Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grilled corn!

I love spring. It's really fantastic. My favorite part of spring is the beginning of grilling outside. BBQing is one of my favorite ways to cook, as it is for many others. I occasionally make excuses to barbecue. My favorite spring grilling involves grilling vegetables. I love using just plain Italian dressing to marinate some zucchini or squash, then grilling them in a vegetable basket. My favorite, however, is grilled corn. See below for recipe.

-4 ears of corn
-Feta cheese
-Black pepper
-2 limes, juiced

First, remove the husks from the corn. Then boil for about 15-20 minutes.

Run corn through cold water, then slather with the butter and a pinch of salt. Put onto the grill, and let sit for a minute until you can see grill marks start to form. Start slathering with the lime juice while on the grill, using a brush to apply evenly. In a separate bowl or plate, add crumbled feta cheese with lots of black pepper. Once you have grill marks entirely around the corn and corn is nice and hot, remove.

Roll the hot corn through the feta cheese and black pepper, making sure to allow the butter and lime juice on the corn to pick up small chunks of cheese and pepper. I will often pick up the cheese and pepper mix and rub it directly onto the corn so that the cheese/pepper gets into the spaces between the kernels.

Serve, and add more feta and pepper on top of corn as garnish. I also like to add some lime zest over the garnish.

This is a really easy and delicious way to eat corn. For extra zest, add some paprika or chili powder. Enjoy!

Do you have any grilled vegetables ideas?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Boston foodie girl heads to NYC

NYC is close enough to Boston that I think it warrants an entry, especially with the amount of food I consumed while in the city.

First stop was Kampuchea in the Lower East Side for dinner. I love Cambodian food(if you've never had it, think of it as a Vietnamese/Thai hybrid), so I was pretty excited. However, the menu was a bit ridiculous. The noodle soups were around $14-18, which I find exorbitant. I can get better noodle soup in Chinatown for half that price. My friend's ox-tail stew came with two pieces of ox-tail, barely any broth, and cost $18.

On the other hand, my sandwiches were excellent. I got a sampler of the ox-tail sandwich, the tiger shrimp and coconut sandwich, and the veal meatball sandwich. The ox-tail was rich and flavorful (and came with more meat than came in the stew), the shrimp was complemented perfectly by the shredded coconut, and the veal meatball had hints of hoisin and ginger throughout the moist meat. Each sandwich came with chili mayo, pickled carrots and cilantro. The only drawback was the chef's refusal to make my sandwiches sans mayo (I'm not a huge fan, most places slather it on and I only like a little bit). While I understand that the mayo is part of the experience, if I'm paying $17 for three sandwiches, I should absolutely have it done the way I like it.

For dessert, we headed to sugar Sweet sunshine for cupcakes. My friends raved about it, and I got the black and white cupcake (dark chocolate cake with vanilla frosting), spicy pumpkin cupcake, and the sassy red velvet (red velvet with vanilla frosting). They were delicious, and I took special note of the red velvet. I knew we were heading to another bakery the next day and I wanted to compare the red velvet cakes. The black and white was phenomenal, and the pumpkin was also delicious, but I wasn't too impressed with the red velvet. My friend had a red velvet with chocolate frosting and enjoyed it a lot more, but mine was not great. One dish I wanted to try was the pumpkin trifle, which had pumpkin cake, eggnog pudding and whipped cream. Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was the price -- each cupcake was only $1.50.

The next day, we headed to Harefield in Brooklyn for some of its famous brunch. Each dish is $12 and came with coffee/tea, and a mimosa/Bloody Mary. I fell in love with the Harefield eggs, which was basically Eggs Benedict with salmon instead of Canadian bacon. The hollandaise sauce was light and creamy without being overpowering, and the dish came with just the right amount of sauce. More often than not, I find most brunch places pour entirely too much on the dish and my eggs end up swimming. The Bloody Mary was wonderfully spicy and peppery, with a nice lasting kick. For $12, it was a great deal and a great meal.

