State Park – Tobacco Onions & Shuffleboard Lure, But Foodie Unimpressed

April 1st, 2014

http://statepark.is/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

I will resist all temptations to reference a popular cartoon featuring a dude named Cartman.

I will descend into a faux dive bar engineered by the good people over at the Cambridge mainstay restaurant Hungry Mother.

I will select “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg from the Jukebox and order these things from the menu:

TOBACCO ONIONS – Best tasting dish we ordered, served in an ashtray (and no, there is no real tobacco in these to my knowledge)

Most Appetizing Ashtray Contents I've Ever Seen...

FRIED PICKLED OKRA – An appetizer that always sounds fun and tasty but manages to be a bit of a let-down everywhere.

Ehhh...

FRIED CHICKEN – By New England standards, not bad. By U.S. standards, not good.

I've Had Better...

I will review the beer menu and see four respectable yet unexciting brews on tap, wishing I was at Cambridge Brewing Company or Meadhall instead.  I will search for other good beers and see pricey “top shelf” bottles stretching up to $40 a piece – no thanks. I will briefly contemplate a ‘gansett or a high life and order something from Smuttynose.

I will be moderately enjoying myself at this point, but not raving about the food and bev. scene here so far.

I will glance over at the pool table and check out the pinball machines and shuffleboard table. As cool as shuffleboard is (and looks) I will remember why I never play bar games – overcrowded, and perennially plagued by the village douchebags. Pass.

I will pick at the remnants of tobacco onions, sip something brewed by Harpoon, and want to like it here…unique joint, helmed by some pro chefs, a person can feel cool here…etc. etc.

In the end though, I will conclude that State Park is best enjoyed for tobacco onions and getting wasted on cheap beer. I would have enjoyed drinking here more about seven years ago, but probably would have felt the same way about the grub. Sorry guys.

In a few hashtags: #tobaccoonions #narragansett #shuffleboard #notfordinner #beersnobsdrinkelsewhere

Asta – Current Crush.

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.

East by Northeast – Pork Belly ‘n Noodles, But Something’s Missing

February 9th, 2014

http://exnecambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

Long gone are the days when the only Asian restaurant around was the neighborhood Chinese American restaurant serving things like beef + broccoli, chicken and water chestnuts, and pork dumplings.

These days in the ‘Ville, the ‘Bridge, the Bean and beyond it’s all about the ramen, pork belly everything, dim sum, and scallion pancake sandwiches with *gasp* cheese in them.  Plus we’ve got sushi a million ways, Thai curries and banh mi, Vietnamese pho, and shabu shabu.

Indeed, there has been an explosion of excellent food from the East up here in our corner of the Northeast – some of my favorites include Yume Wo Katare, Mei Mei Food Truck, Hei La Moon, Sweet Ginger, O Ya, and of course the H-Mart Food Court.

So along comes ExNE – and no it’s not some hip new indie music festival. It is a tiny nouveau pan-Asian restaurant in Inman Square serving dishes in “small plate” format under these headings:

  • Small Bites
  • Vegetables
  • Breads and Dumplings
  • Noodles
  • Sweet

We ate the following dishes, listed in order of enjoyment level (1=best dish, 4= worst dish)

1. Red braised pork belly and kale stew, xo sauce, garlicky pickled cabbage.

2. Crispy pork belly sandwich, apple, sweet bean sauce, steamed mantou bread.
3. Scallion pancake sandwich, braised beef cheeks, roasted garlic chili sauce
4. Pork ragout, marinated radish, napa cabbage, chili vinegar

WHAT EXNE DOES WELL: These guys are really on top of their noodle game. The short rice noodles and thick cut wheat noodles were both absolutely delicious and house-made. They also do great things with pork belly and incorporate a few smooth moves into the dining experience with an amuse bouche, nightly specials, and a mini-cookie with your bill.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: At the end of the meal, I ended up feeling like these guys were putting out pretty inconsistent food. If you stick to stuff with pork belly in it you’ll be in good shape, but the scallion pancakes were burnt and lacking in flavor while the pork ragout with thick noodles was just a strange flavor combo. I was also a bit irritated by the “small plate” format and steep price tag given the quality of what we were getting.

