Archive for November, 2012

Mystery Review – How to Eat in Your Favorite Chef’s Dining Room

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Location: Once named Petapawag

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Yes, I have a dirty habit of secretively clinging to some of my more exclusive dining experiences while simultaneously bragging about them here on the blog. But hey, we all have our foibles.

Plus, there’s always Google if you are inspired enough to track down the source of a mystery review. Or, you can unabashedly support my ego by pleading for the answer via the bird or the lower-case f.

Like the last mystery review, this one was inspired by a restaurant that combined exclusivity, farm-to-table cooking, and culinary intimacy.

We hopped in a car and drove on three or four highways. We passed by the relatively unmarked locale in the dark a few times before reaching our final destination.

The time: 6:45. We were told to arrive promptly. Dinner is served only on Friday and Saturday nights.

The menu: Shown below. They had me at “duck cracklings”

The scene: There are many reasons why this town founded by the great John Tinker was worth visiting for a three-hour dining experience at said mystery establishment. Here are a few:

  • Seasonally-inspired, farm-to-table cooking in an environment where the chef personally introduces each course and answers questions about their approach
  • Six courses of exquisitely-executed food for $60. A steal for the quality you receive here.
  • A rare BYOB establishment. We sported a 2005 Premier Cru Bourgogne from Domaine Michel Gay et Fils for the occasion.
  • Small capacity, communal-dining format housed in a refurbished carriage house on the grounds of a farmstead.
  • The place is run by a family powered by a passion for sharing good foodstuffs.

The food: Painstakingly prepared, creatively concocted – unique dishes with a nod to tradition. Duck smoked to succulent perfection. Apples reduced over the course of several hours to caramel. Parsnip and pear married into a rich and creamy soup. Careful thought applied to create a quintessential late Fall meal. Others we spoke with throughout the evening had been here five, six, seven times and said the cooking never falls short of spectacular. Observe:

Parsnip & Pear Soup

 

Poached Pear & Mache Salad

 

Fenugreek-Smoked Duck

 

Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Apple Caramel, Haute Fig Newton

The people: Unlike other eateries, our mystery locale will seat you at a large table with other hungry food lovers. Yes, there will be an expectation of that thing called “socializing” in which you will meet other human beings and communicate verbally. You can also bring a larger crowd and occupy one of two tables that seat six to eight individuals to solely exchange words with your own circle.

We loved the communal slant on everything though. Got a chance to meet the owners, our chef for the evening (a seasoned vet with several restaurants under his belt), a group of musicians, and a fellow blogger who writes an approachable, personal, and funny healthy living blog that can be found at sweatygirl.net. Our table mates laughed at our jokes, shared in our food joys, and overlooked our curious weird-nesses. For that we love them. The shared dining experience confirmed my believe that good cuisine is only enhanced by good chummeryTM

Excellent food, BYOB, reasonable price, intimate setting, awesome chef, farm-to-table, creative technique, social interaction – you understand my desire to keep this one under relative lock and key, right?

Yume Wo Katare – I Dream of Ramen

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The Hours

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

If you’ve walked through Porter Square between the hours of 6 and 10pm recently, you may have noticed something different.

By day, an unassuming storefront with a foreign name – Yume Wo Katare lights up for a few hours five nights a week to shovel a delicacy beyond words into bowls for a line of hungry hungry hipsters that stretches to the door of Dunkin’ Donuts and can command over an hour long wait.

As you stand in said line, people will stop open-mouthed and stare at Yume not quite understanding what the hype is all about. They may even ask you what everyone is waiting for. You might say “Ramen” and receive a confused look.

Don’t worry – these misguided individuals just don’t understand.

During your experience in line – you are likely to bond with your fellow Ramenites, marvel at the popularity of Yume, and study the rulebook of eating here. A few tips for your first visit:

  1. Come hungry, and arrive at the beginning of the night (15 minutes before opening recommended)
  2. Bring no more than one other ravenous individual to ensure a small party
  3. Do not plan on takeout, for this is not an option
  4. Bring a wad of cash, for they do not take plastic
  5. Enjoy pork. Liking pork belly is better. Loving noodle soup also imperative. There is only one variety of Ramen served here and it involves loving spoonfuls of both.
  6. Read the helpful posters of information taped to the windows as you wait in line, for lots of useful information awaits you.
  7. Be prepared for whether you want Ramen ($12) or Buta Ramen ($14). The difference is the number of pork slices you receive – the regular ramen gets you two slices and the buta gets you a whopping five.
  8. Know the answer to the question: “Ninniku Iremasuka?” or “Do you want garlic?” This will be politely screamed at you after your order is taken at the register.
  9. Know that every minute of your wait will be worth it, and that the idiosyncrasies are a fun part of the experience of eating here – in other words, pick up your britches and get ready to eat!

Do you want garlic?

RAMEN REVIEW: Yume’s bowl of Ramen is a tantalizing creation that will hook you at the first slurp. It starts with a broth that is one part abura (pork fat), one part soy, and one part マジック  I’ve read that this broth is lovingly cared for over the course of 24 hours and simmered with pork bones. Then you’ve got cabbage and bean sprouts. Next, there’s a heaping ladle of thick house-made noodles boiled quickly in a huge wok. Finally, there’s the most succulent and tender pork you’ve ever tasted. They use a fattier, thick, pork-belly-like cut. I’m not exactly sure how they do it, but it’s gotta be marinated and slow-cooked for several hours at the very least. The Jiro-style of ramen served at Yume is the first of its kind in the U.S.

