Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Café Nordstrom

Tomorrow is my birthday, and my husband gave me a gift certificate at my favorite clothing store. I couldn't stand not using it so we took off to the mall to add something to my already full closet!
By the time I had tried on every option and made the final decision, it was lunch time, and we were starving. We looked at the mall directory for our restaurant options and decided to try the Café Nordstrom.

My choice was Grilled Chicken & Strawberry Salad @ $9.50.
Organic baby greens, spinach, goat cheese, strawberries, marinated red onions, candied pecans with a dark cherry balsamic vinaigrette.

My husband's choice was Tuscan Roast Chicken @$9.95.
Rosemary and garlic roasted chicken, red bliss potatoes and rustic vegetables.

The food and the presentation were great and the service was above average. We would certainly go back there for a delightful meal at a great price.

South Park Mall in Charlotte

How I Met Your Burger

Last night, we were watching How I Met Your Mother. They were in search for "The Best Burger in New York," which Marshall had apparently found when he moved to the City. Regis was looking for it too. Well, Bob, Peter, and I were sitting there watching them go up and down the City and got to craving a burger ourselves! Luckily, right around the corner from where we were sits South End Pizza and Grill. We often order food from here when we're over, since it's quick and close. Plus, they have this fun little online ordering site that allows us all to customize our order without having to go en masse down to the restaurant.

Peter and I don't really like their pizza as well as we do from other spots in the area, but the burgers aren't bad. The Onion Rings, however, are really good!

We each got a burger, which satiated our craving; but, it certainly wasn't the best burger in Boston. Perhaps, this can be the beginning of a new quest for us. We've gotta have something to keep us busy, right?! :-)

South End House of Pizza is located at 772 Tremont at Mass. Ave. They deliver and stay open quite late.

South End Pizza and Grill on Urbanspoon

Country of Origin Labeling (C.O.O.L)

Starting this week, you may notice your meat, fruits and vegetables will be sporting a new look.  New federal regulations require that most produce be marked with a sticker declaring its country of origin.  Now, when you shop, it will be easier to know if you are buying local or from another state or even foreign country.  You may notice you prefer tomatoes from Mexico over California or lamb from Argentina over the Mid-West.  

These labels will not only help you shop locally and pinpoint what you like, they will help the FDA in case of a bacterial outbreak.  Consumers who are affected (or infected!) might be able to tell the FDA where the food they ate came from, cutting down on investigation time and helping to save other people from disease.

I don't know about you but I think it's a great idea.  It gives more power to the consumer.  And, if you enjoy collecting things, you can start your very own "Country of Origin" sticker collection.  How fun is that?!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Old Stone Steakhouse

It is always fun to celebrate birthdays. One of my friends has a birthday a couple of weeks before mine so each year we try to go to lunch and enjoy each other's company and good food.

Today, we chose the Old Stone Steakhouse on Main Street in Historic Downtown Belmont for our luncheon celebration. We invited her mother and a mutual friend to share in the fun.

The two birthday girls had the Salmon and Poached Pear Salad @ $10.95.
4 oz. grilled salmon, fresh cut mixed greens, grape tomatoes, poached pear, sun dried cranberries, crushed walnuts and Danish Bleu Cheese crumbles. Served with the House Sherry Vinaigrette.

Her mother had the French Onion Burger @ $8.95.
The burger, a generous size, was served on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise and provolone. She chose the mixed, fresh vegetables as her side. The vegetables were sautéed in butter. The chef has mastered the technique of caramelized onions, giving the burger a very distinct character. Her comment was that it was the best burger she has ever had!

Our other friend ordered the Buffalo Chicken Salad @$8.95.
Fresh cut mixed greens, grape tomatoes, sun dried cranberries, shredded carrots, and all topped with buffalo chicken strips and Bleu Cheese crumbles. Served with homemade Bleu Cheese Dressing.
The weather was a perfect Fall day. We sat on the patio and our experience was a very pleasant one.

The service was above average and the food was delicious. We certainly recommend having a nice, upscale lunch at a reasonable price.

Old Stone Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Michael's Fine Food & Spirits


That's apparently Jen speak for "this meal is superb."

Truth be told, I was so busy inhaling the "silly goodness" on my plate that ordinary approvals just wouldn't do. So in sensory overload, a high compliment was born.