It may be that I’m coming off of a recent trip to Momofoku Noodle Bar in NYC. Or it could be that Boston just has a lot of amazing Asian food and the bar is pretty high. But eating at East by Northeast was a little bit of a letdown [cue the sad music].

In the meantime, I turn my gaze onward in the direction of the next big innovations in the world of dumplings, noodle soups, and pork meat – while still making time for my local spot churning out that moo shu and fried rice with a smile.

Coppa – Where Cured Pork Neck Meets Fennel Pollen

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.

City Snapshot – How to Eat Mainly Pork and Beer in New York City

January 11th, 2014

In this weekender post on life in Manhattan, I tell readers how to stock up on two specific foods groups that are quite dear to all foodies: Specialty Pig Products and Fine Ale.

Saturday Dinner. At Momofoku Noodle Bar.

Order the Momofuku Ramen, a hearty bowl of steaming noodles packed with pork belly, tender pork shoulder and a poached egg. Definitely one of the top ramen bowls I’ve consumed.Perfect for a frigid night in “the city.”

Sits well in the stomach after eating an order of brisket buns topped with horseradish, pickled onion and cucumber. Goes well with one of the craft beers being poured by noodle bar. Feels good when followed-up with Lucky Charms soft serve inspired by Momofoku Milk Bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Drink. At Flatiron Beer Hall.

This cavernous bier haus recently opened and actually churns out some tasty house beer ranging from a crisp, refreshing IPA to seasonal ales, a pilsner, a blonde, and an oatmeal stout. You’ll find their beers to be fresh and almost too drinkable. Flatiron Hall proudly advertises a $40 per head Superbowl Party and their establishment being featured in a Playboy Style Guide.

Sunday Brunch. At Resto.

Dude. The bacon. Ohhhh the bacon. Is it the best bacon I’ve ever had? Quite possibly. Do I occasionally find myself zoning out and dreaming about it? Definitely. Resto’s bacon is a thick slab of pork belly that causes all other thinner varieties to wither and flee. Did I order the bacon with house-made sausage patties to boot? Yup. Bomb Dig. P.S. I love restaurants that are attached to high-end butcher shops.

Bacon Bliss

Top 5 of ’13

January 8th, 2014

I assume it’s not too late for another “Best of 2013” list?  This food blogger is not afraid to be that guy who is still saying Happy New Year into mid-February…

Each year, I force myself to pick the top five meals that I’ve eaten in Boston (see the 2011 list, see the 2012 list).

2013 was an interesting year. A flood of new openings, a few trips to some old-school Boston favorites, and trips outside of the great city on a hill *gasp*

This year, I was touched deepest by: upscale inventive Italiano a la Tim Maslow, the mob-friendly Santarpio’s (can’t believe I’d never tried it), a French restaurant worthy of hosting the J Hova himself, sausages twenty ways, and crazy expensive Italian fare that’s worth it.

So, in summary, I pay tribute to good Italian (and Italian-ish) food in Boston, a nice swag at German cuisine, and one of the signature French restaurants in town. See my full reviews via the links below.

And yes, these are in order of the extent to which these spots knocked my socks off where 1=delightfully awesome and 5=also equals delightfully awesome.

  1. Ribelle
  2. Santarpio’s
  3. L’Espalier
  4. Bronwyn
  5. Giulia

Honorable mentions:  Other solid eats this year were found at the following newcomers to the area:

International News: This year I traveled far and wide searching for excellent food – my voyages taking me to both Peru and Iceland.

If I expanded my Top 5 list outside of Boston, Astrid y Gaston in Lima would be #1, and eating baller hot dogs and whale meat in Reykyavik would dominate other spots on this coveted list. But I stay true to my Beantown bias – for this list at least.

Boston Resolution Restaurants 2014

December 29th, 2013

Each year at about this time, I sit around sipping scotch, eating roasted chestnuts, smoking my pipe, and scrawling lists for the year ahead.

