Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dim Sum at Myers + Chang

After living in the area for a few months we finally made it a few blocks over to Myers & Chang, where Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese flavors combine in an array of fun dishes and drinks to be had. Being a weekend morning we decided to go in for Dim Sum, order a few items, and see how their Dim Sum compared to the more "traditional" offerings in Chinatown.

First to come out were the tamarind glazed peel-and-eat prawns. The glaze was sweet and delicious, as were the 7 or 8 nice, plump prawns.

Next were the fried oysters with fermented black beans and pickled bean sprouts - I wish there were more than two per order, as the combination of textures and sweet, salty, and savory flavors was excellent!

The fried egg banh mi with sweet soy glazed bacon was by far the messiest item, both for splitting among diners or just to eat on its own. Its components were all very good, though I feel they could have done a lot more with the Vietnamese-ness of the dish, as it was more or less just an open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and bacon.
The cantonese bbq pork bao was also nice enough, but I might have expected something more substantial for $4 - it was perhaps two bites and couldn't really be split among more than 2 people.

The coal-black chicken wings with housemade sriracha were next and shouldn't be missed for any lover of chicken wings - the charred, smoky flavor was delicious, and the sriracha added a really nice bite to the plate. We also had two orders of dumplings, one with shiitake mushroom and Chinese greens and the other being "Mama Chang's pork dumplings" - Both were fairly standard dumplings, but the soy-based dipping sauce was particularly tasty.
Finally were the crispy spring rolls, your standard vegetable spring rolls fried to a nice crisp and filled with fresh veggies. Along with our Dim Sum came a choice of brown or white rice, but given there were four of us I was expecting a bit more than just one small bowl - oh well!

Price-wise Myers & Chang's Dim Sum is a little on the higher end compared with the more traditional joints, but you can definitely detect the greater freshness of ingredients and the greater thought that goes into each of their plates when compared with the larger establishments in Chinatown. Most items are 5 or 6 dollars, though there are a couple of smaller "snacks" for $3. Overall it is a very nice Saturday or Sunday morning experience if you're looking for dim sum, but something a little more fresh and different. I look forward to returning and sampling some of the other items like spicy kimchee pancakes and sweet potato fritters with Chinese sausage!

Also worth mentioning...

Dim Sum isn't all Myers & Chang has to offer - on Sunday nights they have a wonderful $1 Oyster and $1 PBR tall boy special known as "Oyster Oblivion", which is a MUST. The oysters come with a standard mignonette or an outstanding Asian mignonette with lemon grass. Unfortunately you can only order 12, but self-control isn't always a bad thing, I suppose!

Myers & Chang on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Wholy Grain

This afternoon we ventured over to The Wholy Grain on Shawmut Ave in the South End to try it out. The Wholy Grain opened last Friday and is located ont the street level of a traditional brownstone. The inside is light and airy with yellow walls, chalkboard menus, and white marble countertops and tables. Although somewhat reminiscent of the South End Buttery, the Wholy Grain maintains a charm of its own. There are baked goods to choose from on the counter ranging from the traditional croissants to muffins to breakfast stromboli. There is also a glass case which--as of today--only had a strawberry cream cake and brownies in it; but, eventually, it should be filled with cakes and other pastries, we can only assume. We ordered a few items to try, a chocolate croissant/pain au chocolat, a blueberry muffin, a bacon-avocado-chicken wrap, a spicy-chicken and blue cheese sandwich, and a raspberry-almond cream croissant. Although it is unclear, we think the croissants and bread are made off-site while the muffins and tarts seem to be made in-house.

The chocolate croissant was light and flaky; overall very good. We were impressed with the raspberry almond cream croissant; on looks alone it could have won us over but the taste was just as impressive--it was fantastic. The bacon avocado chicken wrap was decent. The avocado wasn't quite ripe enough and the wrap itself was a bit bland but the bacon and chicken tasted good. The wrap sold for $6.95, so a bit over 7 bucks after taxes--a bit too high a price I think but typical for the area. The blueberry muffin was jam-packed with blueberries, after unwrapping it and breaking off a piece you could see a ton of blueberries inside. The spicy chicken sandwich looked and tasted very good, too.

