Wednesday, September 1, 2010

spice & rice (cambridge)

What do you do when it's 96 degrees outside and you didn't bring a lunch to work? You order in! Yes, that's right folks, me and a couple of coworkers were too chicken to face the heat and humidity by getting in our cars to seek out food this afternoon so instead we had some delivered from Spice & Rice in Cambridge (Inman Square).

It was funny because after I dropped my husband off at work this morning, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, I could really go for some sushi today," but then I thought, "Gee, where can I drive to later on this afternoon to get some?" So then I kind of just let that thought pass through my head because I remembered it was going to be 1,000 degrees outside, and there aren't that many places near our office building that I could just stop in for a take-out order. And then later this morning one of my coworkers stopped me in the hallway and asked if I knew of local restaurants that delivered because she, too, didn't want to face the sun. Luckily, I convinced her to go with Spice & Rice so that I could [selfishly!] have some sushi. It was definitely worth the $2.00 delivery fee.

And yo yo, did I have some sushi! I ordered the sashimi special which came with 12 pieces of sashimi plus a little box of rice on the side. It was pretty good sushi for only $10.95! I also ordered some Negihama maki (yellowtail rolls, $4.95/6 pieces) thinking that the sashimi wouldn't be enough, but I was very wrong. It all washed down quite deliciously with some cold green tea, too.

One of my friends ordered the bulgoki special lunch box ($7.95) and man, that was a lot of food in one cute container! The marinated thinly sliced beef came with a California roll, shumai, yaki soba noodles, rice and a salad. She said it was good, but too much to finish in one sitting.

Our other friend had the vegetarian pad thai ($6.95) with tofu instead of chicken and said that it was "okay, not great". Again, a big enough portion for her to have leftovers for tomorrow's lunch too.

And what better way to end a lunch break than with some Kickass cupcakes, eh?! This was the August batch from my winnings. And of course, they had no problem disappearing by some obliging coworkers. :)

Spice & Rice
1172-1178 Cambridge Street
Inman Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

Friday, August 20, 2010

green land cafe (salem)

If you're ever up in Salem, Massachusetts on a beautiful sunny day, look for Green Land Cafe. They have a nice outdoor patio area in the back, under some tall trees that provide a nice amount of shade for a nice dining experience.

They offer cold and hot small plate options, as well as an array of salad and sandwich choices on their lunch menu. My friends and I all enjoyed salads, and shared the manchego cheese appetizer. It originally came with cracked red pepper and paprika sprinkled on top, so we had to send it back and ask them for some without the seasoning. We also asked for bread to go along with it, which came fresh out of the oven.

My friends had the arugula salad ($8) which was served with roasted pear, shaved fennel and a confit shallot vinaigrette; and the grilled avocado and crab salad ($10) which was served with a ginger-lime gastrique. Both said that their salads were quite delicious and refreshing. I enjoyed the Caesar salad ($8) which was served with red romaine, white anchovies and grana padano. It was pretty hearty for a Caesar salad which was a nice change, and the anchovy on top was really good (I wish there was more than one piece though).

One neat thing about the restaurant is that they really focus on supporting local farms by serving fresh produce, hand crafted New England cheeses, seafood from local fishermen, and artisan breads. The inside of the restaurant seemed nice and warm, and was much larger than it appeared from the outside. I would love to take my husband back there if we're ever up in Salem sometime.

Green Land Cafe
87 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970

Sunday, August 15, 2010

sam's at louis (boston)

A couple of Saturdays ago, Tony and I were sitting outside on the patio at Sam's, a restaurant in the Louis building in South Boston. It was one of the first days where the humidity had finally dropped so it was nice and sunny outside without being muggy. We forced ourselves to leave the apartment to do something - anything - outside. I convinced him to drive over to South Boston so that we could walk along the waterfront area near the ICA. We found a metered parking spot and walked over to the ICA and towards the water. It was such a beautifully sunny, summer day.

I remembered reading about this restaurant recently opening up and sure enough, we spotted the Louis building from the ICA and decided to check out their menu. It's kind of a cross between an American restaurant and French bistro, so they have a lot of nice dishes to choose from. We were able to score seats outside on the patio area which was great because the view of the Boston harbor was pretty spectacular.

The inside of the restaurant is kind of like a diner scene, but with a modern twist. Some of the tables had half chairs and a large diner-like booth which was pretty cool. And of course, I love the huge windows looking out to the water. When you first walk in, you're lead by chalkboard walls full of scribbles and drawings.