In the afternoon, we tried out the bakery my friend works at, Amy's Bread. I tried the red velvet cake and the black and white cupcake. While I'd say sugar Sweet sunshine had better black and white, the red velvet cake was by far, the best I'd ever had. The cake was light, fluffy, yet rich in flavor and incredibly moist. What really made the cake was the whipped buttercream frosting. It had the flavor of a heavy buttercream frosting, but the light airiness of whipped cream. I could have eaten an entire cake in that one sitting.

Later that night, we had dinner at Balthazar. I had heard great things about it, and I was not disappointed. While I felt their cocktail list could have been a little bigger, the food was excellent and had very generous portions (without being ridiculous, like the Cheesecake Factory or something). My homemade fettucine with wild mushrooms and spinach filled me up halfway through the dish, and my friend's spinach and ricotta ravioli was delicate yet filling. My boyfriend's trout was a surprisingly large portion, which I did not expect with fish. It came with two large filets of trout grilled with a balsamic dressing. And with none of our entrees coming above $25, it was well worth the money.

Balthazar was incredibly similar to one of my favorite Boston restaurants, Eastern Standard. It had similar decor (red leather with gold accents and buttons), the menus were extremely similar (compare online menus and you will see what I mean). However, while I adore Eastern and everything it has to offer, I have to give it to Balthazar for being the better restaurant. Eastern has a significantly better drink list, but Balthazar's food is better.

You can't go to NYC without getting some real NYC pizza. We decided on Bleecker Street Pizza, an extremely busy pizza place known for catering to the drunk and the famous. It certainly lived up to its reputation. I could not believe how crispy the thin crust was! Most thin crust pizza sags when you pick it up by the crust, but not this deliciousness. We polished off an entire pizza between the four of us and could have gone back for more. They also serve beer here, only adding to the allure of the place. It was easily some of the best pizza I've ever had in my life.

Were there any spots in NYC that we missed? Let me know!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wings galore!

Chicken wings are awesome. How can anybody not love them? They're gooey, flavorful, crispy... they're really the only reason I look forward to the Super Bowl every year. I have a friend who is completely obsessed with wings and inspired me to write this entry. Let's discuss some of the local places to get wings.

1.) Wings over... -- The "Wings Over" chain has a lot of popular followers. Having had Wings over Somerville and Wings over Brookline, I've gotten sick pretty consistently from them and am not a fan. I like their variety, but the execution is just not that good and not worth the price.

2.) Wing-It -- Wing it is my all-time favorite. I started eating these when I was 8, and I've never found better wings in Boston. The honey barbecue is absolutely killer -- perfectly sweet and salty with a nice crispy skin. In fact, every year, instead of going out to a fancy restaurant on Valentine's Day, my boyfriend and I order Wing-It and picnic on the floor. It really is the best way to spend the holiday. I also recommend the pterodactyl and the Parmesan garlic.

3.) Buff's Pub -- I never knew about Buff's until I saw them on Phantom Gourmet. This small pub in Newton Corner is a bit off the beaten path, but well-worth the trip. While the entrees weren't really anything special, their wings were fantastic. Amazing buffalo wings -- not too spicy, not too mild, just enough tang to match perfectly with the blue cheese. A great spot to have a beer and some wings.

4.) Hooters -- How can you talk about wings without talking about Hooters? Now, it had seemed all was lost in Hooters-land when the majority of the chains in New England closed down. But hope was renewed when the one in Saugus opened up pretty recently. Their wings are cheap and delicious, and hey, you get to look at boobs.

Do you have any favorite wing places or feedback on the above?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bacon feature of the week -- Bacon alternatives?

We all know nothing can really touch bacon. Bacon is crispy, delicious, and the smell of it cooking is one of the most heavenly scents on earth. There is no real way to replace it. But sometimes, for health reasons, religious reasons or what, some people can't have it. So what are some alternatives? Here are a few, as well as what I have to say about them.

