Thursday, August 27, 2009

farmers market, 08.25.09

My coworker and I decided to take the 12:00 pm shuttle from our off-site location to the Harvard campus to check out farmers market finds. I had also heard that one of the chefs from Hungry Mother was going to be creating a free food sample during the first hour, so that made for even more of an excuse to get out of the office, stretch our legs, and enjoy the beautiful summer day.

The first stop was at the Danish Pastry House stand. I love to buy fresh bread and pastries from them whenever I visit the farmers market.

The double chocolate cookie is Tony's favorite from them. I bought us a nice long loaf of French bread for dinner to go with this big head of lettuce that we made a salad out of.

We were tempted to buy some of these beautiful azaleas. So many pretty colors that would make a gorgeous bouquet.

I ended up getting a ball of fresh mozzarella from Fiero di Nonna (so sweet and good!), a couple of small yellow tomatoes, blueberries, and a cucumber. And then we stopped off at the "live cooking demo" table where there were two chefs from Hungry Mother putting together a dish they called "Caveach".

It was made with bluefish, watermelon pickle, fresh market veggies and herbs. I couldn't eat any of it (stupid watermelon!) but my coworker and Tony said that it was quite delicious!

It's funny how free food (or anything labeled "free" for that matter) will attract a crowd. I took about ten other shots but they all came out blurry because some woman was in my way and she actually bumped my arm a couple of times as she was [apparently] excitedly waiting for the samples to be done.

Sure did look yummy, huh?!?!

Unfortunately, we had to go back to work and couldn't stay out longer to enjoy the beautiful weather. It was finally nice and sunny out without being too humid.

Don't forget - the farmers market at Harvard goes on until mid-October. Each Tuesday from 12:30 to 6:00 pm. Check it out if you can!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

restaurant week boston: rialto

My friend Laura and I decided to try out Rialto's restaurant week menu last Friday (sorry for posting so late). Rialto is Chef Jody Adams' restaurant in the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.

Of course, because I'm posting this after Restaurant Week has ended, I don't have access to the menu to get the exact details of our dishes. I'll have to rely on our bellies to remember! Thanks to an email from Rebecca at Rialto! She emailed me the Restaurant Week menu to use as a reference. :)

We shared a bottle of the Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Blanc white wine which was absolutely delicious and refreshing. It went really well with the salad I had, which was made with simple local lettuces, radishes, flowers, and a champagne chardonnay vinaigrette. (Note to self: if trip out to Oregon this fall actually happens, try to visit this winery.)

The dressing was really nice and light, and the flowers and radishes were very good. Laura had a dish that I want to say was a corn polenta (again, sorry I don't have the exact details to go by)had the corn risotto dish which was made with mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano, and chervil which she said was quite delicious.

We both had the whole roasted trout dish as an entree and both opted to have the chef remove the head and tail for us. It's funny because I have never actually ordered a whole fish at a restaurant before, so we giggled when the waitress asked us about that option. I wouldn't know how to handle those parts on a plate so I thought it would be safer to ask for someone professional do it for me.

(Sorry about the blurry photos!) The fish was served on top of a nice mix of potatoes and bacon a warm potato salad, bacon, and horseradish and was topped with a lemony creamy sauce. It was cooked absolutely perfectly: so tender and light with a great texture. It makes me wish I was brave enough to try something like this at home. But that's one of the pleasures of dining out, right? Eating things that you would probably be better off not attempting in your own kitchen.

We also both ordered the chocolate cake chocolate torta dessert, except I asked them to leave the berries off of my plate. It is served with raspberries, honey, and prosecco as photographed here. It was divine. And such a wonderful way to end such a pleasant dining experience.

I would highly recommend Rialto for anyone looking for a beautiful dinner outing with someone special. It's larger than I thought it would be and each part of the restaurant is tastefully decorated (we loved the orange chairs in our room against the darker walls). Our waitress, Nicole, was very attentive and very accomodating when it came to my allergies. I'm so glad we went there!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

restaurant week boston: sorellina

A couple of my friends and I decided to try Sorellina this past Monday night during Restaurant Week.

