Monday, November 24, 2008

My First Babka

I made my first babka last night, and I was very excited about it. I did my mise en place of all the ingredients and got them to room temperature, in accordance with the recipe. I got out my KitchenAid and put on the dough hook. I followed the recipe to the "t," let everything rise, punched it down, and formed my loaves. But there is still something that I must be missing that only experience can teach you. The finished product is very tasty, but I feel like it was a little too crumbly, which might mean I needed to knead it a bit longer.

Here are my two best loaves packaged and ready for the Thanksgiving table. We'll see what the verdict is and maybe compare them to Momma Jane's?!

Next on my bread-making agenda is Memaw's Dilly Bread...yum!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kingston Station

I always pick up the latest issue of Improper Bostonian, Stuff @ Night, etc. when I'm waiting for the T, and an ad for Kingston Station in downtown crossing seemed to be in every issue. At first thinking it was a Jamaican restaurant on account of "Kingston", I then realized it was, in fact, a Bistro in downtown crossing. Chris and I decided one evening to check it out for a nice mid-week dinner.

Walking through the doors I was immediately struck but the unique interior. The main room is floored with white tile, giving it almost a butcher shop feel. A sizable bar filled up the back, and a number of tables lined the wall of the front window. The lighting is dim, swankifying it a bit. On a Tuesday night, it wasn't very crowded, but I imagine it to be quite lively on the weekends.

We were seated at a table for two in the side room and decided to start with some cocktails. I had a vesper, of James Bond fame, while Christopher went for a Rye and Ginger Manhattan. My drink was fine - I just really don't like vodka in my martinis, but that is my fault. They also have two types of absinthe on their cocktail list, which I thought was interesting. I would go back to try some of their other fun-sounding cocktails, such as the Sazerac, which includes absinthe, bitters, and whiskey.

We started out with an order of the calamari, fried and served with vinegar peppers and spicy marinara. I was surprised with how quickly they were brought out, which leads me to believe they may have been sitting under a heat lamp. They were tasty, nonetheless, but just a tiny bit too chewy. I really enjoyed the fact that there was an equal portion of rings to tentacles, since I'm more of a tentacle kind of guy. The sweet peppers were good, as was the marinara, though I wouldn't call it spicy.

For my entrée, I chose the sweet potato gnocchi with seared scallops, mushrooms, and spinach in a white butter sauce finished with truffle oil and parmigiano. The gnocchi and mushrooms were delicious, and I loved the truffle oil with the butter sauce - very rich, but not too heavy. The scallops were adequate, but not the best I've had.

Christopher chose the chicken milanese - panko breaded chicken lightly seasoned with arugula and cherry tomato salad with a sherry maple dijon dressing. Both of us were rather disappointed with the dish - the chicken breast looked too perfect, almost like something you would expect from a fast food place. It tasted fine, but was nothing special. There was ample arugula and tomatoes, but the sauce was almost non-existent. He ended up eating maybe half of it.

Our experience at Kingston Station had its highs and lows, but I would certainly give it another chance and would be interested to check out the bar scene here on a weekend. It is easily accessible by public transportation (park street T) and not too expensive. Click here to visit their website.

Kingston Station on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Morse Fish Company

For years, I passed the Morse Fish Company on Washington Street wanting to go in to take a look and, perhaps, get something fresh and delicious. I was always intrigued by the glimpses through the front window of their long display case and lobster tanks; but, alas, Peter's dislike for seafood always resulted in our bypassing this establishment.

I finally got my chance while my parents were in town. We decided to do a "surf & turf" dinner one night, so I thought this would be the perfect time to try out Morse Fish Company.

As we walked in we noticed that not only do they sell fresh fish, but they also have a quick-serve restaurant, where you can get all sorts of cooked seafood. I'll have to try the restaurant out soon and will post an update about that!

This particular day, the cases were full of nice salmon, swordfish, and tilapia among others. They also had a nice selection of shellfish. We decided on some tilapia and also took a few crab cakes that I noticed at the last minute. Both were delicious.

I'm especially happy to have found the crab cakes. For $1.75 (at time of writing), they are an amazing deal and delicious. I adore crab cakes, and these were nice with a smidgen of spice. Granted, they are not like Dean & Deluca's crab cakes; but, again, for that price, they can't be beat.

Next time you are in the South End and have a hankering for fish, try out Morse. Also, if anyone has eaten at the restaurant there, let me know how it is!

Morse Fish Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sodas from Around the World

At Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, Coca-Cola offers a taste of the different sodas that they sell from around the world. On a recent trip, we tried all of them, and here are a few observations I had:

Krest Ginger Ale (Mozambique): The ginger taste wasn't super strong but it was perfectly refreshing. This was probably my favorite out of the selections Coca-Cola offered.