Then again, is there really a need to explain when it comes to one your new favorite restaurants?

Nestled on the main drag of Waterville, New York, Michael's Fine Food & Spirits blends well with its small-town surroundings. Its menu reaches well beyond Central New York by mixing local favorites, comfort food and seriously good deserts with multicultural cuisine including Italian, French, Creole, Moroccan, and Mediterranean.

I discovered Michael's with my mom about a year ago, almost by accident. We've been weekend lunch regulars when I come to town ever since.

We started with modest lunch choices, all very well priced. Soup/sandwich combos, seafood lasagna and chicken and biscuits previously won us over. Many Saturday features include salads, choice of warm beverage and desert of the day. (The Mother, a self-professed brownie hater, still raves about the caramel brownie sundae.)

As much as we enjoy our new Saturday road trips, we're hoping to trek down for dinner or one of Michael's many in-house events sometime soon. We've taken to ordering items for the road (Jen secret: I have a serving of chicken riggies in the back of my freezer just waiting for one wicked bad Boston day) but I'm convinced Michael's wine pairings are superb and upcoming Halloween event will be a blast. Michael's also offers a new weekday lunch buffet, catering and variety of special happenings throughout the year.

Good food would earn a thumbs up -- maybe an ok blog post. But great food and a superb dining experience justify repeated 15+ mile treks and a glowing review. We truly can't say enough about the folks at Michael's -- from the warm greetings when we walk through the door and friendly farewells upon leaving, the service is top-notch. Special kudos to Faith, our favorite server, who consistently makes our visit excellent with friendly conversation and attention to detail beyond compare. (Enjoy your vaca, Faith...you so deserve it!)

It's no secret that I love home. I love the people, the experiences, the food...and Michael's does a fine job in capturing the best of all three.

So bravo, Michael & crew -- keep the "silly goodness" coming. You've got a big fan out east who can't wait to see what's being served on any given Saturday Upstate...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dim Sum at Empire Garden

Waking up this morning thinking about what I wanted to eat I immediately thought it would be worth the trip to trek into Chinatown for some Dim Sum. For whatever reason almost every time I've done so it has been a rainy day, so perhaps that's what made me think of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Dim sum is the name for a subset of Chinese cuisine involving a wide range of small dishes served alongside Chinese tea. It is usually served in the mornings at Chinese Restaurants and hence makes for a perfect brunch when you're in the mood for something less run of the mill.

When going in Boston I almost always head to Empire Garden in Chinatown. Formerly an old theatre, the dining room is huge and traditionally decorated with Chinese art and artifacts. Diners sit at tables all throughout as servers come through pushing carts of the various delicacies. Instead of placing an order, you simply stop the cart as it comes by, see if there's anything you like, and you get your food right there. The server then stamps your card in one of three price categories and continues on his or her way. Then comes the next cart with a whole new set of food, and so continues the process.

Gow, or dumplings, are perhaps the most well-known of typical dim sum dishes, and are simply are made of a variety of ingredients wrapped in a translucent rice flour or wheat starch skin. My favorite are the shrimp, or har, gow, with really flavorful chunks of shrimp inside the wrapping. While some find the somewhat slimy yet sticky texture of the skin a bit much, I think it is wonderful.

Lo Mai Gai, or lotus leaf rice, is another great dish. Glutinous rice is mixed with a variety of meats, egg, and other delicious things and steamed inside lotus leaves. Be careful not to eat too much of this or you might not have room for anything else, as it is quite filling. The more adventurous might opt for the Phoenix talons, better known as chicken feet. They are deep fried, boiled, marinated in a black bean sauce and then steamed. For whatever reason they always end up bright red, perhaps adding to the whole "phoenix" idea. Personally I find the feet kind of fatty, but the flavor is nice and I love getting something my dining companions might find a bit on the wild side.

Part of the fun with Dim Sum is that you never know what the servers will bring out next. I've tried new things almost every time I've come here, and since many of the servers don't speak any English, sometimes you really don't know what you get until you take a bite. One dish I had never seen before was essentially a fried dough wrapped in a slimy noodle with cilantro and then squirted with a tangy soy-based sauce. It was very interesting, but the fried dough was a bit much for me so I can't say I'll be getting it again. I'm a sucker for slimy noodles as well as cilantro, however, so I had no problem eating my fair share. Another new thing was a a smattering of shrimp and some other seafood with green onions all-wrapped in a somewhat eggy covering. I thought it was great and would definitely get some again. There was only one part of our meal that neither or us really enjoyed, and that was the steamed meatballs, finely ground beef is shaped into balls and served on top of a thin bean-curd skin. Neither the texture nor the taste were really to our liking. I thought the meat tasted a little like head-cheese, as if it were mixed with some kind of a gelatin, and the texture was just overly smooth and slimy, but not in a good way considering it was meat.