{I interrupt this post to give you a little bit of background info ... }
After talking with other foodie friends and reading similar posts, I've come to realize that I wasn't the only one that felt a little disappointed about Restaurant Week experiences in years past. I think the overall concept of being able to try out a restaurant's fare at a lower-than-their-normal-menu-price is great. It's also great because - with Sorellina as a prime example - I probably wouldn't choose some of these places as my first pick for a night out because they can be rather expensive (entrees range from $29 to $44 dollars, let's not even mention the bottles of wine!). I'm happy to say that I think restaurants took past feedback to heart and have really made an effort to change the perception of Restaurant Week by increasing food portions and offering exciting menu items. I know I only have this one experience at Sorellina to base my theory on, but I think we all agreed on such around the table Monday night (and again, referring to this similar post). As you read on, I think you'll see what I mean.
{Now back to the post ... }

There were five people in our party - Amy, Stephanie, Kathy, Lauren, and me - and all but one arrived earlier than our 6:00 pm reservation, so we congregated at the bar for a glass of Prosecco. Which, by the way, was extremely refreshing considering the 85+ degree weather outside. The bar area has a nice set up and seats about 20 people. Tony and I had been there about 3 (maybe 4?) years ago for a drink while waiting to meet up with friends one night and we saw ex-Patriots player Ted Johnson there hanging out with some other local celebrities including Mish Michaels. Even then we could tell it was quite a posh place!

The dining area is really nice. Very large, spread out and each place setting is so elegant. Of course, a couple of us in our party swear to one day (i.e. when we hit the jackpot) have a wall of wine like theirs. We were seated at a large circular table and had plenty of elbow room in between each person, but a couple of us noticed that the section of the dining room where tables of two were seated seemed a little tight (i.e. very Parisian where you're rubbing elbows with the person next to you), so probably a little more ideal for groups of four or more unless you don't mind the close contact. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Our waiter, Blake, was super friendly, welcoming, and attentive the whole time. I ordered the insalata which was made Al Greco with romaine, cucumber, calamata olives, sheep and goat's milk feta. It's normally served with vine ripe tomatoes but I mentioned to Blake that I am allergic to them, so they were able to omit them for me. It was delicious. I thought that since I asked for no tomatoes they added more cucumber slices to make up for the quantity, but it turned out that the other salad orders had just the same amount of cucumbers which made the portion altogether quite hearty. The dressing on the salad was quite refreshing (paired well with the Prosecco I must say) and the combination of the sheep and goat's milk feta cheese was quite nice.

Amy sat next to me so I was able to snap a photo of her bruschetta which was made with soft whipped ricotta, grilled zucchini, and tomato agro dolce. {By the way, you know you're out with other foodies when 3 out of 5 people at your table whip out a camera to take pictures of food!} She said it was pleasantly sweeter than expected. I couldn't get over all the pretty colors on top of the bread.

The funniest thing was that 4 out of 5 of us ordered the bisteca for our entree, and all of us like our steaks cookes medium rare. One thing that I particularly appreciated was that Blake came back to the table to tell me that the chef said that there were tomatoes in the sauce that is served with the steak, and also in the marinade that they use for the mushrooms. So I opted to have mine served with out the sauce and without mushrooms which was no big deal to me. It turned out that the chef found some un-marinated mushrooms in the kitchen and added them on top for me. It was simply delicious. I mean, I know I use that word a lot but it really was delicious. And perfectly cooked medium rare. And a rather large portion. In fact, all four of us had a small piece leftover so some was packed into doggy bags for later. Now that is a big change from past Restaurant Week experiences for sure!

The bisteca dish is a grilled sirloin served with olive oil braised onions and cremini mushrooms, gorgonzola, and chianti butter. I brought home my leftover piece and Tony tried to cut it up into the smallest pieces possible just so he could savor each morsel. It was really that good folks!

Kathy was the only non-steak eater that night and she ordered the fettucine dish which was made with Vermont butter, softened summer squashes, and Pecorino Toscano. It looked and smelled so yummy! And of course, us nerdy-foodies ooh'ed and ahh'ed at the bowl it came in.