At the first bite the world around me melted away, downtempo started playing in my head, my eyelids grew heavy, and I uttered a slow food moan. I tasted this Ramen in my soul.

Waaay Tastier Than It Looks - Trust Me.

Now mind you, I wasn’t able to make it into the wildly popular Guchi’s Midnight events that sold out quicker than a U2 concert. I also haven’t tried the ramen at Uni. Sadly, I’ve never been to Japan either. So don’t consider me a ramen connoisseur. But I’d venture to say that this will rank up there with some of the better ramen you’ve ever sampled. It’s also probably authentic stuff.

I will end this synopsis with a short story to illustrate the uniqueness of Yume:

When we were seated and our ramen orders were ready, a server gingerly carried a bowl over to my dining chum and murmured something quickly in Japanese that I would assume was something like bon appétit. We slid the bowl down to me before our second bowl arrived and our server looked let down by the switcheroo. We wondered why. At the end of the meal I asked why each bowl of ramen is destined for a single individual and our server translated my question for the chef. He said “I connect to you.”

You connected to me Yume. You tickled my food gland. You spoke to my sinews. I will return.

Other views and information on Yume:

Boston Globe

Boston Phoenix

Japanese American in Boston

Yume Wo Katare Kyoto (the other location in Japan)

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.

The Top 10 Burgers in Boston List – 2012 Elections

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Well, dear readers, not sure if you’ve noticed but I’ve been slowly amassing a list of burgers in the Boston area that I feel is worthy of publishing for your eating pleasure.

It’s nearly election day and in case you haven’t had enough wall-to-wall coverage of the political machine in action over the last few months, here’s another politically-themed piece of commentary for you.

But rather than insane hair styles we’ve got funky sauces and toppings…instead of mud we’re slinging house-made ketchup…we have burgers for everyman and burgers for the top 1%…rather than the usual pollster questions we’re asking “Are your burgers better now than they were four years ago?”

There really is an ideological divide in the way people think about burgers these days. Some like a flat patty, some go for the “haute burger” and refuse to spend less than $20 on their meat fix, others dream of something closer to the family barbeques of yesteryear.

So, in the world of beef patties as in the world of voters, the list is only as good as the person who writes it. Before you read on, here are the hot-button burger issues that helped these spots get voted onto this Top 10 list:

  • A dedication to the fine art and science of creating a burger that is true to the roots of what a burger should be – down home comfort joy that is better than cuddling with a snuggie.
  • If deviating from comfort food bliss, creating a twist and adding something unusual that makes your burger stand out from the rest
  • Demonstrating a bias towards the fatter, ball-shaped burger over the painfully thin variety
  • Using only the finest beef cooked by veritable grill meisters
  • Being unafraid to really cook a burger RARE.

With all that prefacing behind us, here it is, your Top 10 Burger List after a long hard-fought campaign:

1.       R.F. O’Sullivan & Son

There is no burger on earth that tastes better than the Blackjack at RF’s. A Cajun-spiced burger with spicy Creole mayo, melty cheese, and all the standard toppings. After hundreds (nay thousands) of beef patties across several states and countries over the years, these guys remain at the top of my list.

2.       Craigie on Main

Whereas RF’s is the king of the comfort burger, Craigie really does make the best haute-burger creation in Boston. It’s true. This mysterious burger that lurks only on the bar menu and frequently runs out of stock is packed with culinary wizardry yet still manages to stay true to what a burger really should be.

3.       Radius [No Longer Available - Restaurant Closed as of 6.26.13]

In perhaps one of the most brilliant twists on the original I’ve ever seen, Radius slathers their burger in horseradish sauce and lightly fried onion strings. Decadent, inventive, and at $20 it is the real reason why Occupy was protesting right around the corner.

4.       Boston Burger Company

Another spot that cooks up amazing twists on the classic burger while staying true to burger 101. I like the Inferno and have heard much noise about the Hot Mess, a burger topped with Sweet potato fries, chopped pickles, jalapeños, bacon, red onion, shredded lettuce and thousand island dressing (just avoid going on a date afterwards).

5.       JM Curley

This newish player in the burger game slings a very respectable comfort burger that is juicy as hell and served simply with Russian Dressing and pickles.

6.       Lord Hobo

This g-pub in Cambridge cooks up an incredible, flavorful burger wearing Irish cheddar and sleeping between two peppered challah buns.

7.       Green Street

Green Street makes the list as the only real thin-patty burger in this year’s election. But add the fact that it’s a double-decker topped with slaw, bacon, and Russian dressing and we’ve got ourselves a winner.

8.       Neptune Oyster

You still have room in your gut for a huge burger after three dozen oysters, right? One of the top local restaurants in the shellfish game pays homage to their namesake by topping their burger with two fried oysters. Bomb-dig.

9.       Bergamot

Another mysterious hard-to-get-bar-menu-only burger that stole my heart away. Made with brisket and bone marrow, this thing is insanely rich but good to the last bite and worth pursuing with gusto.

10.   The Gallows

This g-pub in the South End serves up a comfort “Our Way” burger that leans to the thin side but is a joy to eat and keeps with tradition.