Two of my favorite dim sum dishes I unfortunately did not get to eat today, the first being rice noodle rolls filled with either shrimp of barbecued pork and doused in a sweet soy sauce. Another thing which I did see today but was just too full for was the jim deui, a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried. But like I said, every dim sum venture is a unique experience, and you never know what you're gonna get!

At the end of your meal simply flag down one of the servers not pushing carts and he or she will tally up your total. I almost always end my meal pleasantly surprised at what a great deal of food I got for so little cost.

Empire Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Moogy's Sandwich Shop

Unless you went to Boston College or have lived in Brighton, chances are you've never heard of Moogy's Breakfast and Sandwich shop. For those of you that have been to Moogy's, you know that it's home to some of the best breakfast and sandwiches in the Boston area.

Breakfast - Moogy's breakfast is served all day long, and no matter what you're in the mood for chances are they have it and do it well. The omelets are excellent - everything from a standard ham and cheese to the 'Watchamacalit', which has bananas in it. The breakfast sandwiches are all great, too - you can get eggs, cheese, and ham, bacon, or sausage on toast, an english muffin, a bagel or a croissant. All orders of eggs dont however you like come with home fries and toast and are probably the best value. If you want something on the sweet side, the pancakes and french toast are really tasty. For something inbetween, try one of the french toast sandwiches - the 'Love Child' has ham, turkey, and swiss sandwiched between delicious french toast!

In terms of hoagies, there tons of innovative options, from the standard steak and cheese, to my personal favorite, the 'dirty birdy', which has chicken steak (shaved chicken breast), broccoli, teriyaki, and mozzarella. You can get all of the sandwiches in Small (6 inches), Medium (9 inches), and Extra-Large (13 inches). Some of my other favorites include the 'pizza steak' (steak, pizza sauce, mozzarella, oregano) and the 'Allston' (pictured to the right, with salami, bologna, mortadella, ham, spiced ham, american cheese, and provolone cheese) If you think you can handle it you might even try the 'cow meets egg', which has steak, peppers, onions, scrambled eggs, and american cheese or the 'heart attack, which has burger meat, american cheese, bacon, and eggs. You can add a number of additional toppings, for instance fried peppers, onions, lettuce, and tomato at no additional charge.

Other sandwich options include your standard deli meat options, tuna and chicken salad, burgers of all sorts, and regular and turkey reubens, among other choices.

For side orders, the clear winner is the Chive Fries - french fries with chive seasoning and served with a side of ranch. I can easily devour a large order with gusto and still want more. Other fun fry options include the Crab fries (with old bay seasoning) and the cajun fries (seasoned curly fries with cajun seasoning). You can also opt for onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and jalapeño poppers, plus a bunch of other fry options.

Lucky for you Moogy's also has a liquor license and has Harpoon IPA, Bud Light, Stella Artois, Budweiser and Busch Light on draft. Busch drafts are only $1 all the time! There's also UFO, Corona, Bass, and a number of other beers available in bottles. If beer's not your thing, you also have a number of wine choices and Mimosas, too!

All in all, if you're looking for great comfort food and a fun, chill atmosphere, head to Moogy's! Peak times are Saturday and Sunday morning, when the place can have a line out the door thanks to (annoying) BC juniors looking for a cure to their hangovers. If you're not into the weekend crowd, try coming right at 10 when they open, or wait until later in the afternoon. Otherwise anytime during the week is good.

Situated on Chesnut Hill Ave., Moogy's is easily accessible by car (it has its own lot) or T (get off @ Chiswick, walk a block down Chiswick to your right, turn right on Chesnut Hill Ave. and it's right there). Visit moogy's.com for the full menu and more information.

Moogy's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 26, 2008


I wanted to get Peter something fun and delicious for his birthday, so I stopped in around the corner at ChocoLee, pastry chef Lee Napoli's South-End chocolate shoppe. I love going in here, she's extremely nice and will gladly answer any questions you have.