The Wholy Grain was quite busy when we got there, but we didn't mind the wait. We enjoyed the friendly service and the comfortable atmosphere. This is a good alternative to the Buttery. My hope is, as the weeks go on, there will be more take-away baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and different types of bread available for purchase. Overall, there are a few kinks the Wholy Grain needs to work out but it will make a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. We are certainly excited for the outdoor seating come warmer weather!

Wholy Grain Bakery Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

South End Bakery

The South End finally gets a real bakery, The Wholey Grain. We'll try to visit this weekend to fill everyone in!

Monday, February 14, 2011


For a last minute Valentine's Day dinner I decided that it was right about time to try one of Boston's newest restaurants, Tico. I had heard a few things about this place - that it was Latin American, Central American, Mexican, Small Plate/Tapas, and Nuevo Latino, so I had to go check it out for myself. Lucky for us we were able to get a table for two at 6:45.

We were seated without issue and put right in front on St. James at a table for two - thankfully it would give me enough light to take some food pictures, as the place overall is rather dim. After we ordered a very nice bottle of Garnacha, our server was kind enough to fill us in as to plate sizes and whatnot so we wouldn´t order too much or too little food. Basically the menu is divided into 4 sections. There are a number of tacos, each serving two and costing between 8 and 12 and consisting of two small tacos. Then there are the "a la plancha" or grilled selections, ranging from around 5 to 12. Thirdly are the "small plates", a large selection of dishes for sharing ranging from around 7 to 12. Finally are maybe 5 or 6 full-size entrees for a main course. We figured it best to get a variety of things to try, and as our server suggested we split our selections among the first three varieties. We ended up with 1 set of tacos, 2 from the grilled, and then 5 of the small plates, one of which was added on at the dessert ;-) While we waited we enjoyed freshly baked bread with olive oil - nothing special but definitely delicious. The first dish to come out was the fried calamari with ancho-lime aioli. It was your standard calamari - the deep fried lime wedges were a nice touch and the aioli was as tasty as any mayonnaise-based dip can be. Next came the chicken "a la plancha" with spicy pomegranate served on little skewers. The chicken was moist and had a really delicious seared flavor, and while the pomegranate sauce wasn't overly spicey, I was a big fan.

Next came the sweetbreads with blood orange, endive, hazelnuts and masa harissa. While the mystery still remains as to which part of what animal I was served, the sweetbreads were very mild and nicely enhanced with the harissa and blood oranges. Luckily by this point we were not even halfway through! The next three dishes came in succession, starting with the tacos with tender pork with spicy cucumber. The pork was wonderfully moist and flavorful, and the cucumbers were at that nice halfway pickled stage providing a nice crunch to the soft tortilla taco. Next was the risotto - while it was flavorful enough and the rice was nicely cooked, there was hardly any chorizo, and at it tasted like the chorizo I buy at Stop & Shop - not at all bad, but I was hoping for something more. Finally came the meatballs with smoky tomato. The meatballs had a nice crisp outer layer and were perfectly cooked, but the "smoky tomato" sauce that accompanied it was non-descript.

At this point we were feeling satisfied, but I still wished I had ordered the mushroom and cheese quesadilla with black truffle salsa. Done. Within minutes our light and crisp tortilla arrived - the mushrooms were great, though I wish the cheese had been something like chihuahua, not American-esque like I tasted. The little dollop of truffle salsa was really nice, but could definitely have been amplified. Dessert? Why not?! It was Valentine's Day after all. Our dessert had a long name, the "chocolate gelatto-peanut butter mousse over-the-top caramelized banana split" with Mexican chocolate and crushed peanuts. The hyphens were confusing. What came out was a three-scoop serving of chocolate gelatto sitting in a bit of peanut butter sauce (mousse) alongside a caramalized banana with everything sprinkled in peanuts and then a side of Mexican chocolate. This was legitimate, particularly the chocolate sauce with just enough cayenne to really enhance the dish overall. The gelatto was excellent and the whole dish was perfectly-sized to be split between two.

