Archive for July, 2012
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Bon Chon is a Korean word that means “original village.”
It was a humid Monday night when I discovered an underground village in Harvard Square – a village of smiles, love, and a religious devotion to one singular culinary specialty – the chicken wing.
The friendly people of wing-land presented us with a menu that – though clearly highlighting their chosen delicacy – also included Korean classics like kimchi, bulgogi, and pickled daikon.
But being a tribe that specializes in cooking a wing-ed fly-less bird that occasionally lays eggs – Bon Chon village gets straight to the point and offers the casual visitor a few different quantities and price points of buk buk bawk:
Choose your Flavor:
- Soy Garlic
- Hot Sauce
- Mix of Soy and Hot
Choose your Portion:
- Small 10pcs 9.95
- Medium 20pcs 18.95
- Large 30pcs 26.95
- X-Large 40pcs 33.95
We ordered a mixed medium (generous portion that is almost a struggle for two hungry people to eat), along with sides of rice, kimchi and pickled daikon.
The garlic soy variety was nicely balanced, whereas the hot sauce definitely hits you with a hot but very flavorful kick. We cooled our tongues with the daikon and rice between every few hot wings.
We passed our initiation into the Bon Chon village tribe by mercilessly devouring all twenty (20) wings and leaving the bones stacked in our scrap bucket.
…but I’m glad that I’ve got a village right near my home.
As they say in BonChonese – cluck, ca-cluck, ba-bawk. Chicken is good. Yum.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Ahhh the joys of summer.
Pool parties, margaritas, 90 degree days, short dresses, water polo – and pork sandwiches served out the back door of your favorite local restaurants.
Hungry Mother is now offering lunch service on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30AM until all the BBQ goodness has been exhausted.
Simply stroll up to the dack door of the restaurant and look for this sign:
Inside, you’ll find a couple happy chefs gleefully assembling $9 meatwiches from a red-and-white-checkered-cloth-covered table and a small coterie of diners hunched over their lunches with a couple RC colas or Miller High Lifes in hand.
I scurried back to my place of employment and unwrapped a gift more heavenly than a faun’s whisper – A pulled pork sandwich with house-made BBQ and slaw nestled between two slices of gourmet wonderbread.
Observe below and clear your lunch hour next Thursday:
Location: Cambridge and Boston, MA
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Sure, Whole Foods will sell you a fine piece of beef, you can find all sorts of cool innards and gizzards at Super 88, and your local Star Market will serve you some cheap bologna – but where does the hard core Foodie go to buy their meat?
The answer is in the title of this post.
For years Savenor’s has been my go-to when I’m desperately in need of anything from an excellently-butchered high-quality ribeye to a magret duck breast. What makes these guys really special is that they’re the only spot in town that will go out back, grab a hock of beef and slice you your fresh cut of choice right before your eyes.
Now that’s service.
In addition to the aforementioned items, Savenor’s packs-up a large array of food-porn-inspired goods such as:
- Wild boar (oink…errrr…roar)
- Whole duck liver foie gras
- Quail eggs (chirp)
- Wagyu beef (moo)
- Tubs of duck fat (slosh)
- Fresh goose
- Rabbit (hibbity hop)
- House-cured bacon spiced a million different ways
- House-made sausages that are literally the best money can buy around Boston
You’ll also find a small selection of veggies, cheeses, bread, pastas/risottos, and coffee on-hand here as well should you become immediately inspired by your beef purchase to throw together a boeuf bourguignon.
No wonder these guys are one of the meat purveyors of choice for local restaurants. But I’m glad I can get the same quality as my favorite chefs for my own kitchen.
OK, this wouldn’t be a food blog unless I threw a post on the big city up here.
I know the type of New Englander with a gut full of Fenway Franks, a habit of dropping their “R’s”, and a closet full of Northeast pro sport team memorabilia will shun these words – but I really like NYC.
A true Foodie could not ask for more – I swear I’ve eaten at hundreds of restaurants in Manhattan and the Burroughs over the years and always leave with a different perspective on the food scene here.
This time I’m zoning in on the strong “Farm to Table” and “House-Made” trends that continue to bring great things to my belly. Though these are big movements that have been transforming the American dining world for years – it can be especially challenging to find fresh, local, and house-made gastro-ware in a place with so much edible noise.
So here’s a few tips on doing Farm to Table during one day in NYC this summer:
Bomb lattes, crumpets, and brekkie. | Ace Hotel
This Midtown, Chelsea-area Hotel is one of those places that hands you a few cool points just for walking in the door. They also serve bomb lattes from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a pretty decent scone, and “cute” house-made granola. Start your day chilling in the lobby here for breakfast.
The best of New York state and beyond. |Union Square Farmers Market
Wind your way down 5th Avenue to Union Square Green Market (open from 8AM to 6PM on Saturdays) to experience what has got to be one of the largest farmers markets in the land. Our heads were spinning at all the amazing produce, cheeses, breads, and funky new stuff we encountered here including samples of the following:
- Finnish yeast-free rye breads (Nordic Breads)
- Chilled exotic tea mixtures (very refreshing on a 95 degree day)
- Home-made liverwurst (NOT as refreshing on a 95 degree day)
- Solar-powered-grill-cooked zucchini latkes
Late Lunch, cheese, and a few brewskies | Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses
Head uptown a block or two once you’ve enjoyed all that the Green Market has to offer to witness a home-grown cheese operation. Beecher’s is a huge shop that sells cheeses from all over and actually makes a few of their own in-house using a huge contraption displayed in plain sight of customers. Oh, and they also feature breakfast, a selection of melty, gooey, cheesy sandwiches, mac ‘n cheese, and a downstairs cellar where you can water down your cheese with it’s natural bedpartners – wine and beer.