When the plumes of smoke clear and I come to – a list of 16 restaurants emerge that I have on my food horizon. What this means is that these dining spots have piqued my interest in some way and WILL be sampled within the next year.

I also take a moment to reminisce about  how well I did with my resolutions from the previous year. Turns out I did pretty well in 2013, which became a blur of impressive restaurants from Giulia to Bronwyn to Ribelle. Other notable spots I hit up included Cinquecento, Tavern Road, Spoke Wine Bar, Santarpio’s, Bon Me, and Belly Wine Bar.

All totaled – I made it to 9 of my 16 resolution restaurants for the year. Not bad. Now, without further ado, I lay down my list for 2014. It’s gonna be one exciting year, dear readers. Strap in.

  1. Asta | After the Globe’s Devra First crowned Alex Crabb best chef of the year, the hype meter on this spot reached an all-time high. It’s my #1 spot to try in 2014.
  2. Sarma | As a long-time fan of Ana Sortun (of Oleana and Sofra fame) – I’m utterly pumped to try her latest restaurant in Somerville.
  3. Row 34 | The team behind Island Creek Oyster Bar brings Boston a “workingman’s oyster bar.” Though more like a “struggling yuppie’s” shellfish paradise, I am psyched to get in on the action.
  4. Commonwealth | Kendall Square gets another great restaurant. Someone they call Chef Nookie has opened a spot with an unpretentious locavore menu that includes things like oysters, good fish, steak, and venison. I’m in.
  5. State Park | Yet another second venture from a successful Boston-area restaurant, this time from Hungry Mother. Southern-inspired comfort dining in a chill setting. Giddy up.
  6. Merrill & Co. | It just leaked out that a culinary team including kitchen leadership from JM Curley will be opening a new restaurant in 2014. I’ll be there.
  7. Alden & Harlow | The former Casablanca spot gets reincarnated in Harvard Square. The food lineup looks promising.
  8. Oishii | This upscale sushi joint will be on my list for the third year running.
  9. East By Northeast | I’m real into the revitalized Asian cuisine movement of recent years and have been wanting to add this spot to my food research in this area.
  10. Lone Star Taco Bar | Good Mexican food is hard to come by around Boston. Lone Star is one of the fortunate few to sling good tacos. Count me in, hombre. 
  11. Whisk | I’ve heard several positive murmurs and rumblings about this pop-up spot in recent years, and have my heart set on trying the latest location in the North End.
  12. Boston Chops | A baller red meat paradise with a burger hidden on the brunch menu. Intrigue.
  13. Ten Tables JP | Been here twice before and loved every minute of it. I’m coming back for the burger.
  14. Vee Vee | This Contemporary American joint has appeared on this list  before and needs some serious attention from this Foodie.
  15. Coppa | In this corner, Oringer. In the other corner, Bissonnette. This solid Italian enoteca has been around since 2009 and was established by two of Boston’s best chefs.
  16. KO Pies | Australian meat pies are in my fortune for 2014.

Pennypackers Porchetta Is Pure Poetry. Period.

December 24th, 2013

www.pennypackersfinefoods.com

Location: Somerville, MA, Design Center (Boston Seaport), and Roaming Elsewhere

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Following-up my last post on large quantities of meat between two slices of bread, I bring you Pennypackers, home of the best sandwich I’ve eaten around Boston all f*ing year.

A few definitions here to get you started:

Pennypackers: An establishment committed to bringing you mostly sandwiches through a variety of delivery mechanisms:

  1. A perma-truck stationed at the Design Center at the Xsection of Tide St. and Northern Ave. in South Boston (seaport area). Open M-F 10:30 – 3PM.
  2. A roaming truck that serves other parts of Boston – maybe even your neighborhood street corner.
  3. A brick-and-mortar locale in Magoun Sq. Somerville with a few tables and a large ass kitchen.

Porchetta: An Italian culinary tradition, porchetta is a skin-on slab of pork belly wrapped around a trimmed center-cut pork loin and seasoned with herbs, fennel, and citrus. Done properly, the process of creating this masterpiece is a time-consuming endeavor that requires primary assembly before resting 1-2 days in a fridge, and then slow-roasting in the oven. So good I plan to name my first-born child after it.