1.) Canadian bacon -- What a pitiful excuse for bacon. It's nothing but small ham. However, my Canadian boyfriend swears by it. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I lump Irish bacon into this category as well.

2.) Turkey bacon -- Surprisingly not that bad. It's certainly nothing compared to the original, but if you're in a bind, turkey bacon is a decent choice.

3.) Bacon salt -- While it's great at adding bacon flavor to dishes, I wouldn't consider it an alternative. It's certainly a tasty addition to dishes that need some zest, but it's not like you could have it as a side for breakfast. At least, I'm not willing.

4.) Tofu bacon -- I have never had it. However, I am going to go with probably disgusting.

5.) Proscuitto -- This is my personal favorite. This is the alternative that actually really tastes like bacon. Now, I'm not talking about proscuitto straight from the package. It requires a bit of work. I heat up sliced proscuitto in olive oil in a frying pan until it's brittle, and it really tastes just like extra crispy thin bacon! The only difference is you don't have the greasy fatty parts. While those tend to be my favorite parts, this is a great alternative. I like to crumble it up and sprinkle on salads or pasta for a perfect bite of crispy saltiness.

What are some of your favorite bacon alternatives? Or perhaps you prefer sausage (teehee) to bacon?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Passover!

I love Jewish food. While I can't get down with not eating bacon, there are some really delicious Jewish foods that I love -- yes, even gefilte fish. Even when shopping, I prefer to buy kosher chicken because I find it much fresher and better tasting than regular ol' Purdue.

There are some great places around Boston to get Jewish food. First and foremost, Zaftig's in Brookline is stellar. Their brunch is unbeatable, though I've never been there without having an hour long wait to get a table. Well-worth it -- absolutely phenomenal brunch food.

Then, there's the awesome JP Licks. I was unaware ice cream could even be not kosher, but apparently there is a lot of room in the ice cream-making process that can contaminate the ice cream. Here is a great article on it. JP Licks has locations all over Boston, offering kosher ice cream. I'm not sure what it is about the koshering of ice cream, but I do believe it to make it creamier and smoother. In my neighborhood, there's a JP Licks right next to a Coldstone Creamery, and I choose JP Licks 100% of the time.

Johnny's Luncheonette in Newton Centre is another great destination Jewish food. They offer french toast made with challah bread, as well as sandwiches made with challah bread, as well matzo ball soups. Their potato latkes are my favorite. I always tell myself that I will try something new when I go there, but I always order the latkes and slather them with applesauce.

I hope all of my Jewish friends had wonderful Passover Seders. These are just a few of the options I can think of -- does anyone else have any other ideas?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top Chef Masters

I kind of fell off of the Top Chef bandwagon, but will eagerly hop on to watch Top Chef Masters. Set up like the traditional Top Chef, it will feature 24 celebrity chefs from around the country -- including my former boss, Michael Schlow of Radius, Great Bay and Via Matta, who will be representing Boston. Best of luck to Chef Schlow!

For a full list of contestants, check out the list here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Foods I just don't understand

It's pretty clear that I love food. However, there are a few foods (very few) that I just don't like or don't understand. I've decided to compile those foods in a list and to hear what you readers think about the same foods.

1.) Ginger -- I'm the worst Asian ever. I don't like ginger. The problem is that it reminds me of the days I had stomach flus as a kid and my mom would boil ginger in Coca-cola to settle my stomach and thus ruin any chance I ever had of enjoying ginger. For the record, I do like ginger flavoring things -- one of my favorite things that my mom makes is a steamed bass with ginger and scallions.

2.) Horseradish -- Blech. I can't explain it, but this stuff makes me gag. I can deal with a little bit like in cocktail sauce, but eating it straight? No thanks.

3.) Grape nuts -- Who doesn't love to start the day off with a day of bland kitty litter and milk?

4.) Those really hot dried chili peppers you can find in Thai food -- Why don't I just eat some lit matches instead?

