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10 Random (but useful!) Summer Food Observations

1 Jun

1. Ice cream and fro-yo taste better on a plastic spoon.

2. Lately, I prefer Korean fried chicken to American. Especially with that pickled diakon. Great examples: Roppongi in Allson, and Bon Chon, moving soon to Harvard Square.

3. Favorite summer cocktail: The Backyard at Gargoyle’s on the Square. Light, a little flowery and grassy, a little sweet.

4. If you’ve never tried Indian ice cream, sample the Khulfi at Christina’s or the saffron and pistachio falooda (like a multi-textured milk shake) at Dosa Factory.

5. The creamiest low-fat tangy frozen yogurt, IMO, is at Ufood Grill, but I also love the tamarind flavor at Berryline.

6. If you want to try your hand at DIY barbecue, you can’t go wrong with this Mexican-inspired variation: Achiote-and-Orange Pulled Pork from Sunset Magazine.

7. No Cape house? Have a waterfront picnic on the Esplanade docks near the Arthur Fiedler sculpture, or on the steps of the ICA.

8. It’s cherry season!! Whole Foods has the best ones, and they’re on sale for $4.99 right now.

9. According to a recent UCLA study, hamburgers made with an antioxidant-rich spice mixture consisting of cloves, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, ginger, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder, had 71% less malondialdehyde (a reactive and mutagenic oxidizer = BAD stuff) after cooking than regular beef-only burgers. I guess my mom was really on to something with her Surprise Burgers.

In other words, if you like it then you shoulda put some zing on it. Ooof.

10. If you have kids, Kimball Farm in Westford is as good as it gets: mini-golf, bumper boats,  batting cages, fried scallops, barbecue, and good ol’ maple walnut ice cream.

Welcome summer!

27 May

In addition to yesterday’s balmy temperatures and thunderstorms, there was Dante’s gorgonzola gnocchi with grilled peaches, pistachios, and pesto.

Behind the Scenes at Scampo

17 Dec

Took these snaps last night. It’s amazing how calm a professional kitchen can be, even as dinner service is entering full swing.

Where to Eat: Anniversary Dinner

31 Jul

Q: My wife and I are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary soon… Can you recommend a couple of  funky and romantic restaurants where we can eat well, hear one another (vs. crowded) in Metro-Boston. My wife is a big fish person, likes Chardonnays and New American food. Let me know so I can try to get in a reservation!! Thanks –Patrick

A: Hi Patrick!  Funky, quiet, and romantic, huh? You couldn’t go wrong with Lumiere in Newton, which, while more earnest than funky, does qualify as romantic and has some great bluefish and striped bass entrées. I love Michael Leviton’s cooking for its clarity of flavor, which is a surprisingly rare thing around these parts. There’s a $33.09 three-course prix fixe Sunday-Friday, too.

In Winchester, Chris Parsons at  Catch is doing some of the best seafood around, and the soft lighting in the dining room sets a cozy mood. If not this anniversary, then next. The mussels with chorizo alone are worth a trip, and could stand up to a fruity Chardonnay.

Let’s see… I’ve covered “quiet,” “romantic,” and “seafood.” But funky? My two favorite funky/romantic spots are both in Cambridge: Cuchi Cuchi in Central Square and Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square. The former is much more casual—really a cocktails and shared plates spot, and perhaps better for a first date than an anniversary. The latter is definitely more fine dining, even in the more casual Monday Club Bar (whose chef, by the way, counts seafood as her primary inspiration).

Dorado, the Explorer

30 Jul

You know what’s cute? The eager teenagers working the counter at the brand-new Dorado Tacos and Cemitas in 6095_107669709266_86710249266_2037896_5205108_s Brookline. Soon, they’ll have mastered the order-bagging and card-swiping and juice-dispensing, but for now, each task is nervously, studiously performed, which means that, while some patience is required (the kitchen is learning the ropes, too), you will be reassured several times that your order is almost up and, wait, did you want your salad packed up with the rest, or do you want to eat it here? Because I wondered if maybe you want to eat something now and, yeah, right, probably not, sorry.

It’s charming, provided you’re not in a rush. And, really, don’t go to a new restaurant if you’re looking for speed. As long as the food is good, you have to write off the wait as the cost of an opening-day thrill.

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Tweet n’ Eat

16 Jul

Andrew Teman’s blog has a nice compilation of Boston restaurants on Twitter. And as you probably know, following these tweets is a great way to find out about last-minute specials and deals.

Come to think of it, more restaurants should offer deals along the lines of “mention this tweet and get two-for-one appetizers.” Great way to build a following and quickly fill tables on a night when reservations are slow.

UPDATE: Boston’s Hidden Restaurants has an even more comprehensive list.

UPDATE 2: Aaron Cohen, aka @eatboston directed me to this excellent list, which looks like the most thorough one of all. Thanks, Aaron!

Where to eat: North End of Boston

15 Jul

Hi Amy-

Love New England Eating. Saw that you like “Where should I eat boston-northendrequests,” so here we go: I’ve been working in the North End for seven years, and I’ve been eating at the same places for far too long (Jeff at Neptune has slapped a restraining order on me). What are some of your favorite hidden gems in the North End that I might have overlooked?—Scott Cohen

Hi Scott!