VegitaBeta (Japan): The name reminded me of the "I Love Lucy" Vega-mite episode. I was expecting the worst with this drink but it actually is very sweet, and I enjoyed it. It's pinkish orange in color, if I remember correctly.

Beverly (Italy): Not what a typical American would expect from a soda. It is actually often drunk as an aperitivo in Italy. It has a bitter flavor and is not overly sweet, sort of like a very strong tonic water. This was the least favorite out of all of our friends except for Bryan and our 100% Italian friend, Marco, who really enjoyed it and blamed our tastebuds for expecting soda to always be sweet.

Mezzo Mix (Germany): Bryan's favorite soda while he lived in Germany. It is a mix of orange soda (like Fanta) and cola (Coke!). It might sound like a strange combination to some, but it's great. Tasting it again in Orlando brought back lots of memories for him. He even makes it himself when we go to a place with a self-serve soda fountain. Give it a try...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Disney Restaurants: California Grill, Chefs de France, Tony's

This past week, a group of us went on vacation to Disney. I've been to Disney in the past, but this was the first time that I ordered food on their meal plan. While the meal plan is a good deal overall, I have a few comments regarding three of the restaurants where we dined.

The California Grill is located on the top floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort. It is billed as a high-end restaurant similar to Boston's "Top of the Hub." When you call to make reservations, they tell you that there is a dress code and no shorts (especially jean shorts!) can be worn--nor tank tops. They suggest a button-down shirt and slacks. Sounds good to me. Our reservation was for 8pm, we dressed according to the dress code. Upon arrival, we were told that the restaurant was running behind by about 20 minutes. That's fine we thought. We went up to the bar, ordered a few drinks (from a very rude bartender whom one waiter told us was always like that) and spent some time on the outside deck watching the Magic Kingdom's firework show. The show was great; the view was too. After the show, we came back inside and waited some more. At this point, I think it's important to mention the clientele of the restaurant. We knew there would be children's Disney after all, but the amount of children running around was pretty incredible. I don't know. I would never take my child to a restaurant that serves $44 steaks. Children aside, the rest of the diners were dressed in t-shirts, shorts, or jeans. We probably were the nicest dressed there. The restaurant décor was out-dated. It was very similar to a California Pizza Kitchen--the only difference was that there was more decorum in a CPK. We were finally seated an hour after our reservation time. The food was decent but not worth the two dining plan dinners we had to use for it. Appetizers were in the teens (Bryan ordered a ravioli dish which came with just one (largish) raviolo for 13 bucks). Entrées were around 30-40 dollars. Our steak was good, but for $44 I've had much better and in a much nicer setting. The waiter was very nice; but, overall, I would tell people to save their money and dine at another restaurant...perhaps in Epcot Center at one of the nicer country restaurants. California Grill is definitely not worth the hype or the price.

If you are on the meal plan, one restaurant that was much more then I expected was Chefs de France in Epcot. Chefs de France is located in the World Showcase in Paris. The décor is very pleasant and resembles a nice bistro. All the waiters and waitresses are from France and speak with a wonderful accent. Their attire is the traditional black and white French waiter outfit and (not that this affects the food) every single waiter and waitress was very good looking. Our reservation was early, 5pm, and they were right on-time seating us. Our waitress was very nice and we enjoyed her immensely. The food is about the same price as the California Grill (maybe a few bucks cheaper) but definitely a better deal. All of our meals were good and we had no complaints. For only one "sit-down" dining point, Chefs de France is a fantastic deal.

The last restaurant we experienced was called Tony's Town Square and it is located in the Magic Kingdom. We were afraid (after the California Grill reservation fiasco) that we would have to wait a long time so we arrived about 40 minutes early, but were still seated for our exact dining time. Fine. No worries there. The atmosphere was fun and lively and still a lot more subdued then the more upscale California Grill. The food is traditional, home-cooked Italian. Spaghetti and meatballs, Chicken Parmesan, etc. The main dishes were all very good, and the dessert was too. We even got to see some of the parade from the porch of the restaurant in between courses. This is a good choice for a sit-down dinner in the Magic Kingdom. Also, our waiter was great and told us which dishes to avoid (the pork).

California Grill on UrbanspoonChefs of France on UrbanspoonTony's Town Square on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


On Tuesday night a few of us decided it would be fun to go out to a bar/pub of some sort to have a decent meal and throw back some beers while watching the election results unfold. Having walked by Clerys so many times en route to the South End, I was eager to check the place out once my roommate suggested it. Looking at the menu online made me even more eager to head out.