Each order comes nicely wrapped in a chocolate-colored box tied with a pretty pink ribbon. Truffles are priced by the piece, other chocolates are priced by the pound.

Here are a few of our comments as we tried these delicious morsels.

Pumpkin - {at left} At first, you definitely taste the dark chocolate, but then the pumpkin comes out like a nice surprise! You could tell they were made from fresh pumpkin. Wonderfully (and seasonally) delicious! Peter's 2nd favorite.

Lemon Curd - {at right} Just perfect. Not too lemony...just lemony enough--the perfect balance of sweet and sour. The curd is light and, again, you can tell it's made with high-quality ingredients and is NOT artificial. This is Peter's favorite.

Chambord - {at left} These would be perfect to put an engagement ring on.

Dark Chocolate Ganache with Ginger - {at right} Delicious. Would be wonderful as a dessert after an Asian dinner. Also, the texture was fun with the crystallized ginger on top. 

White Chocolate Ganache with Apple and Maple - {at left} Another seasonal one. We couldn't taste the apple, but it had a nice maple flavor.

Poblano (truffle) - {at right} Definitely one of my favorites; but, it's spicy and not for the faint of heart. (Bob, stay away!) :-) 'Twould be a lovely end to a Mexican dinner...but you'll also want to have some of the lime curd chocolates on hand, too, for those, who don't take the heat as well! (BTW, chef Napoli also had this spicy chocolate sauce that she let me try while I was waiting. Yumm. It had a nice kick to it--similar to the Poblano truffles, but I would say less sweet and a little less spicy. She said she made it to go over ice cream, but that one of her customers also made a mole with it.)

Cardamom - {at left} Perfect after Indian food or an afternoon chai. Fresh. Peter said it had a very perfumy taste...he says people will know what he means by that. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices, and this spice has found a perfect match with chef Napoli's dark chocolate ganache.

Lime curd - {at right} The lime flavor is wonderful...like key lime pie--with chocolate! Of the two citrus curds, Peter likes the lemon best; but, I think they're different animals. These were also very good. Again, I think serving these after a Mexican dinner would be great?!

So as I said above, I really enjoy my visits to ChocoLee. If you read Peter's entry about Aroa Fine Chocolates, you'll remember that he wasn't a fan. BUT, he loves ChocoLee! Try it out next time you're in the area. On Saturdays (and other days, I think), she does chocolate beignets!

ChocoLee Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Sustainable Farming at Merck Forest

This past weekend, Bryan and I headed up to Vermont. While we were there visiting family, we made our way over to Merck Forest. I've been going up to Merck Forest ever since I was little for small hikes with my family but this time, Bryan and I were excited to see the farm on the property. Merck Forest is comprised of 3,000 acres of land; a consolidation of three declining farms back in the 1940's. Two hundred acres of that land is reserved for farming. Merck Forest farm's mission is "to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland". The forest not only offers numerous educational programs but also provides a working example of sustainable farming. The farm has sheep, cows, chickens, pigs and other animals that are fed with crops from the same land. The farm is powered mostly by a single wind turbine and a few solar-power cells. The farm produces its own maple syrup and you can buy wool from the sheep as well as purchase meats and vegetables from the farm. It's a great example of how farming can have a low impact on the land and still benefit people. Oh, and the views are incredible!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Homage to Toast

I love toast.

It's, like, one of the most perfect things to eat, yet I feel like it's always overlooked. To me, toast is very comforting, and I was thinking the other day how "zen" it is--wonderfully balancing yin & yang in many ways.

Toast is, at the same time:

Simple yet Complex;
Cool & Soft on the inside yet Hot & Crunchy on the outside;
Sweet with jam yet Salty with butter;
Lowly yet Elegant; it is enjoyed by both Peasant and King.

Toast just makes me happy, and that's good enough for me.

I think I want a piece now...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High-End Zinfandel

At work, once a month, we have a wine tasting.  Every "session" 
we have a different type of wine we explore.  After a year of running through most varieties of wine, we spiced things up and went on to regions of wine, price points of wine, etc.  This past 
week, our little gathering decided to focus on high-end Zinfandels (Zins priced from $30-$45).  Zinfandels are grown in California but are linked genetically to grape varieties in Italy and Croatia. As always, it was a blind taste test. Below are the wines we tasted with some notes on each:

The Winner:
Producer: Elyse Zinfandel
Vintage: 2005
Region: Napa Valley
Price: $35

This wine was smooth and very easy going down.  It would be a perfect wine for a dinner party since most people would enjoy the subtle flavors of black-currant and berries with a subtle after-taste.  