We got there when they were serving food from their lunch menu. They also do brunch and dinner there. We were pretty hungry so we enjoyed some delicious, hearty bread with our wine while we waited for our food to arrive and had a nice time taking in the scenery.

Tony had their black pepper burger ($12) and commented how he really liked that it was a thin patty. They didn't ask how he wanted it cooked but it was prepared perfectly cooked through.

I enjoyed their pressed Parisian ham and comte cheese sandwich ($12) and opted for a side of sauteed mushrooms instead of french fries. It was delicious! So simple but so good at the same time. And the mushrooms were an excellent pairing.

I went to the restroom on our way out and came out to find that Tony had scribbled this on one of the walls. :- )

Fast forward a couple of weeks and here we are again, this time with my in-laws, my brother-in-law, and our nine-year-old niece before watching the Cirque du Soleil "Ovo" show. The same restaurant within a 2 week period? I think that's a pretty good compliment, wouldn't you say? This time, we were there during brunch. The nice thing is that they still offer some of their lunch menu items at this time, so my father-in-law and brother-in-law were able to enjoy burgers.

Tony and his mom both enjoyed the Nana Rogers’ pork hash with soft poached eggs ($12) dish. From what I could tell -- their empty plates -- it was a good choice and we all commented that it's not a dish that you normally would see on a menu. The poached eggs were so nice and runny -- mmm -- the picture of the perfect combination of egg yolks and potatoes is making my mouth water as I type.

I had their baguette with house cured salmon, capers, onion, and cream cheese ($10). It was a nice, light dish but I will have to say that it was a little overpriced compared to the portion size. I think $8 would be fair, in my humble opinion. It was extremely delicious though - the salmon was so fresh and there weren't too much onions or capers on the plate (I hate when places pile that stuff on - it's like I can't taste the salmon when they do that). It tasted really good with a cold glass of lemonade, too. And of course, since it was so light that left room for dessert. :)

We ordered a plate of cookies ($8) for the table to share. Again, probably a little pricy for what you get, but hey, I think you're paying for the scenic view and the waterfront location.

Our niece and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the pound cake ($8) which was topped with a huge mound of Chantilly cream. It totally hit the spot without being overly sweet.

Overall I think Sam's is a great restaurant in the Fan Pier area. Again, can't say enough about how the view of the waterfront is fabulous there. They offer 2 hours of validation at the parking lot next to them, but it's also within walking distance from the South Station T stop. It's great for small groups, a nice date, and seems kid friendly. Our only complaint was that there isn't a kids' menu for our niece to order from, but they were accommodating when she asked for scrambled eggs and bacon. It's definitely a place I want to take my parents to when they come to visit Boston.

Sam's at Louis
60 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA

Friday, August 6, 2010

i made a blueberry cheesecake

I don't know why but I had been craving cheesecake for a little while. It's not something we have often during the year, and I think I've only made 3 or 4 times in my life. There's something a little daunting about it to me for some reason. I'm not sure if it's because I'm afraid it will crack down the middle while it cooks. Or if it's because you usually have to use a spring form pan to make it, and I have this nightmarish scene in my head of going to pick up the pan and the bottom completely falling out. But blueberries were on sale at the store (buy one get one free) so I decided to try my hand at making one last weekend.

I think it turned out pretty well for someone like me with the jitters. I used Tyler Florence's ultimate cheesecake recipe but changed the crust from a traditional graham cracker to more of a shortbread base since I don't think I can eat graham crackers.

It turned out shorter than I had anticipated, which was just fine with me. I think I used my larger spring form pan and if I had used my smaller one it would've been taller in the end. In hindsight, I think it justified the need for cutting wider slices. :)

Here's my recipe for the crust:

- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup of sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together until it forms a dough consistency, and then press it along the bottom and slightly up the walls of the spring form pan. (I actually had some leftover so I just made a few little shortbread cookies with them.) Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until light brown.

I pretty much followed Tyler's recipe for the filling. For the blueberry topping, I added about 1/2 cup of water and increased the sugar to 1/2 cup and cooked it a lot longer so that a simple sugar would form with the blueberries which made it a little bit thicker.

I hate to sound like I'm bragging, but I have to say it was quite a delicious cheesecake! It was definitely not as difficult as I had anticipated it to be, although some water did seep into the foil that was wrapped around the pan (but I don't think that caused any damage).