Now, let me describe to you the combination of both items described above. What you read below is not a poem, it is just centered for emphasis. The poetry is all in the food my friends.

I'm Naming My Baby Girl Porchetta Jean

Pennypackers served you a Porchetta sandwich in Magoun Square.

It cost you $8.

Though Penny packs different accouterments around their porchetta-wich from time-to-time, this beast of a sandwich was served to YOU between two super-soft slices of soft Italian ciabatta-style bread. You had yours with pickled fennel.

The look on your face during the first oral encounter with this sandwich must have been comparable to the heroin addict’s expression after shooting up that next dose.

[Eyes rolling back into their sockets, mouth agape, body slouching back]

You continue to devour the sandwich, finding all sorts of treasures buried between the ciabatta and fennel: succulent morsels of melt-in-your mouth seasoned pork meat, crunchy bits of pork skin, and the odd chunk of delightful pork fat.

Soon you are finished. It feels sad. You promise yourself that you will return.

You salute the chefs and wish them well in their endeavors.

Walking out the door, you told yourself this was the best sandwich you’d eaten around Boston all year. You were right.

The Top 10 Burgers in Boston List – 2013

December 19th, 2013

It’s that time of year again – ‘tis the season of lists and countdowns.

A fat old man checks his list to see if you are naughty or nice. Every mag, blog, e-zine, and newspaper (remember those?) publishes the “best of” one category or another. Your family members rank the gifts they’ve received from best to worst…wait, your family doesn’t do that too?

Sheepishly, I tag along with this seasonal trend and publish my 2013 Best Burgers in Boston List.

There have been some changes since the 2012 List hit the street last year:

  • Sniff, sniff, gurgle *tear* Radius has closed. They took one of the best meatwiches in Boston with them.
  • The Gallows gets the boot. Turns out their food is a bit overhyped.
  • Bergamot also gets bumped. Not because they don’t have a great burger, but because others are better.
  • Notable up-and-comer JM Curley gets crowned the #3 spot.
  • Newcomers to this year’s Top 10 include Tasty Burger, the Blue Ox, and the Tap & Trotter.
  • Notably absent: Shake Shack. Read why, here.

While there have been modifications, a few things remain the same about the burger scene in Boston according to this humble beef nerd:

  • R.F. O’Sully’s remains at the top of the list. Word.
  • Craigie on Main proves difficult to unseat from the #2 spot.
  • Boston Burger and JM Curley sling mean burgers and still have a solid following.

Before you read on, know that The Foodie has 3 primary criteria for judging a burger:

  • Authenticity of Craft – a burger should stay true to its roots as a comfort food.
  • Only the Finest Beef – the burger patty must be well-seasoned, juicy, and made from only the best beef.
  • Ingenuity of Design – a good burger adds some hint of creativity and uniqueness that sets it apart from the rest.

A rating has been assigned to each burger below on each of these dimensions, where 1=piss poor and 10=divine joy.

1.    R.F. O’Sullivan & Son

Spoiler alert: you will probably never see another burger in Boston outshine R.F.’s on this blogger’s list. The Blackjack burger (Cajun spices, Creole mayo, melty cheese and standard toppings) is a giant among men.

  • Authenticity of Craft:  10
  • Only the Finest Beef:   10
  • Ingenuity of Design:    10

Total Score: 30

2.    Craigie on Main

If you manage to score this elusive burger you will not be disappointed. Tony Maws and team have constructed something beautiful that wins the award for best “haute burger” without even thinking twice.

  • Authenticity of Craft:   9
  • Only the Finest Beef:   10
  • Ingenuity of Design:    10

Total Score: 29

3.    JM Curley

Many eaters in the know will say that JM Curley makes the best burger in Boston. They have good reason to hold that opinion. The Curley burger stands out for mouth-watering juiciness and a perfect bun-to-Russian dressing-to-pickles-to-cheese ratio. A pleasure to eat.