Second Place:
Producer: Ridge Zinfandel (70% Zin, 18% Cariguane, 10% Petit Syrah, 2% Mataro)
Vintage: 2006
Region: Geyserville, CA
Price: 37.99

Although technically a blend, this wine was more complex then the Elyse.  Our seasoned wine veterans tended to like this one the best since the flavor was more complex and the tannins were much stronger then the first.

Third Place:
Producer: Medusa Old Vine Zinfandel
Vintage: 2005
Region: Mendocino
Price: 37.99

I bought this wine on a recommendation from the guy at the store.  It's a big wine.  Lots of tannins, and a bit jammy in taste.  It would go well with steak or BBQ but make sure to decant it for awhile before drinking. 

Starbucks' "Perfect Oatmeal"

Starbucks was giving away free coffee and oatmeal samples today in front of Back Bay station. Hungry and needing caffeine, I stopped, of course.

They were serving Pike Place roast, which was very nice. (I drink my coffee with only a little cream, and this coffee was just right...not even bitter!) ... Ok, I just looked it up, and SBUX is billing its Pike Place Roast as their "smoothest coffee ever." So, I guess that fits my experience.

They were also serving their new "Perfect Oatmeal," which came with these little perfectly portioned packets of toppings: Brown sugar (50 Cal.); Dried Fruit: cranberries, raisins, blueberries, and cherries (100 Cal.); and Nut Medley (100 Cal.). Of course, there is also cream or milk to add as a topping.  I got one of each of the packets to try them out. 

When she gave me the little covered bowl of oatmeal, she told me to wait 3 minutes for it to cook. I was walking to the T, so that worked-out just fine. Once on the T, I didn't want to eat it there (PSA: We have to be polite and think of others on public transportation!). So, about 40 minutes later in my office, I enjoyed my oatmeal after zapping it for merely 25 seconds just to bring it back up to temperature. I didn't use all of the toppings, but I tried each one (okay, I did use all of the brown sugar!). The dried fruit was really delicious.  I don't know if Starbucks' oatmeal is "perfect," but it was surely the perfect free oatmeal!  I wonder how much it costs in the store...

One thing I liked was that they had the toppings in pre-portioned packs. That's great for people counting calories or just wanting to know exactly what they are eating. Again, I wonder what it is like in the store. Here is nutritional information about the oatmeal by itself from Starbucks' website. Nutritional facts about the oatmeal with toppings are also available there.


Starbucks on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yoma Burmese Restaurant

With my friend Cara in town it was an obvious decision to try something new and fun when picking a place for dinner on a Friday night. For about 4 years I've passed by 'Yoma' en route to Logan from Chestnut Hill, and it was about time I added Burmese to the list of cuisines I've experienced in my day.

The interior of the restaurant is very simple with perhaps about 10 tables of varying sizes, and pictures and decorations from Burma (~Myanmar) adorn the bright yellow-orange walls. As it was only about half full we were seated immediately at a table for two in the corner by our Russian (yes, Russian) waitress. While Burmese own the place and presumably cook in the back, it was two young Russian girls that took care of the diners...more on that to come.

We decided to start out with the AaJawSone, basically an appetizer sampler consisting of Burmese Samusar (fried crispy pastry filled with potato, shallot, cabbage, and spice powder), PaeKatJaw (Crispy pancake style tempura fried split chickpea and batter mixed), and TofuJaw (fried home made chickpea flour tofu). This was all served with home made spicy tamarind sauce (with sour tamarind juice, red chili, ginger, garlic, and cilantro) The triangle-shaped TofuJaw were interesting, with the chickpea-tofu interior very creamy but not overly flavorful, thus going very nicely with the flavorful sauce. The PaeKatJaw wasn't anything special - it was basically a deep-fried crisp with most of its flavor coming from the fact that it was deep fried. The Samusar, Cara's favorite, were nice but I thought they would have been better with a little more spice to them (à la an Indian Samosa).