5.) Cocoa puffs -- The commercials really make them look tastier than they are. I expected a mountain of chocolate flavor in every bite. Instead, they look like rabbit turds and taste like a sort-of-chocolatey-Kix. I will take Cocoa Pebbles or Cocoa Krispies ANY day.

6.) Radishes -- It's not even the taste that confounds me, it's the way that you're breathing fire for hours after. If you burp after eating radishes, all those in your vicinity might pass out.

7.) Kimchi -- Same goes for kimchi. Who wants to eat something that you'll smell like for days?

8.) Iceberg lettuce -- I come from a household that didn't really believe in salad. It's nothing but filler. We preferred to eat real vegetables, not this limp lettuce crap. No flavor, no nutrients. Other lettuces, that's a different story. Give me romaine any day and I'll make a good hearty salad (as an app only -- salad is NOT an entree), but iceberg has no place on my kitchen table.

9.) Whole fennel seeds -- I really enjoy the flavor of fennel in a good sausage (tee hee) or in a spice rub, but whole fennel seeds are just too much. I feel like I'm chewing dead bug carcasses.

10.) White chocolate -- Putting the name chocolate on this is a travesty. There is NO real chocolate in white chocolate, and all it really tastes like is a flavorless sugary piece of butter. Now, white chocolate flavored things... that's different. The white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, for example. But by itself? Can anyone actually sit down and eat a bar of it? I would probably yak.

What are some foods you just don't understand?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ariadne in Newton, a mixed bag

I had seen the menu for Ariadne Restaurant and Bar, a Greek restaurant in Newtonville, on the Restaurant Week listings and thought the menu was intriguing. So we tried it out last night, with mixed results.

Upon arrival, the parking lot was pretty empty at 7 pm. A little odd for a Saturday night, but we all know the economy is in the stinker. Oddly, they are still on the paper and pen route of taking reservations and organizing tables. It's the first time in a long time that I've been to a nice restaurant that wasn't using OpenTable or something comparable. The lack of a hostess stand also made it hard for us to figure out where to go when we walked in. We stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before the hostess, standing at the opposite end of the bar, came to us. She sat us and lit our candle in the beautiful dining room. While it seemed a little too brightly lit, they dimmed the lights at 8 pm, as if they had forgotten to do it earlier.

I started with the tuna tartare and maine crab appetizer with a cucumber-mango salsa and wonton chips. All things I love. Normally, I love tuna tartare, but I found the texture of the fish a bit gummy. It also was not well cut into chunks -- a few of the pieces looked like a monkey with a screwdriver hacked away at a fish. The crab was fine and the chips were fine, but I also felt that the presentation did not make for easy eating. The small plate was crowded with a couple of useless greens and an overload of wonton chips. The tower was about the diameter of a shot glass and the height of a rocks glass, so the moment I dug in, it toppled over into my wonton chips and fell apart. It would've been much easier to eat and more efficient had it been short and stout rather than tall and thin (that's what she said).

The golden trout with the jasmine rice and edamame was significantly better. The jasmine rice was cooked perfectly, steamed with slivers of garlic, chunks of carrots and edamame beans. The trout was sliced a bit thin, but perfectly seasoned and crispy. One complaint I had was that the house garnish was cilantro covering the plate. I LOVE cilantro. I'm generally a huge fan of it in my food, but in this case, it had been dropped on top haphazardly rather than incorporated into the dish. Unless I ate chunks of the cilantro with the food, the flavors didn't impart at all. Also, my boyfriend's seafood paella also came with the same garnish. I think both dishes could have used the cilantro cooked into the dish or at least chopped in to release the flavors, rather than thrown on as an afterthought. The paella also had no taste of saffron in it -- the tomato sauce overpowered what saffron there was (if there was any) and while delicious, was more of a jambalaya than a paella.