  • Authenticity of Craft:   9
  • Only the Finest Beef:   9
  • Ingenuity of Design:    9

Total Score: 27

4.    Boston Burger Company

BBC unabashedly assembles artery-clogging man food that just tastes so damn good. I recommend ordering the hella-spicy Inferno Burger or the Hot Mess (I’ll leave you in suspense on what goes into that one).

  • Authenticity of Craft:   8
  • Only the Finest Beef:   8
  • Ingenuity of Design:    10

Total Score: 26

5.   Tasty Burger

In a shocking turn of events, Tasty Burger skyrockets to the #5 spot in its first year on the list. I admit that even I was surprised by the simply-conceived retro burger served up here. Somehow these guys pack oodles of flavor into a thin-patty burger with cheese, diced onion/pickles, lettuce, tomato, and a classic seeded bun. An awesome addition to this year’s list.

  • Authenticity of Craft:  10
  • Only the Finest Beef:    8
  • Ingenuity of Design:     8

Total Score: 26

6.    Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Is it mad for me to put two of Tony Maws’ burgers on this year’s list? Perhaps so, but I stand by my decision. The slightly smaller, more understated burger at KT&T morphed a couple different times in terms of toppings across the few times that I’ve been here, but is guaranteed to deliver the signature charm and technique that only Maws can muster.

  • Authenticity of Craft:   9
  • Only the Finest Beef:    9
  • Ingenuity of Design:     8

Total Score: 26

7.    The Blue Ox

There’s gotta be something special about a burger to make a Bostonian travel out to Lynn to eat it. The Blue Ox Burgers are that special. I mean, where else in the area can you get two sliders oozing with gorgonzola dolce, crowned with applewood smoked bacon and slathered in lemon/thyme aioli? Nowhere.

  • Authenticity of Craft:    7
  • Only the Finest Beef:    8
  • Ingenuity of Design:     9

Total Score: 24

8.    Lord Hobo

Lord Hobo’s thick and juicy burger is notable for being served on a super-soft brioche bun and for sporting some baller cheddar.

  • Authenticity of Craft:    9
  • Only the Finest Beef:    8
  • Ingenuity of Design:     7

Total Score: 24

9.    Neptune Oyster

Fried oysters on a thick, tender, divinely-constructed burger? Yes, please.

  • Authenticity of Craft:    7
  • Only the Finest Beef:    8
  • Ingenuity of Design:     9

Total Score: 24

10. Green Street

Green Street’s burger represents the double cheeseburger category with its signature combo of slaw, bacon, and Russian dressing.

  • Authenticity of Craft:   8
  • Only the Finest Beef:    7
  • Ingenuity of Design:     8

Total Score: 23

Ribelle – Rebel With a Cause

November 14th, 2013

https://twitter.com/RibelleBKline

Location: Brookline, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

Eating at Ribelle is not like a casual scarf-wrapped Vespa ride through Roma on a cool afternoon.

It is closer to taking part in a brow furling, hair-raising mezzanotte race between two badasses on Ducati Monsters (customized by a body shop in Beijing) darting through mid-town Manhattan.

All feigned enthusiasm for motorbikes aside, this sloppy metaphor is intended to illustrate a revelation that hit me like a hock of fine prosciutto di parma while eating at Ribelle:

DOES THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN IN COOKING MATTER ANYMORE?

As I tucked into a dish called “Green Beans + grilled veal tongue, garlic confit, squid-ink crumbs” – I started to wonder: What style of cooking am I experiencing right now?

Hmmmm…

  • The name of the restaurant is Italian
  • The chef, Tim Maslow, was raised in Dub-town, Massachusetts
  • His father ran a local neighborhood sandwich joint called Strip T’s
  • He worked under the tutelage of the great David Chang, who runs a series of (mostly) NYC restaurants starting with the word “Momofuku” (which means “lucky peach,” or “ill-advised” in Japanese) that churn out mind-bending dishes that incorporate Asian influences, French technique, and lots of pork. Chang, it turns out, worked for Daniel Boulud, a Frenchman-turned-New-Yorker who is a culinary mastermind in his own right.
  • Chef Maslow returned to Watertown and took-over Strip T’s, where he transformed the menu into a funky array of Contemporary American dishes, haute comfort food, and the latest shit that popped into his head.
  • Then came Ribelle, his second venture, and the grilled veal tongue.