Neptune is probably my single favorite restaurant in the North End, but it’s a tricky neighborhood. I lived there for years and had plenty of of bad gravy and overcooked saltimbocca. There are several bright lights, however:

Marco, Marc Orfaly’s restaurant with Lorenzo de Monaco is a great hideaway—it’s up on the second floor at 253 Hanover, above Cafe Paradiso—and a favorite for two things: the pastas, particularly filled pastas (ravioli, etc.), and the fireplace—a rarity in these parts, and a great option for a romantic winter retreat. Which, I assume is not what you’re looking for in an after-work hangout, but still…

As for lunch, have you tried the Porchetta sandwich at Artu? Or the Favorito, with fresh mozz, prosciutto, tomato, basil and olive oil (strike the prosciutto and it’s a Primavera—also good). Those are some fine sandwiches. This isn’t my favorite spot for dinner, but a great mid-day alternative.

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Where to Eat: Boston’s Theater District

15 Jul
Q: Hey Amy, Heading to the Colonial tomorrow to see Rent. Do you have any ColonialSideViewrecommendations in the theater district that might be fun and not too expensive?—  Brian Bell

A: Hi Brian! Yes, absolutely—I have four options for you.

Pigalle, which is right around the corner from the Colonial on Charles St.,  has a fantastic $40 three-course prix fixe menu with bistro fare like steak frites and seared sea bass with zucchini cakes and citrus vinaigrette. They’re also doing a $1 oyster deal.

If you like Italian, I think Teatro is one of Boston’s underrated  gems, and it’s practially across the street. Most of the pastas top out at $2o and the meat dishes average about $26. This restaurant is from the folks behind Mistral, Sorellina, and L’Andana.

Since you’re going out on a Thursday, you should know about the $1 tacos served from 5-7pm in the bar at Bonfire, Todd English’s steakhouse in the Park Plaza Hotel. The restaurant has had consistency problems since it opened, but those tacos are consistently excellent. Flavors like skirt steak with pico de gallo and avocado crema, crispy fish with picked cabbage and tartar sauce, and chile-rubbed pork with picked onion, cilantro, and plaintain-chile crema.

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Where to eat near Harborlights

14 Jul

First, an apology: I promised this post last week, and then our DSL went down. For days. Verizon sucks. Moving on…

imagesIf you’re a fan of adult contemporary or smooth jazz, you’ve probably enjoyed a gently rocking night under Harborlights’s big tent. I know I have. (And yes, this venue is technically identified by another name. It will not be used here. You can buy the naming rights, corporate behemoth, but you can’t buy our hearts!)

The waterside location is lovely, but a bit off the beaten track (less so now, though, as the Seaport District expands, amoeba-like, to surround it). So where to chow down before the big show?

Eat Here: Sportello, Lucky’s Lounge, Perspehone*, and the Pizzeria Regina stand in the venue.

Why: Sportello is Barbara Lynch’s idea of a Brighams-style lunch counter, only with perfectly made gnocchi and papardelle and an exceptional porchetta starter. Some people hate the backless stools, bolted as they are to the ground, making them more stylish than accommodating. But I love the sleek design, the quirky wine list, and the fact that it’s open Mon.-Sat., 7am – 10pm (takeout is available until 7pm, if you want to try a pre-show picnic on the steps of the ICA).

Lucky’s Lounge is fun and retro and does nice sidecar and a very respectable take on fried chicken and waffles. What more could you want? How about a sign to help you find the place? Here’s a hint: it’s at the corner of Congress and A St.

Persephone* is one an all-around Boston fave, and my go-to spot when I miss the food in San Francisco. Fresh ingredients, many locally sourced, cooked with skill and a light enough hand to let the actual flavors shine through. Hate to contemplate how rare that can be in Boston. Also, the bar menu is solid (don’t miss the gremolata-spiked fries) and affordable, with everything (including the squid salad, the burger, and homemade bacon and sea salt pretzel) priced at just $5 from 4-6pm daily.

Now, as both of the above choices are a bit of a schlep (15 minutes on foot, 3 by car), I’ll give a shout-out to the above-average-but-nothing-to-write-home-about slices at the Pizzeria Regina stand in the pavilion. It’s always nice to have an inside option if you’re running late.

Note: I left out two restaurants of note, which you might want to consider if the above options don’t grab you: Aura at the nearby Seaport Hotel boasts chef Rachel Klein’s inspired fusion fare, but has a slightly more formal feel than I tend to want before an outdoor concert. And the Barking Crab is my favorite waterfront spot to grab a beer and some fried calamari, but the food is too spotty for a full dinner.

* Confession: I’m embarrassed to admit that the original version of this post did not include Persephone, for no reason other than my own stupidity. Thanks to Alison Arnett for pointing it out!

Where to eat near Fenway

9 Jul

I love replying to “Where Should I Eat?” requests. Stephanie asked about restaurants near Fenway and some other summer venues. Great idea. Let me start with Fenway…more to come tomorrow:

Venue: Fenway ParkPicture of Fenway Park

Eat Here: Eastern Standard, Uburger, and La Verdad

Why: Eastern Standard is big and bustling, open all day, and great at accommodating crowds. It has a top-notch bar, solid brasserie food, and a late-night menu that runs through midnight on weekdays, 1am on weekends.

Uburger is Boston’s answer to the West Coast’s In n’ Out Burger, and your best bet if you have kids in tow. The burgers are fresh, with beef ground in house daily (that’s a serious plus, given the perils of industrial ground beef), and they even batter their own onion rings (however, to be truthful, the best overall ring is found here, on Cape Cod). Even the veggie burgers are tasty.

La Verdad, Ken Oringer’s Mexican joint, has the best tacos in town, on account of the homemade tortillas—great for a quick bite before or after a game (the take-out taqueria is open until 1am weekdays, 2am weekends). Meanwhile, if you have time to kill, head to the sit-down restaurant for a taco plato, tamales, chilaquiles (fancy nachos), and so many tequila varieties, you’ll be hitting more shots than Dustin Pedroia. Heh. That’s what they call them, right? Shots?