philadelphia” is how these guys describe themselves. They aren’t far off. This dimly-lit, long and narrow bar offers a commendable selection of Belgian brews that is guaranteed to introduce even a hard-core beer snob to something new. They feature a selection from the motherland and impersonations from across the pond, with a particular fondness for Allagash

Though not as impressive as the beer lineup, these guys also serve up several variations of mussels and other hearty dishes.

***For more information on Nick the Foodie’s new food regimen, visit www.gobletofdelight.gov