I repeat: what style of cooking am I eating? With such a varied resume and mix of influences behind the kitchen, I felt as if I was cannibalistically devouring a global citizen. Wrapped in crispy pork, of course.

Indeed, one craft in which globalization has entered successfully (and for the better I might add), is in the culinary arts. I think that it is amazing that I can order a dish with so many influences behind it these days – but the key is that you need a very talented chef to bring it all together effectively.

– Tim Maslow is one of those chefs –

The food at Ribelle is rich, inventive, intellectual, and refined without being a dick about it. The menu is structured from lightest fare to heaviest fare and is divided into four clear sections: Bread, Vegetables, Fish, and Meat. There will be words you don’t know and can’t pronounce, things you will need to ask about, and dishes you’ve never thought of before.

GARLIC KNOTS:

Delightful, delicate twists of light airy pastry lightly brushed with pork essence. Dipped in a deep and hearty marinara.

GREEN BEANS + GRILLED VEAL TONGUE, GARLIC CONFIT, SQUID-INK CRUMBS:

This was my favorite dish of the night. While Chef Maslow’s dishes all have a high-standard of quality, I find that at each of his restaurants there is simply one plate that just blows your freaking mind and makes you wonder whether this man is a genius.

Maslow and team prove to have deft hands with offal – tenderizing, searing, seasoning, and waving a magic chef’s knife over the most politically incorrect cut of an already politically incorrect animal to be eating. The veal tongue was perfectly prepared and positively vexing.

It was like pondering the vastness of the universe – something beyond my comprehension. But I liked it a lot.

RIGATONI + OCTOPUS, FENNEL, SMOKED TOMATO

My second favorite dish of the night. I think that any restaurant that can cook a good octopus dish is worthy of praise. Yes, the contrarians in the audience may question the thesis of the article at this point: “Uhh, sounds pretty Italian, Nick.” Yet the rigatoni was concocted from some crazy combination of good-for-you-grains, and there was a level of complexity from the smoked tomato sauce, fennel, and octopus that I have not tasted at any other so-called “Italian” restaurant in the area.

WAGYU TRI-TIP TARTARE + SUNCHOKE, EGG, SUNFLOWER & SEEDS

There were enough buzz words in the description of this menu item to make any food nerd perk up. Definitely wins the award for best plating of the evening. Tender marbled circles of Wagyu melted in my mouth as accompanied by the richness of egg and earthiness of dollops of sunchoke sauce and seeds.

OLIVE OIL ICE CREAM

This is the most refreshing dessert I’ve tasted in recent memory. Eating it is sort of like getting a massage, sitting in a sauna, and then being rubbed down in high quality EVOO (not that rancid stuff) while nibbling on chocolates.

The dessert is served with a burning tinder of cinnamon on the side. The olive oil ice cream is slightly sweet and soothing. The chocolate is divine. The touch of sea salt finishes it all off nicely.

Do you see what I mean at this point? Have I argued my case effectively? Not convinced? Try Ribelle for yourself and try to tell me if you can put a confident finger on this place as an Italian restaurant.

So, back to the question we started with: Does the Country of Origin in Cooking Matter Anymore?

It is an important piece of our cooking, but it is becoming less important in defining the restaurants that serve us. Our culinary identities are as ever-changing and dynamic as our personal identities – they are constantly being shaped by our environmental influences, our histories, and the next cool new way to use pork. Chefs of Boston – nay, the world – keep allowing your influences to expand and resist the urge to think of your establishments as fixed entities blindly following a menu etched like commandments in a slab of stone. Let your imaginations run wild and let your evolving interests and influences shine through in your food.

Just make sure you have the skills and know-how to do it right. Like Tim Maslow, one of Boston’s best chefs.