Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Connie's Bakery, Provincetown, MA

It would be so easy to start this post waxing poetic about Boston, or Summer in Boston, or really anything having to do with Summertime.  It would be so easy because, as the country celebrated the start to the summer months, I kicked things off here in traditional fashion- I jaunted to the Cape.  Of course, anyone from around here knows that a "jaunt" to the Cape is anything but as more often than not it includes traffic, traffic and a little bit more traffic.  And yet, this weekend, I definitely jaunted.  I boarded a boat in downtown Boston (which was nicely un congested due to everyone being on, ahem, the Cape) and an hour and a half later my friend and I reached our destination the outermost point of the Cape- Provincetown. 

Provincetown, or PTown as we lovingly refer to it 'round these parts, was one of the first stops by the Pilgrims to our great shores, first reaching it in 1620 aboard the Mayflower.  Since then PTown has welcomed people of all kind to it's beautiful shores and has offered hospitality in it's quaint village.  I had never had the opportunity to check it out previously and was thrilled to explore.  A known art community PTown is filled with art galleries, antique stores and well as some stellar food.  Obviously- I was there to indulge my appetite.  

Our first stop came highly recommended- Connie's Bakery located right on the main drag of Commercial Street.  Since we arrived at the island during what could still be considered breakfast time- I opted for an egg sandwich, and I couldn't resist their cinnamon roll. Connie's had lots of options for their egg sandwiches, from different types of bread, to choices between simple (egg and cheese), carnivorous (egg, cheese and meat), to a veggie lovers- packing that egg in with peppers, onions, spinach and mushrooms.  I went veggie style on wheat and was served a piping hot sandwich wedged between a delicate whole wheat roll bursting with seeds and hearty grains.  The encased omelet was filled to the brim with delicious sauteed vegetables and layered with melty cheese.  As someone who normally loves Tabasco on my eggs, I was thrilled that Connie's had packed so much flavor into their offering that I didn't miss it at all.  

Obviously dessert was needed for breakfast, so my friend and I tore into the cinnamon bun.  Un traditional in it's flat appearance, this bun was oozing with pure flavors of cinnamon, butter and sugar- exactly what I look for in my cinnamon buns.  The uniqueness of the bun made it truly delightful- since, as we all know the best bite of a roll is that inner section where all the flavor lives.  The flat style of Connie's offering made it easy for every bite to be like that last bite- truly delicious.

Connie's doesn't have any seating inside it's small space, but just a few steps from its doors sits a lovely beach with soft sand and view of the harbor that makes any breakfast complete.  Between the sun, the waves crashing and a delicious breakfast- we were off to a good start...  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Turner FIsheries, Westin Copley, Boston

As the temperatures increase around these parts my infatuation with seafood begins to flow off the charts. I don't know what it is but summertime just seems made for all things that live within the ocean waters. Last week I had the chance to try out the menu at beloved Turner Fisheries in downtown Boston and I couldn't have been more excited.

See the great thing about Turners is not just that they select only the freshest, often organic and sustainable, seafood to serve to their patrons but they create masterpieces around it. Simple twists on age old classics, award winning clam chowder and creative new dishes makes the menu interesting and fresh. They also have some daily specials that are both taste bud and wallet friendly.

We kicked off our evening with the Atlantic Shelf -a generous tower of fresh shellfish including clams, mussels, scallops, oysters and mammoth shrimp. Served with a delightful helping of cocktail sauce enhanced with extra horseradish, the sweet, fresh, chilled shellfish was a delight.

The evening that we dined at Turners was damp and gray and as I perused the menu I was drawn to the warming dishes most of all. The table began to rave about the milk product free Smoked Tomato Bisque served with fried basil and I knew I had to order it. A big bowl of steaming tomato soup was set in front of me, artfully served with a single leaf of fried basil balanced on top. The scent that wafted to my nose-full of natural sweetness, hearty acidity and a hint of smoke made me reach for my spoon. The soup was delicious, full of rich notes of smoke balanced with the brightness created by the acidic fruit. The true wonder here was the creamy undertones that were present, comforting and delicious, that were created without the addition of cream. This is a lactose intolerant persons dream. I cleaned my bowl, despite my desire to resist.

Still craving the comfort of broths and soups I settled on Turner's New England Bouillabaisse for my entree. Another large bowl was set in front of me, chock full of perfectly cooked seafood. Table side a small pot of tomato based broth was poured over teheran top, and with a mashed potato swirled crostini decorating the side, my dinner was complete. The dish contained a wonderful mix of flakey white fish, plump shrimp, tender calamari and tasty mussels. Every piece was well cooked and full of fresh natural flavors. The broth was light, thin and yet bursting with flavor of tomato and herbs. This was a wonderful dish for those stormy summer nights, creating an ocean oasis away from the pounding rain.

Of course dessert was next to arrive, and are choices were well varied. The menu artfully ranged from decadent chocolate to refreshing chilled treats, and one that truly intrigued me-lemon puffs. Fresh pastry puffs filled with a lemon cream, this burst of citrus flavor screamed summer dessert to me. The sweet tart flavor of the lemon created the illusion of "light" and as each little treasure seemed small on its own, this was a dessert that one could easily pretend was part of that summer diet.

Turner's has become a go to for me. The staff is welcoming and knowledgable and management is constantly seeking ways to keep their offering fresh, interesting and current. This summer Turners has a host of offerings to maximize the diners value-I urge you to check them out!

• Bar Bites & Beverages

Monday – Friday, 5-7 pm
Turner’s is now serving a special bar bites and beverages menu on weekdays from 5-7 pm. Come relax in our lounge after work with your co-workers and friends and enjoy a menu of $5 appetizers, all of which are made with fresh, sustainable seafood and the finest ingredients. The special menu will also feature a rotating selection of beers, red and white wines and a specialty cocktail.

• Monday Night Sustainable Fish
Mondays, 5-10pm
A different sustainable fish entrée featured each Monday for only $20.00!

• Wednesday Lobster Night
Wednesdays, 5-10pm
2 Lb. Lobsters for $35.00 – while supplies last.

• Thursday Neighborhood Night
Thursdays, 5-10pm
50% off your entree if you live in our neighborhood. (Back Bay or South End)

• Dollar Oyster Friday
Fridays, 5-10pm (while supplies last)
An array of East Coast oysters for $1.00 apiece.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Avon Walk Boston- 2012

Oh so many things to talk about and lately- very little time!!

I wanted to start off though by saying one great big, giant, yelling from the rooftops- THANK YOU!  Thank you to everyone who supported Jen and I through our Avon Walk journey this past weekend.  I am blown away by the support pre walk with every one's donations, both financial and baked, and the outpouring of kind words and supportive advice.  As this was my very first walk, I was shocked to find how much apart of the community I immediately felt.  During the walk itself- I again was astounded by the kindness of strangers.  All along the route people turned out from their homes, interrupting their Saturdays, to offer us water, Popsicles, candy, or anything else they felt might aid us in our journey.  Every round of applause that occurred as we trekked past, every "thank you", every car horn beep willed us on and kept us on track.  I won't lie to you and say it was easy.  The Sunday route was tough- injured feet from Saturday, high temperatures and long stretches of road made it difficult, but as I thought about the incredible strength of those women out there fighting this terrible disease, and WINNING- I put one foot in front of the other and kept my head in the game.  

The sad truth is that every three minutes- EVERY THREE MINUTES- a new diagnosis of breast cancer is found.  Every three minutes a woman hears that she is about to enter the fight of her life.  Together, here in Boston, we raised $4.8 million dollars to help aid in the research and funding of projects to help end breast cancer...I feel unbelievably blessed to be a part of finding a cure. 

So, before we return to our food chats, I need to say thank you.  Without the love and support of family, friends, and complete strangers- we wouldn't be standing here in such good spirits.

And finally, I realized an incredible thing this weekend as well.  I don't often talk to you all about my personal life- and so many of you don't know that I am a ridiculous dancer.  And by ridiculous- I mean TERRIBLE but a frequent dancer. I have about 3 "moves" that I rotate through and greatly enjoy piecing them together in different patterns- no matter what the music is.  I found that when my spirits were low, my feet were blistered and I was struggling- throwing on Pandora and getting into my awful dance moves got me through.  So if you were on the course this weekend and saw a really awful dancer on the way and didn't make fun of me - you get a great big thank you as well ;-)

Up next- many posts featuring seafood, coffees, liquor and more :-)

Monday, May 14, 2012

David Burke's Prime Steakhouse Sunday Brunch, Foxwoods

After our incredible evening at the David Burke's Prime Steakhouse at Foxwoods, my sister and I were also treated to their brunch spread the following morning...and what a spread it was!  We were both a bit stuffed still from dinner the evening previous to be able to fully enjoy it's bounty, but I was able to photograph quite a bit.

Limitless coffee, a steady round of orange juice and hot entrees, breakfast items, cold salads, meats, cheese, yogurt, granola, fresh fruits and an incredible display of desserts made up one of the most exciting brunch line ups I've seen.  Those craving savory, sweet, traditional, creative, light or heavy can find something to match their desires here.  The eggs benedict were cooked perfectly, the scrambled eggs were creamy and cheesy.  The chick pea salad was full of flavor and texuture and the french toast was a heaven of cinnamon and nutmeg goodness.  Be sure to stop by David Burke's for their Sunday brunch before you head out of Foxwoods- their selective will keep you content all the way home...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

JC100: Omlette Roulette (Rolled Omelette)

I've talked about her here before.  She is the fearless, the amazing, the wonderful- Julia Child.  She is an inspiration, not because in recent years it has become "fashionable" to know who she is, and not only because of her ability to cook or her ability to teach.  No, Julia Child is an inspiration because of her very personality.  She was a woman who didn't know the word "can't"- she put her heart and soul into everything she did, she took risks, she tried new things, she put herself out there and because of those traits she is who we all revere.  Flip the eggs in the pan, if they fall apart- they can be pieced back together.  Make up your own words and stick with them -why not?  She was every bit who she was, and made no apologies. 

I was first introduced to Julia Child in my living room as a child.  My mother and I watched her show, on our local PBS station, and were keenly aware that it was filmed not so far from our own home.  Even as a kid I knew this woman was something special.  I remember, well, being ever so impressed that this famous chef, this celebrity, would list her phone number for the world to use.  She welcomed all questions from her fans and was known to spend hours on the phone with a desperate amateur cook hoping to impress with a roasted chicken or Beouf Bourginon.  She was truly a lady, and the world suffered a big loss with her passing.

This year Julia Child would turn 100 years old.  Her publisher, the fine folks at Alfred A. Knopf who took a chance on her original publication- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is hosting a bit of a celebration, by looking at some of her most influential recipes and asking a team of bloggers from all over the United States to make them.  I was asked to participate, and with every ounce of reverence appropriate for this type of honor, I accepted.  So for the next few weeks, once a week I will post a recipe from the amazing Julia Child.

This weeks was one that often causes us home cookes trouble.  The always enjoyable, ever adaptable Omelette.  The thing with Omelettes is that they normally fall apart.  They look messy, they are overcooked or they are undercooked.  They are a simple food, but not so simple to make.  They are a dish that I always struggle with and end up with a "scramble" rather than an omelette.  However today, as I followed Julia's implicit instructions, I made a real omelette.  It was pretty, if slightly too brown, it folded correctly and it tasted delicious.  Julia - you continue to teach even from beyond.

Omelette Roulee (Rolled Omelette:

For 1 omelette, 1 to 2 servings. Time: Less than 30 seconds of cooking.

2 or 3 eggs

Big pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

1 tbsp butter

1.Beat the eggs and seasonings in [a] mixing bowl for 20 to 30 seconds until the whites and yolks are just blended.

2.Place the butter in [an omelette pan 7 inches in diameter at the bottom] and set over very high heat. As the butter melts, tilt the pan in all directions to film the sides. When you see that the foam has almost subsided in the pan and the butter is on the point of coloring (indicating it is hot enough), pour in the eggs. It is of the utmost importance in this method that the butter be of the correct temperature.

3.Let the eggs settle in the pan for 2 or 3 seconds to form a film of coagulated eggs in the bottom of the pan.

4.Grasp the handle of the pan with both hands, thumbs on top, and immediately begin jerking the pan vigorously and roughly toward you at an even, 20-degree angle over the heat, one jerk per second. It is the sharp pull of the pan toward you which throws the eggs against the far lip of the pan, then back over its bottom surface. You must have the courage to be rough or the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan. After several jerks, the eggs will begin to thicken. (A filling would go in at this point.)

5.Then increase the angle of the pan slightly, which will force the egg mass to roll over on itself with each jerk at the far lip of the pan.

6.As soon as the omelette has shaped up, hold it in the angle of the pan to brown the bottom a pale golden color, but only a second or two, for the eggs must not overcook. The center of the omelette should remain soft and creamy. If the omelette has not formed neatly, push it with the back of [a] fork.

7.Turn the omelette onto [a plate...], rub the top with a bit of butter, and serve as soon as possible.  (I topped mine with some torn parsley- I love parsley and eggs together)

Excerpt from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. 


David Burke's Prime Steakhouse, Foxwoods, CT

After our relaxing afternoon, my sister and I dressed for dinner Saturday night and found our way down to David Burke's Prime Steakhouse for dinner.  David Burke's Prime is where well renowned Chef Burke brings fun to the standard steakhouse, reinventing steakhouse classics with a flair of whimsy and creative adaptations.  The physical restaurant itself reflects this very idea with a beautiful dining room, bedecked in dark wood and then lightened with beautiful light fixtures, cow hide and white leather booths, and slightly eccentric artwork.  The overall affect with a blend of elegant and fun brought a beautiful element to the room, and one that was easy to relax in.  

After we had settled into our seats, we were greeted by our server and began to peruse the menu.  Now, walking into the evening, let it be known that my sister is not typically a steak fan.  An avid athlete her diet concentrates on foods that fuel her in the leanest way, and unfortunately steak isn't the most helpful for her purposes.  As we discussed the different cuts and temperatures and reviewed the massive offering that David Burke's has, our server stopped by to drop off warm, fresh from the oven Popovers, and to let us know that he had placed an order for their signature Caesar Salad for us. These popovers were so toasty warm, eggy on the inside and delicious.  They tasted rich and elegant, with a tangy background that led me to believe cheese was involved.  I have to say, as far as bread starters go, these reigned supreme.

Now, David Burke's takes great pride in their Caesar.  It is prepared table side and they allow the customer to tweak the dressing to their liking.  That means, for all you anchovy haters, you request none, or just a little of the paste that the restaurant offers.  We requested our dressing without any alterations, and there it was made, right in front of us and then tossed with crisp romaine lettuce, a few fresh croutons and a dose of parmesan cheese.  The result was a decadent yet refreshing Caesar Salad.  The dressing was delicious.  The base of Dijon mustard laid out a tangy start, and mixed with lemon, anchovies and a variety of other additions, the result was salty, bright and creamy all at one time. 

Steakhouses are very often known for their delectable seafood and, since we had both decided on steaks for our entrees, we decided to split the Cocktail Trio, a platter offering two enormous shrimp, 1/2  of a lobster and two oz of jumbo crab meat.  Sauces were served with this, but to be frank, they weren't needed.  The seafood was so natural, and sweet that it was hard to resist finishing off the appetizer.  

The team at David Burke's then sent over one of their signature pieces- Double Cut Maple Pepper Bacon Strips.  The title alone is impressive, the presentation even more so, and the taste, well the taste was incredible.  The bacon itself melted in the mouth despite its thick cut, and was rich with smoke and pure flavors.  The addition of the maple syrup painted on and then the sprinkle of pink pepper corns created a sweet and spicy combination that clung perfectly to the bacon.  Honestly though- it was bacon- it was amazing.  

I'll be frank with you, it was a difficult decision choosing which steak to order.  In addition to the typical offerings, David Burke's Prime Steakhouse also offers in house Himalayan Salt aged cuts.  I was able to get a peak inside their aging room and I'll explain the process later, but the general idea is that the salt reduces the moisture in the aging room and allows a greater breakdown of the proteins in the meat.  I asked the team and they all recommended the Himalayan Salt Aged steaks for our meals and so I ordered the 40 day aged Rib eye and my sister had the Bone In Sirloin prepared au poivre, crusted in peppercorns and served with a peppercorn sauce.  We were also treated to their sides of garlicky broccolini, whipped potatoes and their mushrooms and onions.  

The steaks were some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  My ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium rare, lightly seasoned and had some of the most intricate flavor I've had in a steak.  The flavors were deeper, richer and, in some respects, cleaner.  The closely monitored aging was obvious in the tender cut.  I also had the opportunity to snag a bite....or or three of my sisters Au Poivre steak.  The team had upgraded her steak to the Himalayan Salt Aged Bone In Sirloin and then had table side carved the good parts off the bone, and then poured the sauce over the top, allowing its succulence to flow down the the sides and pool to the plate below.  The result was a steak lighter in flavor than the 40 day aged, but impossibly tender and then there was the sauce.  A subtle hint of spice, a wonderful dose of brandy made the sauce absolutely incredible.  The highest praise possible- my sister loved it.  

The sides were made with just as much attention to detail as the steaks had been.  The broccolini was crisp yet tender and had been made with enough garlic to truly deserve the term "garlicky".  The whipped potatoes had been drizzled with a basil oil, and the combination of the buttery, creamy potatoes with the freshness of the herb was addicting.  Finally the mushrooms had been sauteed with onions and had taken on their subtle flavor.  The result was the earthy mushrooms combined with sweet onions- a match made in heaven.

Somehow, despite our stomachs saying that we were finished, our meal was not quite complete.  After a few moments of rest, a fluffy sphere of freshly spun cotton candy arrived table side as a "palette cleanser" with promises that dessert was on it's way.  Dessert certainly arrived.  We were treated to vanilla bean creme brulee, chocolate cake, the DB Cheese Cake Lollipop Tree, an off menu fried ice cream and finally their drunken donuts served with a trio sauces that could easily be inserted into the donuts to fill them with your choice of chocolate, strawberry or banana.  My sister declared the donuts the winner of the dessert round- their toasty warmth, their sugary exterior and the gentle flavor of nutmeg made them absolutely delectable.  The little tubes of fillings made them fun and interactive.  These were a perfect dessert after a truly decadent meal.  I was a bit more partial to the fried ice cream, the pastry chef had covered a ball of creamy vanilla ice cream with an oat granola mixture and had then fried that to crisp perfection.  It was incredible and should be added to their menu.  The cake was rich and satisfying, the creme brulee was wonderfully steeped in vanilla and the cheesecake lollipops were fun and delightful.  
There really aren't words to describe my experience at David Burke's Prime Steakhouse.  We were treated far beyond "well", but as I looked around the room, the respect and genuine hospitality that we received wasn't an anomaly.  James Olsen, the General Manager, stopped by every table throughout the evening, welcoming guests, making suggestions, and adding to the overall joviality of the evening.  Each server we spoke to was polite and fun, they seemed genuinely happy to be there, and were able to answer every inane question we asked.  

If David Burke was going for a whimsical steakhouse, he has achieved his goal, all while bringing to his patrons some of the finest steaks, seafood, sides and desserts that I've tasted in any steakhouse.  If you are travelling to Foxwoods, take a break from their games, their spa, their shopping and their other activities and dine at David Burke's Prime Steakhouse -you won't be sorry. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grand Pequot Hotel, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Connecticut

So here's the thing- I am not one who gambles.  I tend to play things on the safe side, and taking risks is something that I will only do in extreme situations.  These personality traits make me a terrible gambler.  Because of this, I have never before been to Foxwoods, a casino located jut about 2 hours outside of Boston in Connecticut. However, a few months ago I received an invitation to check out the David Burke restaurant located in the Grand Pequo Hotel at Foxwoods, and included a room for the evening, I immediately accepted.  My sister in tow, we headed to Foxwoods for a girls weekend.  

See the thing about Foxwoods, and the Grand Pequot in particular is that we spent 24 hours in the hotel and didn't step foot into a casino.  I walked into the expansive lobby of the hotel and immediately wondered if this feat would be possible.  My fears were highlighted as, after I checked in, the welcoming lady manning the check in desk wished us "Good Luck" as we walked away with out bags.  My sister and I chuckled remarking that a casino is the only hotel in the world in which you can be wished good luck at check in and not be worried.

We hightailed it up to our room and, immediately as we swung open the door, audible "whoa"s came from both of our mouths.  The view that we had of the surrounding area of Connecticut was simply breathtaking.  As far as the eye could see rolling hills, evergreen forest- and I'm pretty sure I spied a hawk flying about.  It was a sight to behold.  The room itself was pretty impressive as well.  A big king size bed, loaded with pillows led to a cute sitting area just before the massive windows.  The room was complete with a desk, two closets and an armoire hiding a flat screen TV.  The bathroom was just as impressive, much larger than anticipated with a huge amount of counter space- just perfect for two girls getting ready for an evening out.

Of course, before our evening was to kick off, we booked some spa appointments and hustled down a few floors for our massages.  The spa area also contained the gym and an indoor pool that looked like it was quite the hot spot at 3 pm.  We made a beeline however to the spa desk and were ushered into the women's locker room and given robes and slippers to complete the experience.  We had both booked 50 minute Swedish Massages and we soon entered the nirvana of a massage.  

We spent some time enjoying the rest of the spa amenities (whirlpool, sauna and steam room) and then, fully refreshed and relaxed, we returned to our room to prepare for the evening.  Saturday night we were to dine at David Burke Prime Steakhouse, and were treated to a multi course dinner.  More on that, know that the Grand Pequot at Foxwoods is a wonderful hotel, clean, organized and filled with friendly staff (and awesome DJ's) and chock full of things to do for those of us who tend not to gamble ;-).     

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bond, Langham Hotel, Boston

One of the things that I have really enjoyed about food blogging over the last few years is getting to check out places that, for whatever reason, just weren't on my radar previously.  Last week I had the opportunity to check out Bond, located in the Langham Hotel in the heart of downtown Boston.  The Langham is, on its own, a presence.  It is one of those hotels that very quietly evokes a sense of awe when entering it, it's stately and elegant nature demanding just a bit of reverence.  I was invited in to sample some new menu items at Bond, their signature lounge on site.

The Langham is set in a former bank, and so the name Bond refers to the bank notes, rather than a certain 007.  Set in the former Member's Court, the room boasts the original 20 ft ceilings and still holds the banks emblem in its floor.  Outfitted now with gleaming chandeliers, and strewn with comfortable couch like seating, it is a place to relax, enjoy a cocktail, listen to live music and nibble on some food. 

At Bond though, much like the rest of the Langham who is famous for their Chocolate Brunch, food is not nearly an afterthought.  Throughout the evening we were treated to a variety of their menu items.  We started with their Vietnamese Spring Rolls, delicate rice paper stuffed with a lovely mix of shrimp, chicken, noodles, herbs and a spicy peanut sauce.  Each roll had delicious mix of flavors from the fresh herbs to the nuttiness of the peanut sauce, and the varying textures made each bite exciting. 

Next to the table were Stracchino Cheese and Heirloom Tomatoes served simply with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.  I loved the unique twist here on a classic dish, the replacement of Stracchino for Mozzarella brought in a tanginess that paired so nicely with the acidity of the tomatoes.  When paired then with luxurious olive oil and sweet balsamic every flavor worked together.

We were then treated to large bowls of crispy fried Point Judith Calamari.  The calamari were paired with sweet chili sauce, black sesame seeds and cilantro.  I loved the Asian influence with this-the sweet and spicy chili with the unique flavor of the black sesame seeds and the freshness of the cilantro.  The calamari were nice and crisp, not over cooked and held up to the wonderful flavors of the sauce. 

In quick succession the servers then delivered beautiful baby corn that they had grilled with Espelette, Cotija Cheese, a touch of aioli and lime juice.  I have never been a big fan of baby corn- normally I avoid it.  It always seems either flavorless, or is pickled for some reason and it just becomes unappealing.  Bond however found the way to serve it.  Grilling it brought out the natural corn flavors that made it taste more like late summer corn on the cob than its normal drab state and the Mexican style accompaniments were the perfect addition.  I could have eaten the full tray of these.

When the next dish was served however made me thrilled I hadn't filled up on the other dishes.  Lobster and Chorizo Quesadilla's with Queso Blanco and sweet corn were ushered to our table without nearly the fanfare they deserved.  Little towers of crisped tortilla stuffed to the gills with large pieces of fresh lobster, the hint of spicy chorizo and creamy cheese- these were a fabulous interpretation of a quesadilla.  The lobster pieces were far bigger than I would have anticipated and made for a very satisfying small plate. 

Sweet soy and ginger chicken wings were next to the table, impressive in their own delivery, chicken lollipops were glistening with their glaze and proudly showed off thin slices of green onion and candied ginger.  The meat was succulent and well cooked, and the sweet and tangy glaze made for an amazingly delicious wing. 

We rounded out our savory tasting with a flat bread pizza topped with Great Hill Blue Cheese, grilled stone fruit, pancetta and fresh arugula.  The combination of tangy blue cheese with pancetta and arugula is one of my all time favorite combinations- the salt and the cheese and the peppery burst-it is delicious.  Bond's flat bread was crisp and chewy all at once and was a lovely base for the pizza.

As if we had room, the helpful waitstaff began setting dessert in front of us.  We were able to sample the Strawberry Rhubarb Gratin, which paired a Marscapone Cheese mousse with a strawberry rhubarb compote, mint and a black pepper sable, the Chocolate Tasting plate, which contained a smoked chocolate cake, a milk chocolate powder, white chocolate creme brulee and a Guanaja ice cream, and finally the Sticky Toffee Pudding served with brown butter ice cream and a Booker's Whiskey caramel.  Though all of the desserts were delicious, my favorite of the bunch was the Sticky Toffee Pudding.  The pudding was rich and sweet, the ice cream had that wonderful buttery flavor and the caramel complimented it with just a touch of whiskey.  The chef had added a few walnuts for texture and the end result was simply luscious. 

Throughout our evening a Sinatra style band played in the background, business men and women lounged in relaxed meetings and end of day drinks, and an air of elegance hung in the air.  Bond is a very special space in Boston, a great place to enjoy a cocktail, indulge in very tasty food, and enjoy the ambiance that surrounds you.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Joe's American Bar and Grill, Waterfront Location, Boston

I don't remember the exact point that it happened, but I know it did.  I became a food snob quite some time again.  It isn't that I wont dip into a road side shack and try local cuisine, or nosh down buffalo wings at a hole in the wall, no I started turning my nose up at chain restaurants.  I grumble and scoff when they are suggested, but lets be honest- not all chain restaurants are created equal.  There are those where rumors abound about microwave only kitchens, where meals are delivered pre cooked and frozen and most items taste purely of salt.  Here in Boston though we lucked out a bit.  We are the home to a couple of "small" chains, restaurants appearing mainly within our area that may be owned by the same company but bring the attention to detail and quality of ingredients that mimic some of the independents around town. I have found that Joe's American Bar and Grill is one of these.

Crabcake Entree -photo cred to Abby @Marlo Marketing
Last week I was invited in to Joe's Waterfront location to check them out.  Wood paneled rooms give an air of elegance, and attentive serving staff make you feel as though you're in a four star restaurant.  And then, of course, there is the food. Locations outside of the city do contain the same menu, but the two in Boston proper, the waterfront location and the one on Newbury Street do contain different, more unique dishes, with the waterfront location concentrating heavily on seafood.  

We started our meal with the Seared Ahi, thick slices of seared pepper rubbed tuna paired with Asian style cucumbers, a ginger soy sauce and wasabi.  The pepper rub on the tuna provided a gentle spice that was contrasted nicely with the salty soy sauce.  The tuna was of good quality giving the dish that beautiful luxurious feel that the raw fish tends to do.  When paired with the crisp and refreshing cucumbers it was a well put together appetizer appealing parts of the palette.  

After a very long debate I finally decided on their Swordfish entree, grilled with a ginger soy sauce and then served with steamed rice and a seasonal vegetable.  The night I was in my large steak was paired with grilled asparagus.  The fish was absolutely delicious. The ginger soy sauce was lightly applied and simply added a little bit of flavor rather than overpowering the entree.  The swordfish was well cooked, a more than generous portion and its simple preparation showcased its fresh flavor.  The asparagus contrasted its natural flavor with the smoke from grilling- one of my favorite ways to enjoy asparagus.

Joe's provides a relaxed, comfortable environment that somehow straddles the line between family friendly and a good spot to meet with friends after work.  The food is reliable and its simplicity allows everyone in your party to find something that fits their needs from the more adventurous to the classic eaters.  I have to say also that the waterfront location has one of the prettiest views of the harbor-on a warm summer night it's patio is a perfect spot to enjoy the beauty of Boston.   

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old World vs New World Wines at Market

Last week I had the tremendous pleasure of attending two wine dinners.  The first, at Harvest in Cambridge and the second was at Market by Jean Georges in the W hotel downtown.  These two events couldn't have been more different.  The first, at Harvest, showed the gracious co existence of food and wine, artful dishes paired with wine from the single winery and offered an incredible lesson in that winery and in wine making.  Market, however, pushed wine to the front of the evening, and allowed the food, as elegant and delicious as it was, to serve a simply supporting role.

We were treated to an evening hosted by manager Sean Prinz, a man who not only knew his wines, but brought an immense amount of joy to his role introducing us to each of the wines we enjoyed.  The evening concentrated on the differences between "Old World" and "New World" wines.  "Old World" of course referring to wines that are made from old vines, utilizing old vines and old practices.  These are wines that stem from century old practices in vineyards that have been handed down generation after generation. "New World", by contrast, are vineyards often found in the Americas, with wines created both from newer vines and often incorporating more "science" and technology into their process.

We began with a Chablis, the Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Vaillons 2009 vintage from Burgundy, France.  The Chablis had earthy tones, surprising for a white wine, and also had strong influences of lemon zest.  It was acidic, perhaps too acidic for my taste, but others appreciated it's overall lightness.  This was definitely a great pairing wine.  Chef de Cuisine Matthew Barros at Market served a red beet carpaccio accented with fresh ricotta cheese, black bread croutons and wasabi.  The dish itself was a wonderful combination of textures and felt incredibly rich and decadent.  The flavors were bold, and the Chablis added a nice acidity into the dish.

Our second course was served with the New World answer to the Chablis, the Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009 vintage from the Sonoma Coast. Prinz walked us through the employment of technology that was used in this wine, in contrast to the Chablis which was dry from its Oak cask aging, this Chardonnay was aged in not only Oak, but also Steel and Glass.  I have grown somewhat fond of steel aged wines, as I find that the steel tends to lend a softer, rounder feel to the wine Oak only wines can be very sharp in their delivery.  The Chardonnay had this softer feel to it and came out almost creamy tasting with notes of citrus and star fruit.  This was paired with rice cracker encrusted Ahi Tuna lightly sprinkled with a citrus chili oil emulsion.  The rice crackers crusted around the tuna was one of the better presentations I've had of tuna.  The crackers were impossibly crisp and with a full flavor that  stood on its own without overpowering the delicate and yet robust fish.  The emulsion added a very gentle heat, and a lovely onion flavor.  The Chardonnay was full bodied enough to not drown in comparison, but played a wonderful role next to the other components, a creamy relief if you will.

Throughout our meal, Prinz spent his energy trying to liven what I'll admit was a shy audience.  As our evening kicked off I suspected that he had his work cut out for him, but as he wandered between out tables, talking passionately about the wines that he had selected for the evening, how he had sought them out and the beauty that they brought to a meal, the room relaxed.  And then we got to our third wine of the evening.  As it was listed on the menu, it didn't stand out.  It was the Peter Franus Brandlin Vineyard's Zinfandel, 2008 vintage from Mt. Veeder California.  It didn't seem special, until Prinz shared it's beautiful story.  A previous vintage had been involved in what can only be a timeless love story of non other than the owner of the Peter Franus Brandlin Vineyard.  I will not do the story justice here, so I urge you to seek Prinz the next time you dine at Market (tomorrow) and ask him to share it with you.  He will bring you into his world- the world that links wine and food and love- in an instant.  The wine itself? It was a complex Zinfandel, a nose of walnuts and an acidic flavor. It's base was in blueberries and it shown through with a remarkable freshness.  It was paired with Market's slider- a tall burger presentation that was exceedingly delicious, and yet I failed to photograph it or enjoy it's own complexities as I basked in the glow of the chance encounters of love.  

As we reveled in the joviality of the evening, Prinz broke out the piece de resistance for the evening.  A highly coveted wine, no longer available in distribution here in the US, the Domaine de Marcoux, Vieilles Vignes, 2009 vintage from Rhone, France.  This classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape was spicy and full of deep, rich berry flavor.  It was decadent in its nose, and even more so on the palette, yet finished cleanly and contained enough acidity to allow it to be easily paired.  Here it was served with two delicious Black Truffle and Comte fritters, a wonderful mix of both earthy undertones and salty deliciousness.  

As we lingered over this last course, savoring our wine, and relishing the new found friends of the evening it was clear what Prinz and his staff had done.  They had shown us that other side of wine.  So often wine tastings are regarded as stuffy, as quiet events where one thoughtfully sips and appreciates.  Appreciation is key, but at Market they also show the fun, the passion, and the wondrous excitement that wine. Rumor has it that they will be conducting a few more of these wine journeys in the upcoming months- watch for them.  They aren't to be missed. 

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