Golden beets, arugula, rabbit, fresh pasta, and peas. Bliss. | Calliope
Once you’ve taken a couple hours to digest all the aforementioned goodness, hit Calliope for a late dinner. This intimate farmhouse bistro in the East Village serves up a small and very well executed menu of Contemporary American dishes with a nod or two to Europe. The whole meal here was amazing from start to finish and featured:
- Salad of arugula, thin shaved rounds of golden beet, and goat cheese. Our server emphatically claimed these items had literally come in from a NY-state farm that day.
- What had to be house-made delicate wide pappardelle with generous rabbit meat and sweet English Shelling Peas.
- Steamed halibut over romesco toast swimming in a small pond of beautiful saffron mussel broth.
- Dessert special of the evening that was a twist on fresh berry clafoutis (tastes as cool as it sounds)
Where beer snobs go when they die.| Top Hops Beer Shop
If you have any room left in the organic section of your stomach – make a final stop at this beer-lovers paradise to enjoy a selection of 20 taps of mouth watering craft brews and 700 (700!) bottles. Far less crowded than the average Lower East Side bar on a Saturday night and guaranteed to have a better beer selection.
If you visit The Foodie frequently, you know that I’m generally a fairly chummy, positive guy. But every once in a while I think I owe it to my small gathering of readers to let them know about Boston-area places to avoid that have fallen out of my good graces over time.
Though it IS important to know the hottest, freshest, sauciest grub brothels around – it is equally clutch to remember places to stay away from (or that have fallen below par compared to their peers).
So I compiled this list to keep you safe, to tuck you in at the right tables across Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and beyond.
Turned out there were nine local restos that I’ve been supressing negative thoughts about:
- West Side Lounge | Cambridge, MA | www.westsidelounge.com
Once a favorite of mine with a commendable burger, solid main plates and tantalizing specials, WSL has slowly fallen behind in my view. It all started when their mains lost creativity and portion sizes dwindled to the point of the ridiculous. Execution has suffered as well, but they do remain crowded so appear to be holding on to a crowd. The Foodie thinks you can find better Contemporary American fare elsewhere at this price point.
- Temple Bar | Cambridge, MA | www.templebarcambridge.com
It pains me to pound these words out on my keyboard, but Temple Bar joins the trio of slipping establishments on Mass Ave that include WSL and what was Rafiki (RIP). This used to be such a solid spot – what happened? A few sub-par brunch experiences dealt the first blow. That was followed by an ever-smaller selection of appetizing-sounding entrees on the menu that left me relegated to one flatbread pizza and the burger. The final blow came just recently, when we witnessed extremely delusional flavor combinations (e.g., salad with duck and blue cheese) and fell prey to ordering some of these weirdly-concocted dishes.
- Cambridge One | Cambridge, MA | www.cambridge1.us
Wins The Foodie award for least creative restaurant in Cambridge. Should be renamed to Cambridge One Menu. Though the food here has always been decent, I have never once seen a special or any significant shift in their pizza pie rotation. With other spots like Posto, L’Impasto, Gran Gusto, Area Four, Otto and Za cooking up great authentic Italian slices or zany twists on the traditional – the one trick wonder Cambridge One has fallen off my regular rotation.
- Dali | Somerville, MA | www.dalirestaurant.com
This is one of those spots that I drove by recently and realized I hadn’t been back to in years. Dali was once a destination for me and over the years has slipped off my food-dar completely. I guess a combination of being perennially crowded, slips in service, and the opening of many other small plate-oriented joints in town has pulled my attention away. No doubt their food is still decent, but there are other restaurants that are more worth an hour-long wait.
- Punjabi Dhaba | Cambridge, MA | www.yelp.com/biz/punjabi-dhaba-cambridge
When I first moved to the area, Punjabi was my first encounter with great Indian food. But my paneer-plated palate has since been refined by Guru the Caterer, The Kebab Factory, and Punjab (Arlington). Punjabi is comparatively watered-down and flavorless compared to these other kings of curry. I am thankful to Punjabi for opening the doors, but I no longer enter through theirs.
- Sherman Cafe | Somerville, MA | www.facebook.com/shermancafe
Though they make a decent latte and press out some good sammiches, Sherman has long fallen off my rotation. Granted, most sandwich joints around town are not worth the money, but I can name five other places with better lattes and sammies that I’d hit up first. Sorry Sherman.
- Oxford Spa | Cambridge, MA | www.yelp.com/biz/oxford-spa-cafe-cambridge
I really gave these guys a good shot at entering the rotation. I really did. But too many weird sandwich experiences threw me off. Another reason why the sandwich scene sucks.
- Boston Beerworks | Various Boston Locations | www.beerworks.net
I remember when Beerworks actually had a decent burger and when their beer was worth drinking before 500 craft brewers entered the MA scene. A combination of gristle-ridden burgers with unmelted cheese and the advent of the gastropub has driven me away from this establishment completely.
- Sunset Grill | Allston, MA | www.yelp.com/biz/sunset-grill-and-tap-allston
As a college student, Sunset is where PBR and Natty Ice-drinkers go to taste real beer. Though they boast a huge number of brewskies, their kegs tend to be badly managed and you end up with a rare Belgian Ale or German Lager that has been sitting too long in its barrel. I guess a Bud Ice loyalist wouldn’t know the difference, but make no mistake about it, Sunset is NOT a place for true beer snobs.
So that concludes a post that proves The Foodie can be a critic as well as a gushing gourmet grub enthusiast. Let me know if I’m off on any of these views via Twitter or FB.