Situated on Dartmouth Street past the Pru, the bar is technically in Back Bay but right on the border with the South End. On weekend nights I have seen long lines outside the place, but luckily on a Tuesday night there was no problem getting a table. It took a few minutes to get seated due to the MIA hostess, but we were seated soon enough at a table for four right in front of one of their flatscreen tv's - perfect. After we ordered some beers (I was very excited to see Shipyard Pumpkin Ale on draft, btw) the "bouncer" came up to us claiming he had missed us when we came in and asked to see our IDs. This smallish and very non-threatening man was, in fact, at the door when we came in, just oblivious. He ended up doing the same thing when another friend of ours joined the table some 15 minutes later.

Anyway, the Cuban Panini - a panini with roasted pork and prosciutto - had caught my eye from the very beginning, but much to my disappointment the waitress heard "reuben" and not "cuban" when I ordered. I am not one for sending back dishes, especially since I do very much enjoy reubens, and ended up satisfied with my sandwich. The marble rye was toasted nicely and there was an adequate amount of corned beef. Luckily she did hear that I wanted coleslaw, which was decent, and not french fries.

Two of my friends ordered the pulled pork sandwich, another item which had caught my eye. Though not the best pulled pork I've had in my life, it was very tasty and I was a fan of the sweet barbecue sauce they used. The french fries were pretty standard, and the pickle was, well, pickley. The fourth member of our party ordered the steak tips, something she had enjoyed before at Clerys, and was very excited to try again. There was a decent number of tips, but a ton of fried onion strings which were very tasty.

Overall I had a nice experience at Clerys and could see coming back for lunch or dinner, as they had a fairly extensive menu for what seemed like more of a bar than restaurant. There are also a lot of beers on tap, which is nice, and plenty of TVs for catching a game, or in this case, an election. My only real complaint is that of the bathrooms, which are sketchy and dark, and probably even worse on a packed weekend night with your standard middle-aged creepers scoping out their prey.

Clerys on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beacon Street Tavern

I've walked by the Beacon Street Tavern so many times and never noticed it until tonight. On the recommendation of Marco and Jeremy, we all decided to grab a bite to eat at the tavern. When I heard the name of the restaurant, I expected a classic looking tavern with the wood paneled walls, noisy atmosphere and large plasma TVs. What I found once I walked inside was completely different. The Beacon Street Tavern is very swanky (especially for Brookline). The walls are red, the booths are oddly shaped (in a fun, Beetlejuice way) and the place is candlelit. I was pleasantly surprised. We were able to secure a booth in the corner of the restaurant. Our waitress was very nice and service was fast even though the place was pretty busy.

The menu was pretty standard fare. Entrees ranged from about 11 dollars up to 18. Our table ordered the burger, steak tips, and pork chop. The steak tips were tender and flavored nicely without being slathered in sauce. The tips came with fries and the portion was decent. The pork chop was juicy and came with sauteed apples (but not enough of them!). Accompanying the chop was a side of mac and cheese which was a nice combo with the pork and apples. I thought that for the amount of money, they could have given more of the mac and cheese or more than one chop. The burger came with hand cut chips. While the caramelized onions were fantastic, Bob did not like the bun at all. to the point where he didn't even eat it, but just ate the burger. The homemade chips were delicious. For dessert we ordered the apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The apples were great, but the pie shell was a little off. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the crust was too thick and too solid. Definitely store bought. The ice cream, though, was fantastic.

Overall, I enjoyed the Beacon Street Tavern, more for the atmosphere than the food. I suspect it's a great place to grab a drink and enjoy conversation with friends.

Beacon Street Tavern on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bonefish Grill

We got a call from some of our very special friends asking us to meet them at their newly found favorite weekday restaurant. We jumped at the idea!

Bonefish Grill is located about thirty minutes from our house so the ride made us feel that we were traveling to an out of town experience.

According to the story, the first Bonefish Grill opened in St. Petersburg, FL on January 15, 2000 and has generated growth in the Southeast and Northeastern Coasts. Currently it is experiencing new growth throughout the United States. The owners have a passion for quality fish and are dedicated to hunting down and supplying the very best.

Our starter was "Bang Bang Shrimp". $8.50
Tender, crispy shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce and served on a bed of greens. I would have been perfectly satisfied to have this as my main course. It was fantastic!

Three of us chose the "Imperial Longfin". $17.90

It is described as a royal delicacy that is pan-seared, baked and stuffed with shrimp, scallops and crab meat. That is so true. It is absolutely delicious!

C chose the nightly special, a combination of fish, which featured swordfish. She enjoyed it, but would have preferred a milder, more delicate fish to replace the swordfish.

The experience was worth the thirty minute drive and we certainly plan to return to try other options on the menu.

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon