Saturday, April 30, 2011

51 Lincoln, Newton Highlands, Newton

Off Menu: Tagliatelle served with Fresh Lobster meat,
and Fiddlehead Ferns in a Prosecco sauce
There was a time when I spent a fair amount of time in the Newton Highlands area.  It is a beautiful village in Newton, full of adorable shops, cute bakeries, and gorgeous homes.  Much of my time while there however was spent in the much loved O'Hara's, a truly wonderful Irish pub.  Often I would pass by 51 Lincoln, opened about 4 1/2 years ago, and wonder.  Chic and clean looking from the outside -it appeared to be a lovely little restaurant, but often falling into the minority of the group I dined with, I didn't have the opportunity to experience it myself.  You can imagine my delight when I received an invitation to dine at 51 Lincoln and try out their spring menu. 

Out of the cold, the wind and the rain, myself and three other bloggers (MichelleJen and Lisa) emerged into the warm welcome of 51 Lincoln.  Once seated, we were greeted by Miguel Escobar, their Sommelier, who assisted in serving us wine for the evening.  We had the choice between Riesling, a light, often sweet, slightly effervescent white wine, and a medium bodied, fruity Bordeaux.  I selected the Bordeaux and was pleased with its versatility to the different dishes which we were served over the course of the evening. 

House cured head cheese
51 Lincoln boasts a true commitment to local, seasonal food, even installing a roof deck garden on their building, and partnering with local farmers, as well as a kind and knowledgeable staff.  Our server for the evening was amazingly helpful and knowledgeable of the menu, offering a detailed yet approachable description of each menu item when requested.  We were also greeted by  Chef De Cuisine Max Burns, who executed our meal for the evening, and ushered us through courses with ease. 

We started our meal with a charcuterie and cheese plate featuring house cured meats and locally sourced cheeses.  We were treated to October's Pork Salami, Maxwell's Head Cheese, and a black pepper Pork Jowel, paired with a beautiful blue cheese and a French goat cheese.  Though I don't normally mention the bread- this plate was served with crisped, buttered and warm crostini that I was completely addicted to. This was my first experience with Head Cheese and I found this to be light, smokey, salty and almost sweet in taste.  Its form, a thin slice, melted on the tongue.  The salami had been cured in October, and its depth of flavor was evident. Fennel shown through against the fatty meat, and when paired with a pickled onion the cleanliness of the meat was apparent.  The black pepper pork jowel was also delicious, a fair amount of spice against the indulgent cut, however I think that the salami might have shown it up just a bit.  Over all though these three meats were beautiful offerings of a house run curing, and made me want to continue my exploration.

We moved on, rather reluctantly, to our appetizer course, a dazzling array of their menu featuring a Caesar salad, pan seared watermelon steak (!), Tuna Tartar, and we were also treated to their own Rigatoni Bolognese.  We leaped for the watermelon steak first. Well touted before its arrival at our table, we learned that it is the creation of Executive Chef, and owner, Jeffrey Fournier and is a preparation like no other.  Watermelon is soaked in Sherry for three days, it is then roasted for three hours so it develops a char to the outside.  This is then pan seared and served with an Eggplant Chicharron.  Chicharron, in its normal definition, is pork rind, meant to add texture and flavor to a dish.  Here, in its vegetarian state, it had a beautiful charred flavor to it.  The watermelon, when tasted on it's own had a texture of Ahi Tuna, but a unique flavor.  Sherry was present, but not in the sharp form you might anticipate with soaked watermelon, it was mellow, lending sweetness, but not over powering.  The char was present, but again, its imparted flavor slight.  When paired with the Chicharron, this char came out further, and the result was meat like- as though you were eating a rare steak.  The final twist was with a French Feta which lent that wonderful saltiness that you love to taste in a good steak.  

My second favorite of this round was the Tuna Tartar- a hearty preparation of Yellow Fin Tuna enhanced with cilantro, citrus, red onion and chili oil and served with house made salty potato chips.  I loved this dish.  The tuna was perfectly prepared, clean and meaty, with just the right amount of seasoning, further enhanced when eaten with one of the chips, its salt pulling out more of the flavor.  Now, the menu claimed that this was made with lime juice- but I swear I tasted orange...and it was a beautiful harmony.  

When I saw the Caesar Salad I can't say excitement was my first emotion- sure I love salad but with everything else in front of us- could it really compete?  I was wrong to doubt the almighty Caesar.  Romaine lettuce, simply dressed in house made dressing, sardine's artfully displayed pulling in the beauty of the Mediterranean.  The final piece to this salad was Fiore di Nonno Burrata cheese placed on a crouton.  Simple, elegant, and amazing.  

The Rigatoni Bolognese was another well executed dish.  One of the things that I love about a good Bolognese is how simple it is, but how deep the flavors layer.  In it's truest form Bolognese is a brown sauce made basically from meat and stock.  51 Lincoln uses this premise, adding only a hint of tomato for the acid, and adding a variety of meats to increase the depth of flavor.  This was one of the best Bologneses I've had.

It seemed impossible that we had entrees coming to us, but we did.  I chose the Long Island Duck Breast, cooked Medium Rare, and served with a parsnip and potato puree, sauteed chard and a rhubarb Bordelaise.  The duck, in a word, was phenomenal.  Perfectly cooked, the meat was tender, moist and flavorful and the external skin had been crisped to perfection and lightly salted, resulting in an experience that played with the taste buds rather than overwhelming them.  When dipped into the Bordelaise (a wine and stock based sauce) the sweetness of the sauce pulled out the sweetness of the meat and the result was fantastic.  Nearing fullness- I wanted to stop eating.  I cleaned my plate of the duck.  I felt that the chard, sauteed to a wonderful slightly crisp texture was a good accompaniment for the rich bird, though the highly pureed potatoes and parsnip were a bit texture lacking for me.  

We ended our meal with a variety of desserts, none of which I had room for, but all delicious enough that my fork wandered towards them time and again.  "Where's The Cake Lebowski" was a decadent white Kahlua Cake, layered with Kahlua enhanced cream and coconut and then showered with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.  The Mexican Chocolate Spiced Terrine, served with fresh orange segments and home made orange ice cream was far beyond "good".  I had to move it to the other side of the table to keep from eating the entire portion-in one bite.  The texture of the Terrine, almost pudding like, was the perfect vehicle for the deep chocolate and orange flavor combination, all wonderfully enhanced by a light sprinkle of salt across the top.  Finally they also served us their own homemade frozen custards and sorbets- Honey Lavender, Chocolate Walnut Espresso, Cinnamon Sorbet and Cranberry Sorbet.  Though I spent far too much time with the cake and the Terrine, these were each special in their own way, and are worth ordering far beyond my diligence here.

51 Lincoln beyond exceeded my expectations.  Each course, each plate, had unique twists and turns, but more importantly each was prepared with exceptional care, and excellence.  It was clear that the basic principles of cooking were regarded highly and served as a perfect jumping off point for their more creative touches. 

I was brought in to 51 Lincoln as part of a media dinner, however, as I watched the patrons around us it was clear that our experience, though more bountiful than the average table, was no better than others.  Every table was greeted with warm hospitality, and politeness.  Every diner seemed to savor each bite of food, and cherish ever flavor.  Every patron was having an enjoyable time, and 51 Lincoln played the perfect host.   I will return to 51 Lincoln- as soon as I possibly can.  

Please note- the wines enjoyed throughout our meal were:
2006 SELBACH Bernkasteler Kurustlay, Mosel Germany (Riesling)
2009 CHATEAU du PIN Bordeaux, France (Merlot)       

Friday, April 29, 2011

Modern Pastry, North End, Boston

It was a few years ago that I realized the power of the pen.  Rankled by a terrible experience at the "beloved" Mike's Pastry, I used this blog as an outlet for my anger.  I took pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to key board and I vented.  I ranted, I raved, I inferred, I implied, I down right blamed.  I lofted my voice high and stood on my soap box to alert the masses to the terrible experience I had at Mike's.  Today, I stand by my decision, however my actions made it necessary for my family and I to find another supplier for our Italian Pastry obsession.  It didn't take long, or much hardship, to find that new place.  The same day as my mistreatment at Mike's, I had picked up some Sfogliatella, a favorite of my mother's, for breakfast.  They were fresh, crisp and ultimately better than Mike's, and so we began frequenting Modern for all of our Italian Pastry needs.

Easter, in our house, is celebrated not with chocolate bunnies or jelly beans.  Rather it is exalted with Italian delicacies.  This year, we made the annual trek to Modern and purchased the standard Sfogliatella, a Ricotta Pie, and a few of their Rum Soaked Baba's.

Sfogliatella are a unique beast.  Often confused with a Lobster Tail pastry, they couldn't be more different.  Their crust is flaky and crisp, a bite rewards you with a satisfying crunch giving way to a flavorful dough, deceivingly light in texture.  You might be able to kid yourself that it isn't such an indulgence, but be sure, those light, crisp layers of dough are separated with the almighty butter.  Any thoughts of lightness however are immediately done away with once you reach the filling inside this clam shell shaped crust. Inside exists a dense filling made of mix of yellow cream with semolina to thicken it, and flavored with citrus and cinnamon.  It is thick and rich but beautifully flavored making it rather addictive. 

Ricotta pie is my all time favorite.  Ricotta cheese is just such a wonderful, versatile and clean tasting cheese.  It's flavor is light enough to adapt to both savory and sweet uses, and Ricotta Pie is one of its shining moments.  Utterly simplistic in its form, Ricotta Pie is basically sweetened Ricotta Cheese, baked between two sheets of Pasta Frolla pastry dough- an incredibly straightforward dough of flour, butter, and egg yolks.  The result is a golden yellow crust, soft to the fork but with hints of citrus here at Modern, that gives way to the very dense filling.  Lets face it, as great as the crust is, we're here for the filling, and that ricotta is perfectly sweetened -just enough to feel dessert like, but not so much that beauty of the fresh ricotta is lost. This one goes down for the books.

Rum soaked Baba's (or as we call them- Baba Rum's) are one of my families traditions.  Light sponge cake is doused with rum, and filled with custard finally topped with a cherry.  The sponge cake maintains its almost grainy texture, though absorbs the bounty of the rum, and then with each bite, fades into the delicate custard.  

Modern is well known throughout Boston as making some of the freshest pastries possible.  As a testament, the Sfogliatella that we purchased had just come out of the oven, and were almost too hot to handle.  It just doesn't get much better than that.

Modern is no second place to any other bakery on Hanover Street.  Their pastries are of the highest quality, their stock of Italian specialty products is extensive and their staff patient and helpful.     

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Give Away Time: Sibling Rivalry via Eversave Boston!

Siblings...they really are the best aren't they? This past weekend we celebrated my sisters birthday (the number of which I won't say) and, as usual, we spent a fair amount of dinner reminiscing.  Do you all do this?  Once all of the catching up is complete, and plans are made, a stroll down memory lane always seems in order.  Of course, more often than not this includes a look at the silly things that we used to do to each other as kids (countless leaves and twigs were consumed), our memories of watching the rather attractive high school boy who used to mow our lawn in the summer months, and the hilarious stories of the times we worked together scooping ice cream.  These stories, our memories of sharing our lives together, are hysterical to us, though I'm sure that any guests who dine with us, or share these times with us in any capacity, feel truly confused or left out.  Honestly though- isn't that the best part of family?  Remembering times that friends weren't present for, and reminiscing about parts of our lives unique to our childhood homes?  There is a restaurant in the South End of Boston that tries to encapsulate this very idea.

Photo Cred- Eversave Boston
Run brothers, Chefs David and Bob Kinkead, Sibling Rivalry creates a menu celebrating all of the joys and hardships of siblings- the competitive nature that forces us to be the very best that we can be.  The menu duels through ingredients, pitting brother against brother, creating dishes that will be appealing and delicious to their patrons.  The beauty here is that the guests of Sibling Rivalry get to savor the sweet benefits of their rivalry.  

Last summer I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon at Sibling Rivalry and greatly enjoyed the dishes before me- ever since I have been wanting to go back to enjoy the full experience.  Today, Eversave Boston is offering one heck of a sweet deal- $20.00 for $40.00 worth of food at Sibling Rivalry-which alone is a pretty good deal!!  However, they are making it even sweeter by offering one reader of A Boston Food Diary a free pass at this deal- meaning- one reader will win a $40.00 gift certificate for Sibling Rivalry!  That sounds pretty fantastic to me!

To enter- please leave a comment below with your favorite childhood memory (sibling related if possible) and for extra points please tweet "I want to win today’s Save to Sibling Rivalry from @EversaveBOS and @BostonFoodDiary!" OR leave the same on my facebook wall!  We'll run this contest from today until Monday at noon- so get your entries in!

Also- if you'd like to purchase this deal for yourself, a friend or, um, a sibling please use the links below:

Eversave Boston –

Eversave Boston Facebook –
Eversave Boston Twitter –

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spicy and Sweet: Apricot Pistachio Crusted Pork Loin

Whenever a holiday comes up, obviously there is much planning to be done.  There are decisions to be made on exactly what will be served, how it will be prepared and what will go with it.  It probably goes without saying that I insert myself into the middle, and often completely take it over an a pretty regular basis.  However, much to my mother's chagrin, I rarely decide on what exactly I want to make for the holiday until just before the day, which makes it difficult for those advance planners in the family.  Unfortunately, for this just past Easter, I caused the same issues.  We decided on pork loin some weeks ago- but in terms of how I wanted to prepare it- well- I was dragging my feet. 

One of the things that I noticed a couple of weeks ago at Taste of the Nation was that our local chefs appear to be using Pistachio's more this year.  These nutty little gems have taken the back seat for years compared to their counterparts in the almond, walnut and peanut, so I was thrilled to see that this year they seem to be standing on their own.  I decided to try my own hand at them and use them as part of a crust for the Easter Pork Loin.  I began to picture orange flavor with the pistachios and maybe something spicy.  I began by marinating the loin in orange juice, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper for about 24 hours.  Then I was off to the grocery store!

I had been imagining orange marmalade for the base of the crust I was going to prepare for the pork, but somehow my local store was out- so I opted for Apricot Jam instead, and then also picked up an orange, and Thai Chili Peppers.  Thai Chili Peppers are, by site alone, adorable.  They are tiny green peppers, much smaller than your average Serrano or Jalapeno, and a whole lot hotter.  

Back at home I finely chopped 7-8 cloves of garlic, a handful of parsley and two of the Thai Chilies and stirred this into 1/2 cup of the Apricot Jam, the zest of one orange, salt, and 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped roasted and unsalted pistachios.  The result was a very chunky crust/glaze- thick and gooey- which had nice distribution for sweet to not sweet.  I will say that this was pretty spicy-so if you're looking for something less powerful, only use one Tai Chili, or a milder pepper.

When we were ready to put the pork in the oven to begin its long cooking process, I quartered three onions and placed them in the bottom of a roasting pan, placed the pork on top of these, fat side up, and then liberally spread the crust on top, careful to make sure that every centimeter of the meat was covered.  We popped the meat into the oven (350 for an hour or so).  

As the meat cooked amazing smells began to waft from the kitchen- the onions gently roasting, the pork saturated in orange juice, and the flavors of the crust all mingled together and filled the rooms with hunger inducing smells.  The crust did brown as it cooked, a product of the sugar in the jam.

When the thermometer finally read 170 degrees, we pulled the loin from the oven and surveyed its beauty.  I let it rest and then finally cut into it.  The crust did fall off a bit as I sliced, but it was easy enough to just scoop those bits back on to the slices and enjoy.  

Now, I'm a pretty tough critic- especially of my own food- but this was pretty fantastic.  The pork had a light orange flavor to it- not overpowering at all, but just a hint of citrus to offset the dense flavor of the pork itself.  The crust though was awesome.  Each bite began with a slow sweetness, blended into the wonderful garlic and orange and ended with real heat.  The pistachios, often an overpowering flavor, was light compared to the other ingredients, and accentuated the dish with its unique crunch for texture variation.  I was really pleased with the levels of flavor present, each one held its own, and then receded as the next took it's place.  

Obviously I love spice and heat, but I do tire often of regulating heat to typical dishes.  This crust played with heat while offering plenty of other flavors.  The result was easy to enjoy without your mouth ever feeling on fire, and still able to enjoy each ingredient to its fullest.    

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bin 26 Enoteca, Beacon Hill, Boston

I love when a restaurant exceeds my expectations.  I used to dine at Bin 26 Enoteca on Charles Street in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood pretty frequently.  However, after having a few disappointing entrees, I started heading to other Italian eateries to satisfy my cravings.  This weekend though my sister was in town and chose Bin 26 as her birthday dinner location, I had some concerns, but was intrigued to return after a multi year hiatus. 

Bin 26 calls to mind the traditional Enoteca's of Italy.  Basic terms translates these Italian stores into wine purveyors where one is able to taste their wine before purchasing.  Bin 26 calls similar practices to mind by offering their menu as a series of small plates etc that can be shared as one tastes wines.  Their "by the glass" menu is large, and patrons can order different size glasses to allow them to taste just a little of a new wine, or indulge in a larger pour of a favorite. 

We opted, between the four of us, to share several plates of food, some from their smaller plate menu, and two entrees to really taste a wide sampling of the menu.  We selected the Saffron Risotto Balls, the Baked Eggplant Parmesan, the Mushroom and Fontina Cheese Bruschetta , and the Buffalo Mozzarella Wrapped in Crispy Speck as our small plates, and then chose the Scallops over Cannelloni Beans with an Arugula Lime Dressing, and the Beet Spaghetti served with Shrimp as the entrees to share.  

The Bin 26 Saffron Risotto Balls are also known as arancini- those delightful golf ball shaped orbs of creamy risotto, stuffed with cheese, and then deep fried to a golden crisp. Bin 26's boasted the presence of that sunny spice Saffron, and while the risotto did have a yellow tinge from it's use, I did not taste its sweetness in the balls.  I also, however, noted that overall these arancini were under seasoned pretty substantially, so I wondered if the saffron was just lost in the creaminess of the other ingredients.  Despite the under seasoning however, the risotto was well cooked, the internal cheese melted and gooey and the outside crisp from frying was perfection.  Those three elements are really what make arancini textural perfection!

I sampled the Sauteed Mushroom and Garlic  with Fontina Cheese Bruschetta next, and this quickly became my favorite dish of the night.  The mushrooms, tender and well seasoned paired with the perfectly melted mild Fontina.  Fontina is one of my favorite cheeses because of its soft texture and its salty yet creamy flavor.  Once melted it turns everything just a bit more decadent.  Paired with the mushrooms, the garlic and just a touch of parsley this was a wonderful take on bruschetta.

Next up was the Baked Eggplant Parmesan which, despite the beautifully melted mozzarella cheese smothering the top of the artful stack of well cooked eggplant, was again, slightly under seasoned.  The natural earthy flavor of the eggplant drowned against the acidic tomato sauce, rich cheese and fresh basil leaves.  

The Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese wrapped in Crispy Speck and served with grilled vegetables was the last of our small plates.  Though the Speck, a type of ham flavored with juniper berries, wasn't crisp, it did form a lovely shell around the slightly smoky cheese.  The flavors together, and then especially when combined with the charred vegetables, paired perfectly and made for a delicious snack.

Soon after our sharing plates were cleared the two entrees were brought to the table.  First up was the Beet Spaghetti whose name had fooled our whole table into thinking that the spaghetti, it self, would be beet instead of just spaghetti served with slivers of beets.  However, the dish, paired with fresh shrimp was tossed in a creamy sauce and was absolutely delicious.  The beets were naturally sweet, and broke up the monotony of the simple pasta.  The cream sauce a perfect pairing, and tied in the shrimp perfectly.  

I turned my attention to scallops next, served over a puree of Cannelloni beans, and topped with a mess of arugula.  The Scallops were well cooked, though over salted, but worked nicely when paired with the peppery arugula.  I didn't detect much lime flavor, but also didn't miss it while I enjoyed the dish.  I did enjoy the puree of Cannelloni beans very much.  There is something about a well executed bean puree that is just perfection to me.  Earthy tasting, but with creamy undertones, they satisfy the need for decadence without packing in unneeded calories.  

Despite a few seasoning mishaps, I was really pleased with the quality of the items that we sampled.  Each dish was well presented, each had unique touches and each contained fresh, clean ingredients. 

With execution like we saw this weekend, and an incredible wine list- I am happy to add Bin 26 back to my rotation of dining spots.      

Bin 26 Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Graeter's Ice Cream- a Cincinnati Treasure!

Some of you may not be aware of my very first career.  It was, as may be expected, as an ice cream scooper at the local ice cream place in my home town.  Now this place wasn't your typical place to enjoy ice cream.  No it was quite literally, a stand- made out of an old barn complete with a silo- where windows had been cut out and the workers would sling over sized cups, cones, and sundaes through these little openings at rapid pace during the hot days. We were all (basically) high school kids who worked there, trying to save up for a car, or college, or whatever struck our fancy, and so we gathered each day, to spend the glorious summer months trapped behind flimsy screen windows.  We would perfect our scoops to overflow the cups. We would sing badly and loudly to the radio that was a permanent fixture.  We would laugh at the corny jokes our customers would tell ("Would you like nuts on that?" "No I'm nuts enough") all for the hope of a $.50 tip once the order was complete.  We would wow these same customers by remembering their entire families order, and charm them by granting their request for extra hot fudge.  We would remember which flavors were too soft to be able to make a perfect cone (though customers never believed us) and we'd perfect the art of swirling soft frozen yogurt onto the side of a soda cup for the calorie conscious consumer who desperately wanted an ice cream float.  We would bark at each other, make fun of our customers, and in general- have a grand old time in the stand creating friendships that withstood the test of time.  Make no mistake- it was THE place to work in my town, and I was a proud member of their work force.  

Now, as the sun begins to warm and the trees are budding what will be their summer shade leaves, my thoughts turn again to my time surrounded by ice cream.  In an event of perfect timing, earlier this week I accepted an invitation from Jen, the genius behind Beantown Baker, to try out 6 flavors of Graeter's Ice Cream that had been sent to her.  Graeter's is a Cincinnati institution, a place where locals, when they return home, have to hit and often regale others with their tales of fantastic ice cream.  They boast making their product in small batches to ensure quality, and using only the best ingredients.  We gathered on a chilly, rainy evening, just five of us ladies- Aimee, Amanda, Renee and of course Jen to delve into the ice cream and treat ourselves to some sundaes as well.  Graeter's had generously sent Jen 6 pints- Vanilla, Strawberry, Caramel, Mocha Chip, Mint Chip and Black Raspberry Chip.  

We began our exploration of Graeter's with the tried and true- Vanilla.  Opening the container the delicate creaminess was apparent simply at sight and pits of vanilla bean suspended in the frozen treat promised good flavor.  I was actually a bit let down-while it was rich and decadent, the vanilla did not have the strong flavor I was hoping and so I had my small taste and was ready to move on.  However, for all that as lacking in the vanilla- the Strawberry more than made up for it.  Big pieces of sweet tart strawberries showed off their bright red hue in the stained pink ice cream.  Their flavor was strong and perfect letting me know that very fresh strawberries had been used.  I must say- I am not a regular fan of strawberry, always opting for the more exotic flavors, but this was a flavor I would gladly sit down to a whole bowl of!  Next up was the Mocha Chip, the base providing that wonderful strong coffee flavor, its bitterness offset perfectly by the sweet ribbons of chocolate chips.  Mint Chip was our next try- again another perfect pairing of just enough mint, with it's cool refreshment offset by those same ribbons of sweet chocolate.  Finally we turned our attention to the highly acclaimed Black Raspberry Chip- a flavor that our native Cincinnati pal Jen proclaimed to be her favorite.  It was easy to see why, the same perfect balance of flavor, sweet tart berries enhanced by the decadence of dark chocolate- I couldn't find a thing wrong with this flavor-aside of course that they only sent a pint and I was trying to be polite to the rest of the girls and not hog it.  I tried...

I think it is safe to say that Cincinnati has a real treasure in Graeter's, and luckily they can ship their luscious ice creams anywhere in the US for your enjoyment.  For more information please check out their website.  Also- the lovely Jen is hosting a Graeter's give away- check out her site for details!      

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar, Back Bay, Boston

Boston is known for many things, being ultra trendy is not one of them.  There are, of course, spots around town that are chic, that push the limits, however these are exceptions rather than rules.  I have heard the buzz about Lolita's Cocina and Tequila Bar since it opened a couple months back, but when I walked through their doors a few nights ago, I was completely unprepared for the scene that quickly unfolded before my eyes.  The hostess greeted us and took our name for a table, entering the information on the ultra hip iPad, and then alerted us to the two hour wait we'd endure.  Apparently, everyone knows that Lolita is the place to be seen...

When faced with a two hour wait at a restaurant, I think there is no better idea of what to do with the extra time then head to the bar and savor a cocktail or two.  Luckily, Lolita has two bars, and so my friends and I settled in to explore their cocktail menu, and enjoy the evening.  Now- I don't often spend much time on drinks, mainly because I am much more of a wine girl, but when you're in a Mexican style restaurant- can you really escape without one of their fun concoctions?  I think not.  I started my evening off with the Diablo -a mix of fruit juices, a Serrano pepper and tequila served in a spice rimmed glass.  While I didn't get too much heat from the drink itself, and most of the rim was pepper and not overly spicy, I enjoyed the idea behind this.  The fruit juices- blood orange, pineapple and strawberry were pleasantly sweet, and countered the pungent flavor of the tequila well.  Just after we moved on to our second drinks of the evening, our beeper rang and we were seated in just about an hour and a half.  With good company- that time flew by.

Lolita's definitely goes for the wow factor with their red tinged room and lounge atmosphere, right down to the amuse bouche served at the table.  Just after we were seated our waitress arrived carrying a dry ice smoking bowl of frozen grapefruit that she doused in tequila before checking our drinks and offering water.  A fun, liquor filled starter seemed like the right way to start off the dining portion of the evening to me.  I loved the combination here- the icy cold fruit, sweet tart by its nature paired with the unmistakable flavor of tequila- it was a very unique treat.  Several moments later, after it was thoroughly enjoyed and the smoke had died down, the remains were whisked away and a basket of warm tortilla chips were placed in front of us with a red salsa, smokey with chipotle peppers, a mild queso, and a salsa verde- chunky and acidic with just a touch of heat.  Then, just as we began to dig into the chips and salsa, our waitress returned with a bottle of Habenero Mango puree-which was sweet and spicy-perfectly flavored and absolutely delicious.  

We ordered a side of their classic Guacamole.  Now, if you've been reading A Boston Food Diary for any length of time- you might realise I'm a bit of a guacamole snob.  I'll eat basically any of it (I'm obsessed), but I have very strong and loud opinions when it isn't up to par.  Lolita's was good.  It wasn't fantastic, but it was good.  Obviously fresh avocados, good flavor, though a little overly acidic, and could have used a bit more cilantro etc.  Overall though the creamy deliciousness of the natural avocado was there, shining in its glory.

I chose the pulled pork tacos for my entree, billed as seared crispy and served with salsa verde. They were served additionally with pickled onions.  The pork was well flavored, though not especially crispy as advertised.  The lack of crispness was fine, and the fatty flavor of the pork was perfectly offset by the pickled onion and the slightly spicy salsa making for a very satisfying taco.  My only complaint here was that these tacos were served with just a single tortilla, and by my third taco, they were powerless against the liquid of the salsa and melted onto my plate in wet crumble.  

As we had filled ourselves up on chips, guacamole and dinner, we were too full for dessert, however that didn't stop Lolita's from delivering a towering pillar of green apple cotton candy sprinkled with pop rocks to our table.  It is obvious that Lolita's is all about the show, making their deliveries dramatic and their presentations fun, but they also deliver a quality product.  Is it the most authentic tasting Mexican food?  No-but it is solid, and fits a craving- if nothing more than for a very trendy night out.

It must also be noted that despite the trendiness of the place, and their drink menu, I found the prices of their food menu to be really very reasonable.  Their drinks are pricey- and so we found that each round ended up being almost as much as our entire meal.  Word to the wise- Lolita's, for all of it's show stopping "night out" appeal can be obtained on a budget-but stay away from their drinks if that's a concern. 

Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

Publick House, Brookline

There are some places that just seem to be made for groups.  They invite you in with a diverse menu full of approachable options, they offer ample seating where all can gather comfortably, and perhaps, if you're into that sort of thing, a pretty substantial beer menu.  The Publick House, in Brookline, offers all of those things.  Invoking the name of the age old public houses located throughout Britain, these drinking establishments were, and are, places for all to gather to enjoy a pint (or two) of  beer and catch up with neighbors and friends.  Wider known, these spots are often called Pubs.  However The Publick House in Brookline evokes all of these ageless traditions- offering long communal tables, a selection of European beers, and a menu of classic comfort food without any pretense.

Friday evening Jen and her husband Carlos, Katie, Aimee, Richard and I gathered at The Publick House to catch up, and enjoy some of their delicious fare.  I have been to Publick House several times- however I always order their Moules Frites, which I have been disappointed with the past few times I've been, so last night, since we were all buzzing about their veggie burger, I decided to change up my order.  Their veggie burger is a mix of carrots, zucchini, cilantro, and in a twist from the norm, green peas.  There are a whole list of customizing options that you can choose from- and I went for topping mine with blue cheese and chili aioli.  They also have a list of possible side options, and I decided to go with the side salad, especially since we were ordering their thin cut fries as an appetizer to share.

The fries that were served as an appetizer were good. They were hot, some were very crisp, some were not, but they were all well flavored and very natural tasting. They were served with a beer mustard, and a garlic aioli (though I'm not positive of that one-the beer based mustard was too fantastic). Though I normally enjoy a more universally crisp fry, these had a very homemade feel which I really liked.

Finally thigh the long awaited moment arrived and my burger was served. Looking at my plate, I was a little disappointed as it was served with French fries, as opposed to the side salad I requested. However, as disappointed as I was at the error I was far too excited to dive into the burger to complain. Now if you haven't been able to tell-I am a burger fan-I love a good red meat burger. The reviews though of this pattie made of vegetables made me want to give it a good ol'college try. I have to say-this was one of the best burgers I've had. They achieved a perfect crisp on the outside that crackled as it gave way to the dense interior. What really stood out though was the flavor combination. The cilantro gave off that wonderful fresh flavor that it's known for, but did so in a way that wasn't overpowering. The peas stole the show though-their light, sweet flavor was a perfect compliment to the rest of the patty and made it truly unique. I loved the combination of their sweetness with the pungent flavor of the liberally applied blue cheese. My own personal favorite flavor combination (of the moment) is blue cheese and spice, so the chili aioli was delicious and added great spice to the burger.

I really loved this burger. It's flavor combinations, texture appeal and my own personal additions made it hearty and satisfying both to my hunger and my cravings. Publick House has once again won my heart as a freat spot for food, and a fantastic spot to relax with friends and enjoy our time together.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Event Recap: Taste of the Nation Boston, 2011

Taste of the Nation...last year I attended full of wonder, curiosity and excitement.  Like a kid in a candy store I ran wildly from table to table, trying to taste everything at once and take photos at the same time...anyone watching me I'm sure thought I was losing my mind.  Last night, at the 23rd annual Taste of the Nation, I went in with a game plan.  I took a few laps, photographed along the way, got a vibe for who was doing what, and then dove into the food.  I felt much calmer, much saner, and left extremely full and happy.  Taste of the Nation is an incredible event, benefiting a fantastic organization, all while uniting a community of food and wine loving folks.

Over 70 chefs were present last evening cooking a variety of delicious snacks for the attendees to sample.  They ranged from the classically delicious, to the outrageous, to the strange and interesting.  There were a wide array of cupcakes, and pastries, a fair amount of sandwiches (many of the barbecue variety), a fair share of small bites, and some simply amazing creations.  My hall of famers for the year? 
  • Mela's Indian sampling - Paneer, Chicken Marsala- all of the wonderful accompaniments- I could have stood there all night!
  • Trina's Starlight Lounge for their sloppy Joe's topped with fried onion strings
  • L'Espalier for their goat cheese panna cotta, enhanced with a rhubarb foam and pistachio crumble.  This was perfection in a bite- the silky smooth nature of the panna cotta, paired with the sweet tart foam and the beautiful textural contrast of the pistachios.  While it was agreed that a large portion may be too much, the serving size presented was perfect, and this was a home run.
  • Sileni Estates Pinot Noir from Hawkes Bay, 2010 presented by Cafe Europa, LLC.  The sweet berry flavors were strong without being overpoweringly sweet, and yet it exemplified the flavors of each food I had with it.  I actually went back for a few servings of this wine. I'll be looking for it at my area wine purveyors. 
And now for the photographic highlights:

If you're interested in attending Taste of the Nation in another city, please head on over to the Taste of the Nation website for a full list of cities and dates!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easter in Boston: Brunch Options: Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro, The Beehive, Tryst

The next couple of weeks are busy ones with several holidays upon us- starting with Patriots Day (Marathon Monday), and then heading right into Passover, and then Easter.  Easter, falling on Sunday April 24, has stirred up the creativity of several area chefs and are making some tasty menus for your celebrations. 

First off- Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro will be offering the following menu between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm:

Sweet Pea Soup
Lemon Crème Fraîche, Crispy Serrano Ham, and Mint Oil
Roasted Asparagus Salad
Soft Farm Egg, Spring Dug Parsnip Purée,
Onion Confit and Bacon Lardons
Duo of Long Island Duck Charcuteries
with Traditional Accompaniments

Arugula Salad
Shaved Fennel, Ricotta Salata, Candied Hazelnuts and
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Fresh Fruit Bowl
Greek Yogurt, Native Honey and House Granola
Poached Eggs over House-cured Salmon and Toasted Brioche
with Chive Hollandaise, Roasted Potatoes, and Baby Greens
Omelet Fines Herbes
Chèvre and Roasted Mushrooms, Baby Greens and Roasted Potatoes
Brioche French Toast
Native Strawberries, Mint and Chantilly Crème Fraîche
Col. Newsome’s Kentucky Ham
Braised Red Cabbage, Pickled Ramps and Maple Mustard Glaze
Organic Scottish Salmon
New Potatoes, Leek, & Bacon Hash, and Vidalia Onion Soubise
Lentil and Farro Burger
Radish and Fennel Salad, Feta, Roasted Red Pepper and Spiced Greek Yogurt Sauce
Crispy Braised and Roasted Jameson Farm Lamb Shoulder
with Spring Dug Parsnip Purée, Roasted Asparagus and Mint Pesto
* * *
Ricotta Cake
Strawberry Jam and Crème Chantilly
Carrot Cake
Mascarpone Cream and Rum Anglaise
Lemon Curd Tart
Almond Shortbread and Raspberry Coulis
Chocolate Pot de Crème with Candied Orange and Cocoa Nibs

$39 per person with a gratuity of 20% will be added
Reservations are recommended please call 617-723-7575.

The Beehive, located in Boston's South End will be offering a special menu as well, from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, as well as having their signature live music througout the day. The festivities don't end there though- the Beehive will also be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt, and will be visited by the Easter Bunny as well!  

For reservations and further information please call 617-423-0069 or visit

Finally, Tryst in Arlington, is offering their Easter menu from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and then closing down for the remainder of the day.  Their brunch menu will be prix fixe for $20.00 per person and the menu is as follows.

*Tuna Tartare
wonton chips, ginger juice & scallion
($3 supplement)

Nutella & Banana Crepes
Breakfast Pizza
eggs, house-made sausage, herbed goat cheese & caramelized onions
Greek Style Chopped Salad
hearts or romaine, roasted peppers, pepperoncini & feta
Roasted Beets Salad
Vermont goat cheese, toasted pistachios & orange poppy seed vinaigrette
Shrimp Tacos
avocado, red onion & Aji crema

*Huevos Rancheros
2 fried eggs, beans, Monterey jack cheese, cornbread & spicy tomato sauce
add steak ($5) / add chorizo ($4)

*Eggs Benedict
house-made breakfast sausage, griddled English muffin, 2 poached eggs, crispy potatoes & hollandaise

Western Omelet
country ham, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese & crispy potatoes

Wild Mushroom Omelet
spinach, Monterey jack cheese, caramelized onions, truffle oil & crispy potatoes

Annie's French Toast
Portuguese sweet bread, orange & mascarpone

*Steak & Eggs
grilled sirloin steak, two eggs, crispy potatoes & hollandaise
($5 supplement)

*Angus Sirloin Burger
cheddar cheese & hand-cut fries
add truffle fries ($3) / add bacon ($2)

Hash & Eggs
flavor of the week
Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes

Turkey & Bacon Panini
Gruyere, slivered apple & hand-cut fries
*Tax and Gratuity not included.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling 781-641-2227.

Happy Spring Holidays all!! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marathon Monday Dining: Deuxave

The Boston Marathon- 26.2 miles of running, a test of endurance, a challenge for the body and soul.  The day of the Marathon may just be one of the best days to live in this city- for some its day of extreme physical challenge, for others its a day to cheer and encourage, and for others it is the official start to the Spring season.  I, yearly, fall into the second two categories.  Given that I abhor running (truly) I safely cheer from the sidelines and relish the day and all of its festivities.  This year, the highly acclaimed, ever delicious, Deuxave will be joining into the fun by hosting their first Marathon Monday party!

Opening at 11:00 am, Deuxave's fantastic patio will offer views of the runners in their final push, and their kitchen will be serving up some fantastic fare:

Marathon Monday Menu

Shrimp Cocktail
Jumbo shrimp, Cocktail Sauce ~ 3 each

Market Greens Salad
Equinox Farms Greens, Spring Vegetables, Aged Balsamic ~ 11

Fried Clams
Locally Dug Clams, Frites, Tartar Sauce, Cornichons ~ 15

Lobster Roll
Adam and Larry’s Scituate Lobster, Chilled Lemon Aioli, Tarragon, Buttered Bun, Frites ~ 23

Croque Monsieur
Bayonne Royal Ham, Comte Cheese, Frites, Market Greens Salad ~ 15

Deuxave Burger
Ground Sirloin, Confit Pork Shoulder, Grafton Cheddar Pickled Ramps, Frites ~ 17

French Onion Soup
Slow Caramelized Onion Soup, Beef Bone Marrow Crouton & Comté Cheese ~ 12

Tagliatelle Bolognaise
Homemade Pasta, Veal, Beef, Pancetta, & Foie Gras, Creamy Tomato Sauce, Aromatic Vegetables, Mozzarella, Basil ~ 21

Wild Mushroom Cavatelli
House Made Cavatelli with 2 Hour Egg, Wild Mushrooms, English Peas, & Pecorino ~ 20



Chocolate Souffle Cake
Valrohna Chocolate Souffle Cake with Vanilla Glace ~11

Vanilla Pineapple Entremet
Vanilla Fused Pineapple Layer Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet ~10
If you're looking for great spot to watch the Marathon, Deuxave should definitely be a strong consideration. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Boston Tree Party: Planting Trees and Growing Community

I grew up in an "apple" town.  Orchards were abundant, every fall a day was set aside for apple picking, and every spring we celebrated the blossoms.  I played town soccer, our logo was a soccer ball, shaped like an apple with a bite out of it.  We loved our apples.  Honestly, as much as I love living in the city, and consider myself a pretty well acclimated "city girl", I still sometimes miss living in an area where trees are abundant, and the simplest things in life, like a perfect apple, are still appreciated.  When I received an invitation to the Boston Tree Party Inauguration, held this weekend, I was thrilled to be a part of such a great celebration.

The Boston Tree Party is an organization formed to help introduce apple trees back into our landscape here in urban Boston.  They plan to plant 100 pairs of heirloom apple trees across Boston and throughout its communities.  Delegates from all over this area have signed up to plant a pair on their grounds, and care for these young trees as they mature.  The first two were planted on the Rose Kennedy Greenway yesterday, and over the next several weeks others will begin to pop up as well.  Delegations include, the Belmont School, Carney Hospital, Harvard University, Shape Up Sommerville, Roxbury Community College among many others.  Four years from now, our city will be brimming with delicious fruit, from all parts of our community.

As I sat in attendance during yesterdays festivities on the Greenway, and listened to the impassioned speeches from Boston Tree Party organizers and Pomologists, the true goal of the Boston Tree Party was obvious.  Sure the expected bountiful fruit will be nice, however the goal here is to enrich our community.  People and representatives from organizations all over the area were present- cheering for each other, committing their time and resources, and finding ways to help each other out. That really is the beauty of apples.  As we learned yesterday, apple trees need each other to produce fruit.  They cross pollinate, and so without other trees nearby, a tree won't bear fruit.  It is an amazing analogy for life.  Without neighbors and friends, a community in which to grow, our lives would lose such meaning- so the planting of these pairs of trees is so much more than another reminder that slow food is better, or that local food is best.  These trees will represent a need within the city to foster community, and support diversity.  

I know that I can't wait to walk through the Greenway and watch our new tree grow, and remember the spirit in which it was planted. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tickets For Charity- the place to purchase your Sox tickets this season!

It's Friday, and beyond that it's Opening Day down at Fenway!  So while strains of "Play Ball" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" can be heard all over this city, I thought I'd take a quick deviation from my normal schedule of food, food, and um, more food to alert you all to a pretty incredible organization that I hope to be working with more in the coming months.

Tickets for Charity is a Boston based organization that raises money for various organizations by bringing you the tickets to the games and concerts that you want to see.  Given what to day is, I'll start with the Red Sox.  Tickets for Charity works directly with the Sox to secure tickets for every game.  They then monitor the prices for similar tickets listed on Ace Tickets and those other popular ticketing agents, and make sure that their prices come in at the same price, or lower where possible.  The beauty of Tickets for Charity is that when you buy from them they donate 100% of the profits, less any standard processing fees, directly to the Red Sox Foundation.  The RSF then uses the money to support our community by donating to the Jimmy Fund, Dimock Community Health Centers, the Red Sox Scholars organization as well as multiple youth baseball leagues.  More information can be found here.

Tickets for Charity doesn't just work with the Sox though (for those of you who aren't completely obsessed), they also offer tickets to a variety of concerts and theatre events.  Donations from those sales are routed to the artists charity of choice.

So what sounds better, buying tickets from a "regular" agency, with the profits all going into the pockets of a shrewd business man (I'm sure they are lovely- no hard feelings) or to the deserving hands charities around the country?  As this season progresses, please look to Tickets for Charity for all the games that you want to see- and to make it easier- I'm installing a button right on the side bar of A Boston Food Diary direct to Tickets for Charity.


Please help me to support this great organization.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mother Anna's, North End, Boston

It sits like a beacon at the top of Hanover Street- welcoming all visitors to the row of Italian cuisine.  Mother Anna's has sat in their space, a watchful eye over the North End, for over 7 decades serving up Italian classics, destined to satisfy those pasta "comfort food" cravings.  On a raw, rainy evening, I made my way to Mother Anna's to catch up with some wonderful former colleagues, and warm up with some hearty Italian fare.

We started our evening with a small plate of their Antipasti, which the waiter assured us would be plenty for us to share.  He was very right in his assessment.  A bowl was delivered to our table that was piled high with greens, hard boiled eggs, steamed green beans, roasted red peppers, salami, cheese and tuna.  It was a literal mountain of food rising out of its container.  I really enjoyed the variety of ingredients included in this selection.  The sharp provolone, the flaked tuna, and of course the salami.  I did feel a little sad for the green beans which had suffered the plight of being substantially over cooked, but all in all it was a nice selection, and absolutely more than enough food for the three of us.

It may sound odd, but I have an old standby when I head out for Italian.  Sometimes, I'm just not in the mood for red sauce, and when that occurs, I often order penne, chicken and broccoli.  I like to think it's healthy (kinda).  The beauty of this dish is that every place does it a little differently.  Mother Anna's was unlike any version I've seen before.  A big steaming bowl was placed in front of me full of penne blanketed in a cheesy sauce enhanced with spears and florets of broccoli and large chunks of chicken meat.  Though this version was much more decadent than the white wine sauce version I was anticipating, however it did have a really lovely flavor.  Sharp flavors of Parmesan were blended into the buttery sauce, and brightened with just a bit of white wine.  I would have enjoyed the spears of broccoli to have been a bit less cooked as their bright green hue had been cooked out into a duller, deeper color, but all in all the dish was hearty and satisfying.  

Mother Anna's doesn't present itself to be gourmet, nor is it.  It instills a family vibe, a welcoming presence, and its food echoes this feel.  Like your Italian Grandmother who begins heckling you for being "skin and bones" from the moment you enter her home, and then subsides into a chorus of "mangia, mangia"- Mother Anna's is down home classic food meant to fill you to the brim, and then send you home with the leftovers.   

Mother Anna's on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...