The only disappointing part was forgetting that it would need to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, so we were kind of bummed that we had to wait until the next day to dig into it. But, as you can see, once we did it was quite rewarding! Tony took a couple of pieces in to work to thank a couple of his coworkers for their help on a project, and one guy who said he normally doesn't like cheesecake ate the whole piece without a complaint!

That, besides an empty plate, has to be the biggest compliment. :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

the blue room (cambridge), take 2

It was a gorgeous summer night with a temperature in the mid-70's. My friends and I arrived at The Blue Room around 6:30 pm and were lucky to score a table in their outdoor patio area. With so many things to choose from, we decided to order a bunch of appetizers and share so that we could all try a variety of things. Pair this with wine and cocktails, and it's a perfect way to spend some time with good friends. Here are some of the plates that grazed our table that night:

The grilled shrimp and chorizo kabob ($6)

The wood-grilled octopus ($11) which is served with potatoes, mustard seed, and a preserved lemon vinaigrette is absolutely delicious. I even convinced my two squeamish friends to try a piece and they were surprisingly pleased by its charcoal flavor and not-so-weird texture. (Note to concerned friends: don't worry, I kicked the potatoes and celery slices aside and let my friends enjoy them while I devoured the octopus. Still suspicious about potatoes being a possible allergen.)

The wood-grilled skirt steak ($9) served with radicchio and a bernaise sauce was cooked perfectly medium rare.

The antipasto plate ($12) of roasted local vegetables was served with crispy flat bread. We opted for the plate that included artisanal cured meats. I had a hard time picking around some of the vegetables but I did enjoy some of the cured meat and it was quite tasty. This would be a great option for someone that is a vegetarian (obviously, without the cured meats - it's only $9 that way) because there was quite an assortment of vegetables.

We also had some of their rosemary and garlic marinated olives ($4) and my friends devoured a watermelon salad ($10) before I could snap a photo of the evidence. They said it was extremely delicious; the sight of feta, red onion, parsley, mint, oregano and a sherry vinaigrette had me wishing I wasn't allergic to watermelon!

I would highly recommend The Blue Room's outdoor patio if you're looking for a nice place on a summer day or night (the tables have nice large umbrellas for sunny days). Tony and I had dinner here back in September and it was just as nice inside the restaurant. Great choice for a small group of friends, a romantic night out, or a nice restaurant to take your parents to.

The Blue Room
One Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

the gallows (boston)

There's a restaurant called The Gallows in the South End where Sage used to be. We stumbled in around 8:45 pm last Tuesday and waited for about 10-15 minutes at the bar for a table. The place was packed, which is great for a weeknight. It was nice to be able to look around and take in the scenery, especially since they totally redecorated the place. I really like the hanging light fixtures and the lights along the wood walls.

We enjoyed some wine while waiting to be seated. Tony had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lyeth winery in Sonoma. (I tell you, he's lovin' California wines - cab sauvs in particular - more and more these days.) I had a great glass of Pinot Gris from the Montinore estate winery in Oregon.

We shared the smoked fish pate appetizer which was made with smoke blue fish (I think?*), cream cheese, and green onions. It was very tasty and had a nice smoky flavor to it.

[* Quick note: I have this habit of relying on a restaurant's online menu to help me remember what it is we ordered when it comes time to blogging about a dining experience. In this case - which rarely happens actually - the restaurant doesn't have their menu posted online so I unfortunately don't have very many details to share. My apologies in advance!]

Tony had a delicious beef brisket dish for dinner which was served with some eggplant and tomatoes on the side, and a dollop of cool yogurt on top. (I apologize for the dark photo but I hate using a flash in a restaurant and the lighting was pretty dim.)

I enjoyed a steak salad cooked very medium rare on top of a bed of greens that I can't remember the name of. They were described to me as tubular and crunchy, which was quite accurate. (I wish I could remember the name of them! Our waiter described them as essentially being a type of weed ... I guess at the time it didn't seem as unappetizing as recalling the description now ... LOL) It was a nice change from ordinary, flat lettuce and the dressing was delicious.

We shared a blueberry dessert that of course, I can't remember the name of (see above comment about lack of menu for reference). I don't want to call it a cobbler but it also wasn't a tart. It was served hot in a cute little cast iron pan and served with delicious whipped cream on top.