Overall, the service was pleasant. The "ew" moment of the night came when a food runner (thankfully not OUR food runner) was placing food at the table next to us. The man had ordered a flatbread with hummus, and I watched in horror as the food runner put his thumb IN the flatbread, then put the dish down and wiped his thumb on his pants. EW. I know some dishes can be hard to serve without touching. In the case of putting your thumb IN a dish while at the table, the food runner probably should have owned up to it and said, "My apologies, sir, let me get you a new piece of flatbread." After this, my desire for dessert quickly disappeared and we had tea instead. I will say that the tea service was excellent.

The prices on the "neighborhood menu" seemed quite fair, but as for the other menu, not so much. My tuna tartare came off of the main menu and was a whopping $14 for a very small portion. It was not much bigger than the portion I had at Sibling Rivalry during Restaurant Week, and that was Restaurant Week. Given the quality of the fish and the size of the portion, I would not want to pay more than $10 for that. The neighborhood menu prices had apps from $8-10 and entrees in the high teens and seemed to be the much better bargain (both the trout and the paella were $18 on the neighborhood menu).

I won't say I had an awful time at Ariadne, but it also wasn't great overall. While the chef seems to understand classic flavor combinations, the execution needs some work. While I think there is definite promise in this place, as it has great atmosphere, I don't think I will hurry to return anytime soon.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday, aka Pie-day

Fridays are really awesome. Remember the TGIF lineup on ABC? They knew what was up. Fridays really rock. My favorite part of Fridays is taking a walk down to my favorite local bakery in Newton Center, Pie. Heck, that's my favorite part of ANY day.

Pie Bakery and Cafe lives up to its name. It has savory pies, sweet pies, and while it includes regular baked goods like cookies and scones, I tend to stick to the pies. You can actually get a full meal here for a reasonable price.

I like to start with the goat cheese and chive potato pancake. I'm a sucker for anything carbo-loaded, and anything in pancake form, so this delightful crispy pancake doesn't disappoint. The goat cheese is not overpowering and melts in well with the smashed potatoes in the center.

My favorite entree? Hard to say. I love the spinach and feta pie -- it is probably the best I've ever had. The shepherd's pie with sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes are a home run too, as is the savory moist chicken pot pie. Pie also offers salads for those who want to save calories (but really, if you're looking to save calories, both Pie and this blog probably aren't for you). Pie also offers a daily soup. I've had the sumptuous beef stew on a cold winter day, and it took the chill right out of my bones.

And onto the grand finale: the sweet pies. Never in my life have I had pies this good. Everything wins -- the harvest pie (mixture of apples, pears and cranberries), the pear and ginger pie, the apple pie. The key lime and lemon meringue are the perfect level of tart and gooey. The ultimate, however, has got to be the cookies 'n cream pie. It starts with a layer of chocolate creme, then some sort of cookies creme, then a layer of chocolate chip cookie chunks, then whipped cream, then chocolate chip cookie chunks sprinkled on top. It's probably about 4000 calories per slice, but it is pure heaven.

On top of it all, the staff are friendly and pleasant. In fact, the executive pastry chef trained with an old acquaintance of mine, Joanne Chang of Flour, who I believe to be the best (and nicest) baker in Boston. The people working the counter are never grouchy (although, can you really be grouchy when you're surrounded by pies all day?) and always accomodating.

What I love about Pie is that it doesn't do what a lot of bakeries do, and pump out pastries that are super sweet, assuming that this is enough to be a good pastry. It's not. The pastry needs to be rich and have depth and all sorts of interesting flavors. Pie's rich and buttery pastries always deliver without being cloyingly sweet, and I highly recommend ordering one of their pies to bring to your next gathering. Or, just grab a fork and eat the whole pie by yourself while watching reruns of 227, like I do. Oh, Jackee.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bacon as a condiment?

When I saw this, I KNEW I had to blog about it.

Squeez Bacon

It reminds me of that line in the Barenaked Ladies song "If I had a Million Dollars" where they discuss why there's prewrapped sausage but not pre-packaged bacon.

Happy April Fool's everybody! Although, if this weren't a joke, I'd be confused over whether I should be hungry or horrified...