All in all we left satisfied with Tico and would consider returning, but we could certainly think of some improvements. First of all was the music. I'm not quite sure if Tico has decided what it wants to be - swanky Latin lounge and restaurant, yuppy south-of-the-border hangout, or what, but the music leaves something to be desired and didn't quite match with the atmosphere. As mentioned before it was very dim, but at least warm-colored. For how big the place is, though, I'm not sure if this works. Price-wise the food was decent, though to compete with other local tapas-type restaurants like Masa it should consider some time with reduced price menu items as what I got wasn´t necessarily what I thought I was paying for. Regardless, the place has been open for only a week, and if it doing this well so far it definitely deserves future patronage, and I´m looking forward to coming back and sitting at the bar for something from its extensive selection of tequilas and some nibbles at the bar.

Tico on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Boston Olive Oil Company

Strolling down Newbury this afternoon we couldn't help but be drawn into the Boston Olive Oil Company. Though it has been there since the fall of 2010 and we had heard good things about it, only now did we finally take the time check it out!

Walking in you see that this place means business - the entire store is lined with rows of handsome stainless steel fusti with spigots for tasting the over 40 varieties of extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We were immediately greeted by one of the owners who was happy to educate us a bit about her products. Their Olive Oils are 100% Extra Virgin, unfiltered and settled, and come from both the northern and southern hemispheres. There are the varietals, which are unadulterated oils like the manzanillo and ascalano, and then a large selection of fused/infused oils. The Balsamic vinegars, on the other hand, are harvested in Modena, Italy and imported to the store and bottled on the premises. They range from the traditional balsamic to more interesting varieties like pomegranate and pumpkin.

All of the products are available to be tasted right there in little paper cups and with small pieces of bread. The owner was kind enough to suggest a number of combinations, like the herbs de provence oil with mandarin balsamic and the tuscan herb oil with pomegranate balsamic, the latter of which we ended up purchasing. Another great combination we enjoyed was the harissa olive oil, which is infused with smoked chili peppers, garlic, caraway coriander, cumin, with the tahitian vanilla balsamic vinegar. We could have spent an hour in there guzzling all kinds of delicious oils and vinegars! I must say it was a lovely way to spend a quarter of an hour or so and inspired a delicious antipasto lunch drizzled in our new oil and vinegar combination! I look forward to returning to sample and purchase some more in the near future!

Bottles for purchase are directly underneath the fusti and average at about 18 dollars for 375 ml. You can find the Boston Olive Oil Company at 262 Newbury Street and online at their website, on facebook, and on twitter!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brunch at Gaslight in the South End

Since moving downtown last summer we've had the opportunity to sample the brunch offerings at many a restaurant in Back Bay and the South End. One of our favorites for the food, atmosphere, and the price has consistently been Gaslight Brasserie du Coin. While great any time of year, it is particularly nice to eat on the patio on summer mornings when the early afternoon heat has yet to set in.

By far the best option value-wise is the 9.95 prix-fixe menu, available all day Saturday and between 10am and 11am on Sundays. Included with this menu is a glass of either freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, Peet's coffee or tea, and Julia Child's spiced shortbread with raspberry jam. The spiced shortbread is excellent - soft and tangy and very light. It's the perfect bit of sweetness for those who like a more savory breakfast, but still want something to satisfy their sweet tooth.

As for the main dishes, one can choose between the vanilla french toast with Vermont
maple syrup and blueberry compote, an omelette Lyonnaise with gruyere cheese,
potatoes and caramelized onions, and scrambled eggs & cantal fondue served over toasted brioche with fines herbes. The standout here for me is the omelette Lyonnaise - it is incredibly filling and the caramelized onions and gruyere are a match made in heaven. Though not a sweet breakfast fan, the French toast is quite tasty, and you can't go wrong with good maple syrup on anything. The scrambled eggs is for me the weakest of the three, probably because it doesn't have enough of the "cantal fondue" going on, but I still certainly enjoyed it. The regular brunch items range from truffled scrambled egg tartine and caramelized banana crepes, to more lunchy items like croque monsieur and salade niçoise. A diehard smoked salmon fan, I've very much enjoyed the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, fromage blanc, capers and toast. With many breakfast items involving eggs and smoked salmon, the salmon becomes far too cooked and loses its smoked flavor, but with this omelette that was not the case.

There are also a number of sides to be had such as pain au chocolat or French onion soup, and early morning boozers can partake in the gaslight bloody mary, matin martini, and other fun brunch cocktails. All in all there is something for everyone, and with its very reasonable prices there isn't a reason you shouldn't give Gaslight a mid-morning try!
Gaslight Brasserie du Coin on Urbanspoon