Overall we had a fun time even though it was quite loud at some times. Our waiter, Jim, was very friendly and made conversation with us throughout the night. The atmosphere is pretty laid back and casual, but it's also a nice place for a date or small group outing.

The Gallows
1395 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02118

Saturday, July 24, 2010

bin 26 enoteca (boston)

For my birthday this year, Tony let me pick a restaurant for dinner. I decided to check out Bin 26 Enoteca in Beacon Hill because we have walked past it a few times and it looked like a nice little romantic restaurant. Charles Street has always had that sort of charming effect on me with it's little boutique shops, old sidewalks, and perpetually burning gas lights. Plus it's so easy to access via public transportation, so we hopped on the red line after work. We were pretty early for our 7 pm reservation, so we took a nice stroll through the Boston Common and the Public Garden. We saw the nesting swans, a wedding party all decked out in white tuxedos and hot pink gowns, and some beautiful flowers.

The hostess seated us even though we were half an hour early (the place hadn't filled up yet anyway), and even though we said we would be happy to wait at the bar. They have a huge selection of wines available by the bottle -- a large leather bookful actually -- as well as some information about different wines and the regions they come from.

The wines by the glass section was a little confusing at first because they offer most them by four different measurements. They offer them in 100 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml and 750 ml increments. Well, 750 ml was easy to perceive as a full bottle, so 500 ml seemed like it would a little bit more than half a bottle. We each got 250 ml portions which were served in glass carafes. It ended up being like having slightly less than 2 glasses which was pretty reasonable.

I had the 2008 Chenin Blanc, Cave des Vignerons de Saumur 'Les PlantagenĂȘts', Saumur, from France and it was quite good. Not overly sweet or acidic. Tony had the 2007 Projekt B, VdP de Vaucluse, from France and also really liked his pick. I think both wines went really well with our meals.
But before I talk about the food, I have to say that they win points for decor. I love this all of wine labels that cover every single bit of surface space. Now if I can just figure out how to take off our wine bottle labels gracefully and without tearing them, I think this would be a fantastic idea for decorating our future wine cellar (this is, of course, when I win the lottery ...).

Now this is a view of the ceiling inside the women's bathroom (I heard it's the same in the men's by the way). It's (what seems like) a gazillion wine bottles hung from some sort of contraption from the ceiling. It makes for eerily dark lighting, but I think it's pretty cool.

Okay, so on to food because that's the real reason why you're reading this, right?! (j/k!) We had the bruschetta appetizer which was served with sauteed mushrooms with garlic and fontina cheese. Oh. My. Gosh. I think I could eat ten plates of this ... it was amazingly delicious! The simplicity of how the mushrooms were sauteed with just salt and pepper paired so well with the stronger fontina flavor. (I'm drooling as I'm typing this and reminiscing about how delicious they were!)

Tony enjoyed the spaghetti with scallops and shellfish in saffron tomato sauce entree (it's too bad I couldn't try any of it - it smelled so yummy). The scallops were nice and plump, and he could tell the pasta was freshly made.

I seem to be a sucker for grilled squid, and since I don't see it on the menu very often, I went ahead and ordered the appetizer dish. It's normally served with white beans on top of the arugula but I asked them to omit them due to my food allergy. I also got a side order of their garlic mashed potatoes. I was a little disappointed that the squid was served cold, but it still had a nice grilled flavor to it. The mashed potatoes were wonderfully light and not overly garlicky.

We split a lemon tart dessert and while I was in the bathroom earlier, Tony told our waitress that it was my birthday so they brought it out with a candle. It was so good! It kind of bummed me out because this in another example of how restaurants don't disclose everything on the menu when they present something with additional ingredients (a pet peeve of mine!). We just took the strawberries and blackberry off as quickly as we could and I just crossed my fingers that I wouldn't be too itchy later on.

[Of course in hindsight, it was probably the potatoes that made me the itchiest after all. Read about my nightshade woes here.]

Overall I think it was a good dining experience. I would definitely go back there some time during the week after work to hang out at the bar and eat five orders of the mushroom bruschetta (you think I'm kidding!) and enjoy some wine. It's a great place for a romantic date and a small group outing. I'm not sure I would recommend it for families unless you went during the daytime (they do offer lunch). Huge wine selection, good sized food portions, beautiful decor, and super friendly wait staff.

Bin 26 Enoteca
26 Charles Street
Beacon Hill, MA 02114


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