We also had two orders of their famous truffle french fries to go around the table. I love how they are super skinny and crispy. They went perfectly with the steak and the bottle of Burgess Syrah that we split. I forgot to mention the delicious bread that was brought to our table before the appetizers were served. It was nice and warm but what really made it great was the little dish of butter and olive oil that came with it. Yes, you read it correctly - butter and olive oil, not separated. The combo gave it such a nice sweet and rich taste.

For dessert, I had the vanilla gelato which was served in a cute little thin glass. It was served with espresso and whipped cream and was quite heavenly. Again, talk about attention to details, Blake had them omit the little almond cookie that they normally serve with the dessert after I told him that I was allergic to nuts. I really appreciate the fact that he was so attentive, I can't tell you how awesome that is.

Another dessert at our table was the panna cotta which was served in a cute little dish and topped off with lots of fresh mixed berries. I tasted a little bit of Kathy's and it was nice and creamy, but another person at the table commented that it was a little too thin consistency wise.

Overall I must say that it was a fabulous experience at Sorellina and I'm so glad I got over my fear of a less-than-spectacular experience based on the past. I felt a little guilty that Tony wasn't there with me because I think he would've definitely appreciated the large portions and dinner options. All five of us thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience: the food, atmosphere, service, and options. Definitely highly recommended to anyone looking for a place to try during Restaurant Week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

$20 groupon to yoki

Okay, you all have seen me rave about the sushi at Yoki here, here, and here so you know we're huge fans. Check out today's Groupon deal:

Definitely something worth taking advantage of if you love good sushi!

Monday, August 17, 2009

flour bakery

Ahhh, it's been a while since we've been to Flour (the one in Fort Point Channel), so when I mentioned the idea of going on Sunday to the husband on Friday we were both giddy with anticipation. So much so that we both had a hard time falling asleep on Saturday night just thinking of all the wonderful things we'd get to see (and taste!) the next morning. Sigh.

And after finding a parking spot (thank you, parking angel!) we walked into the typically chaotically busy (chaos = customers which included lots of little kids and babies, never the staff!) and filled bakery with hungry bellies. Boy oh boy, we certainly were not disappointed by what we saw (click to see larger images ... lots of yummy details!):

Surprisingly, there was a fresh batch of Joanne's sticky buns on the pastry counter. I say "surprisingly" because we got there shortly before 12 noon and these usually completely disappear right out of the oven, and I think we've only seen them once before in the ten other times we've been there.

Mmmm ... homemade Oreo cookies. Coconut macaroons (to die for!!). Chocolate cupcakes.

Ahh ... Brioche au sucre ... my typical Flour breakfast item. So good each time.

They've started a new thing on Sundays ... donut specials. Today's flavor was chocolate cream. They looked so yummy!! Also featured in this shot are the maple oatmeal scones that Tony loves.

More yummy goodness in this photo. Look at the cream just peeking out of the donuts! Check out the thickness of those brownies!

As you can see, the place was packed (typical for the weekends).

Hey, how'd that Oreo cookie sneak into our basket like that??!! ;-)

I'm ready to dig in! Look at that full latte cup. Yum-o!

The only disappointing part about our visit was that we couldn't take home our usual box of blueberry muffin tops, macaroons, and peanut butter cups because we were going to be driving around the rest of they day. If it weren't so dang hot and if we had put a cooler in the trunk, we wouldn't have worried about it. So that just means that we'll have to head back soon to enjoy more of their delicious pastries. No argument there! :)

{P.S. Joanne Chang is working on a Flour cookbook! You can read all about it here. I can't wait for this to come out!!}

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

figs in charlestown, ma

A couple of my coworkers and I decided to get out of the office last Friday for lunch, so I showed them where Figs was located. It's in Charlestown which is surprisingly close to our building even though we're in Somerville, so it only took us about 4 minutes to get there.

Two of us split the Caesar salad ($6.50) which is made with a yummy eggless dressing, while the other two split an order of the Rhode Island Calamari ($9.95). They serve their calamari with hote cherry peppers and a lemony garlic aioli. The salad is nice and refreshing, and comes as a large portion which makes it great for sharing. I couldn't get over how much calamari came on the plate, too. I was so tempted to try it (it smelled and looked so good!) but I knew it had the spicy red sauce on it and we were going away for the weekend, so I didn't want to disrupt it with a trip to the ER. One of our coworkers tried a small piece of the calamari even though she said she doesn't usually like it and said that it actually tasted really good.

They give you a basket of warm, foccacia bread plus some olive oil with olives to dip it in. Very yummy!

Two of us split a fig and prosciutto pizza ($9.25) and the other two split a portobello pizza ($9.00). The prosciutto pizza was made with a crisp rosemary crust with fig and balsamic jam, prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese. It was delicious according to my two coworkers, with just enough of a touch of the gorgonzola cheese to not be overpowering.

The portobello pizza is normally made with a red sauce but I asked them to make it with just olive oil and it was superb (I actually think it would be better if it were offered as a white pizza). It was made with portobello mushrooms, a wild mushroom puree, roasted red onions, and fontina cheese. So yummy!

Altogether our tab for four people came out to $11 a person including the tip, which is really not that bad for a lunch outing. When we worked in the financial district in Boston, we knew people who would spend that much every single day by going out to buy a sandwich and a drink.

Afterwards, since none of them had really ever been to that part of Charlestown before, I took the scenic way back. We ended up driving up a hill that took us directly to the base of the Bunker Hill Monument, so I managed to take this photo real quickly.

We'll definitely do this again soon since it's so much closer to the office than one would think. Especially since the food was so good! My friend, Stephanie, says that it's very similar to Emma's near Kendall Square, so I'm looking forward to trying that place soon. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

samurai boston

We had dinner at Samurai Boston last night, and this was the second time I had been to the restaurant. It's a Japanese and Korean restaurant on Boylston Street that has a lot of great dishes and excellent sushi. It's a lot bigger than I thought with a private little room in the back of the restaurant, and it has nice decor. The sushi bar area is nice and bright, while the wooden bench seats have cute little butt pads to sit on.

The section we sat in wasn't full when we first walked in a little after 7:30 pm, but by the time I went to and from the bathroom it was completely full. It was great to see that the place was constantly busy - definitely a sign that other people liked the food too. It has a great atmosphere but can get pretty loud, but I guess that all depends on the people sitting nearby too. (Yes, we were quite happy when the table of young kids talking obnoxiously loud finally left - LOL - we're getting old!)

We shared an order of the shrimp shumai (steamed, $5.95) and the fried soft-shell crab ($8.95). Both were delicious, although we were laughing at how you only got 3 pieces of the shumai. The crab dish made up for it in portion though because they gave us so many pieces on the little plate. It was so yummy and had such a rich flavor. It was served on top of a light wasabi sauce and had a little pico de gallo on the side which, for an Asian restaurant did seem a little strange.

Actually, I really liked the fried crab, I have to admit it. It was so nice and flavorful, especially the crunchy batter on the outside. Mmmmm. What was even more surprising was that Tony liked it and had a nice portion of it even though he usually won't eat soft-shell crab because (as he states it) a) you're killing a little crab and b) the shell is still on there. Needless to say, we handed back empty plates.

And then we both had sushi. Tony had the White Dragon (I think?) roll ($12.95) which had spicy yellowtail on the inside of the roll with some avocado, and white tuna wrapped on the outside. I had my usual Negihama maki (yellowtail with green scallions, $4.95) and maguro maki (tuna, $4.50). Both were delicious and devoured alongside the fried crab. All were washed down with a nice hot cup of green tea.

This is definitely a great spot to get some really delicious sushi and other Japanese and Korean fare. There were two Korean girls sitting next to us and they got the kimchi soup that my mom and sister love to eat. I loved how the smell from their dishes wafted towards us and I could kind of taste the spiciness. Yum. Definitely somewhere I'd like to take my mom to the next time she's in Boston. :)


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