Moving onto our entrées, I chose the ShwePaYonTheeHin, "oriental sweet pumpkin cooked with jumbo shrimp, tomato, ginger, shallot, lemongrass, and cilantro." I got this on account of the pumpkin and it didn't disappoint - each piece was perfectly cooked and with a great creamy texture. The shrimp were standard, but I thought the sauce was delicious with lots of lemongrass (which I love) and cilantro flavor. Cara decided to be a little more adventurous and try the NgaSotHin, "pancake style grounded black father fish cooked with tomato, lemon grass, shallot, garlic, ginger, green chili and cilantro." Cara thought it had overall good flavor, but thought the lemongrass was a bit overpowering. The accompanying potatoes had a disproportionate amount of heat compared to the fish, leaving her with a very hot mouth...and no water, thanks to the waitress. Luckily there was jasmine rice to help her out in the mean time.

At the end of our meal we noticed that up on a little blackboard was advertised a Burmese "cake" for a mere $1.75. However, after waiting forever for our waitress to come back and take our plates, she of course showed up with the bill...but that's not all! Instead of cake we got our very own sugar "rocks" on a Russian-looking dish. That brings me to only negative aspect of our dining experience - the service, which was very disappointing. At the beginning we were brought cups of water only half full, and it was apparently very difficult to refill these during our time there. With only 5 occupied tables split between the two waitresses, one would think they'd have done a better job.

Anyway, service aside we had a good meal and left very happy we had tried Burmese! I would definitely recommend that other people try it and see for themselves, particularly Vegetarians thanks to nice variety of vegetarian dishes on the menu.

Yoma (Burmese) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Roadhouse Now Open!

For months I passed 1700 Beacon St. in Brookline and noticed my mouth would water. The cause was anticipation of a new BBQ Smoke House preparing to open. The flashy red and black building which formerly housed a Vinny Testa's, now hung a sign calling it Roadhouse and advertising BBQ.

After months of waiting, the Roadhouse (a sister restaurant of the Publick House) opened its doors this week. I read some very harsh reviews about the opening on Yelp. Most of the reviews were about poor service, lousy food, mentions of food poisoning but otherwise great beer and atmosphere. Needless to say, I was entering the smokehouse last night with guarded enthusiasm.

We first stopped at the Provisions Store adjacent to the restaurant. As the name would imply they sell provisions or essentials. They have about 20 different imported beers (mostly from Belgium), cheeses, chocolates, olives, mustards, bottled sauces, and tourist crap like T-shirts and mugs. You buy each bottle of beer separately, although they supply a cardboard six-pack holder, so you tend to buy six. For our mixed selection of six it cost $27, not cheap.

For dinner I had a Radeberger Pilsner, Chili, and Half a rack of pork ribs with cornbread. They were changing the keg apparently on the beer, so it took a long time to reach me, but once it did, it was great! The chili was tasty and fresh but had an over powering tomato taste. It was as if they added tomato sauce to the chili. The pork ribs were clearly smoked, as evidenced by the pink color of the meat. They fell off the bone and were smoked well enough but there was something off. I would not recommend these ribs to my father, the real judge of ribs. The best part of the meal was by far the cornbread, make of that what you will! We tried the regular corn bread and the jalapeño pepper cornbread! Really great texture, taste, and fresh! The jalapeño cornbread was unique and had more flavor than any other of the foods we had that night.

The service and food were not bad but not fabulous either. The real reason to visit the Roadhouse is the beer. Since they just opened, it is understandable that there are some kinks to work out. I'll probably try them out again.

Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Haymarket: Fresh Produce at Cheap Prices

For cheap produce any frugal gourmand should check out the Haymarket. Located right by Fanueil Hall (you can take the orange or green-line "Haymarket" stop) , Haymarket offers a wide variety of produce at discounted prices. There are no fancy stalls or set-ups and it's always busy and sometimes quite noisy. Our friend Bob likes to swing by after work during the summer to buy fresh strawberries for his home-made daiquiris and margaritas! Towards the day's end you'll see squashed veggies and fruit on the ground (the city has even installed bronze 3-D art on the streets and sidewalk to replicate this) and you can even haggle for prices right before close. If you're in the area, or need to feed a large party, this is definitely a good place to shop at.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Redbones BBQ

Far, far away (well, for most of us) from the white linens and wine lists of the South End, there's a place called Davis Square, and there, nestled among the soy-laden radical coffeehouses and the vegan macrobiotic Indian restaurants is one of the best damn BBQ places you're going to find north of the Mason-Dixon Line - Redbones BBQ.

I grew up in a BBQ culture, and have fond memories of day-long grill-outs, entire tables of just sides, and establishments with names like "Fat Boys," "Woody's," or "Bubbalou's Bodacious BBQ," so it was a bit depressing for me to move to Boston, knowing that the yankee culture wasn't exactly versed in the ancient art of sitting around and smoking meat. Thankfully, this all changed when I found Redbones.

The main dining room is tight, but cozy, and southern/BBQ mementos of yesteryear adorn the walls (admittedly, some of these are just for show, since the restaurant has only been open since 1987), while the open kitchen smokes away for all to see. Don't go to Redbones expecting a fine dining experience - the napkins are piled on the tables, held down with a bottle of McIlhenny Tabasco, and soft drinks are served in mason jars (speaking of which, get the sweet tea - it's the only place in Boston so far that I've found it the way it's supposed to be).

One thing you'll have to prepare yourself for is the menu - it's overwhelming. If you're a BBQ fan, you may well have to put it down and take a breath, as you're going to want to order everything listed (God knows I did). Everything you'd want from a down-home BBQ joint is here - ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, catfish, steak, sausage...on and on.

The first thing to concentrate on is the sides/appetizers. This could be an entire menu in and of itself, with more than thirty items, like fried okra, dirty rice, collard greens, hushpuppies and a house-made sausage of the day.

My only gripe is that for this library of traditional sides, baked beans are nowhere to be found. It's a small complaint, but I've always been a big fan, and each time I've gone, I ask about it to see what the response is. A testament to the fact that most of the servers - while excellent and friendly - are likely from Boston, the answer is usually "Oh, no, we don't, but the entrees all come with black-eyed peas," as if it's an appropriate substitute for a crock of beans smothered in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pork.

On a recent trip, a friend and I ordered the fried okra, a side which I've never been rabid about, but many people swear by it. If you haven't tried this, it's a green, stalky vegetable that's sliced and fried up, with a taste and consistency of the love child between asparagus and zucchini. Redbones serves it with a tangy salsa zip, which Zach went crazy for, devouring the majority of it, while I had two or three pieces.

I decided to pass on the appetizer, as my entree that day was the full rack of BBQ baby back ribs (right - okra in background). It should be noted that from a ribs perspective, Redbones has it all covered. Their menu includes Memphis (pork), Texas (beef), Arkansas (pork), St. Louis (pork - smaller) and Baby Back (pork - large). Zach chose the full rack of Memphis ribs, which come pre-separated, and are thicker cuts of meat. I should also point out that the service here is lightning-fast. I've eaten at Redbones for both lunch and dinner, and each time the entrees come out just a few minutes after ordering.

I think I sawed through my entire meal in about five minutes flat, with Zach finishing shortly after. My ribs were cooked perfectly - tender, with some sweetness, and literally falling right off the bone. Zach's were also just right - thick, meaty and cooked all the way through.

All rib dishes are served with four sauces - vinegar, sweet, mild and hot (which, for the record, is), though each of the four come in a tiny cup that you're likely going to have to ask for seconds and thirds of if you're going through an entire rack (I used three full cups). While you're at it, make sure you have the napkins at the ready - this is messy food (left), in the best way possible, though you're probably not going to want to bring a first date here. Along those lines - don't bring any vegetarian friends, because they'd likely be horrified. There are vegetarian options - portobello mushroom sandwich, and a veggie burger - but quite honestly you'd have to hang your head in shame to order something like that at this celebration of carnivorousness.

If you're a beer fan, Redbones is heaven for an entirely separate list of reasons - twenty-four of them, to be exact. The restaurant boasts a twenty-four tap system that mixes classics and microbrews, with the beer menu switching up on an almost daily basis.

Whether you grew up on BBQ, or just love great food, Redbones is worth the every step of the trek up to Somerville, but just remember, if you get lost...don't ask for directions from the vegans.
Redbones BBQ is open seven days a week, and is located in Davis Square, at 55 Chester Street (off of Elm) in Somerville, MA. More information, operating hours and a full listing of menu items at www.redbones.com.

(Photos via my crappy camera-phone, with the exception of the pig-pulling, from Redbones.com)

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