Monday, June 25, 2012

New This Summer: Kayem Lean Franks!

Is there anything better than a warm evening, friends gathered, beers in hand, the crackle of a game on the radio, and the smell of charcoal lingering in the air?  There is something idyllic about such a time- the minutes seem to hang on a little longer, and the laughter seems a little sweeter...I think that one of the best things about these evenings is that the food never needs to be complicated.  Its comforting, it's easy, it's fast-it's comprised of items that maximize the time enjoying company, the weather, the time...Kayem wants to remind you of that this summer.

They have launched a brand new line of lean hot dogs that are just as quick and easy to prepare, pack a similar flavorful punch as the traditional version, and yet helps you maintain that figure for the rest of swimsuit season.  Clocking in at just 80 calories per frank, these all natural dogs are made from from healthy chicken meat and spices making them a delicious alternative to what are normally a pretty health damaging treat.  Kayem graciously sent me some samples to try out, and I was truly impressed with these hot dogs.

The night I received my packages, I immediately ran out and picked up some good, classic hot dog rolls.  I grilled up a couple of the dogs, piercing the skin as they plumped and blistered to check the internal temp- of course that's probably the worst way to check temperature but I was thrilled to see those familiar juices run out of the sphere and sizzle below.  I stuffed them into the roll, slathered them with mustard (my preferred condiment) and some spicy pickles I had made, and chowed down.  I was anticipating a less flavorful hot dog.  I was anticipating a clear indication that these were a lesser sibling to their full fat version- what I found was clear flavor, and all that was missing was the grease usually present.  I was thrilled with these hot dogs as a more than acceptable replacement for the beloved hot dog and I am excited to continue to enjoy them throughout these summer months.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lineage, Brookline

Birthday's are little bits of heaven aren't they?  When you're a kid you count down to them in minutes until you're the next age, but as you grow older the excitement starts to dim a bit...until the day actually arrives.  I'll admit it- I wasn't looking forward to this birthday-not one bit.  I was dreading so many things about it- but I have to say-since the moment I woke up this morning I have been so surrounded by love from friends and family that I can do nothing but bask in the glory of the day.  

Now as much as I was dreading the day, I was not dreading the food that I had planned for the event.  I kicked off the eating fun on Saturday night with a dinner at Lineage, located in Coolidge Corner.   The first restaurant by Beard award winner Jeremy Sewall, Lineage is a special place.  Their menu centers mainly on seafood, and creates dishes with a heavy focus on local ingredients, including lobster that is gathered by a cousin of Sewall.  It doesn't get much fresher than that.  

We began our meal with Spicy Lobster Tacos.  Petite crunchy taco shells were filled with fresh pieces of lobster meat, a mango salsa and a creamy avocado mousse creating a wonderful combination of crunch, sweet lobster and creamy avocado.  Every texture complimented the others, and the flavors were well proportioned between natural sweetness, a bit of spice and just a hint of saltiness.  I really enjoyed these as a wonderful appetite wetting start to our meal.

In a serious lobster mood I decided to go all out and get a lobster themed dish for my main entree as well.  The featured entree of the evening was gnocchi, pan seared and served in a pan sauce featuring large chunks of fresh Maine lobster, English peas, leeks and just a hint of mint.  This was an incredible dish.  The gnocchi were lighter than typical, and the accompanying sauce was fresh and full of flavor, with the sweetness of the lobster offset by the subtle flavor of mint.  The sauce was savory with the leeks and the peas added a delightful texture.  I would have licked my plate had I not been in a nice restaurant and trying to be a lady.

Lineage was a wonderful spot to kick off birthday celebrations, a place where every diner feels well taken care of, and each evening special. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Georgetown Cupcakes- Opening June 16th and Wants YOU to Help Them Celebrate!

The last few years have seen a serious surge in cupcake shops- not just in Boston but all over the US.  It really isn't a curious fad- little personal sized pieces of cake topped with a dollop of fresh icing can turn any old Tuesday into a celebration.  They are petite cakes of heaven and it serves good reason that they are a lasting trend.  This weekend a brand new shop is opening up here in our fair city, and it comes with high acclaim. 

Originally started in DC, Georgetown Cupcakes made national headlines as they starred in TLC's DC Cupcakes and are now found all over the US with locations in Maryland, New York, Los Angeles and as of June 16th, Boston.  I had the opportunity to stop in for a quick sneak peek of their cakes, and their incredibly trendy shop. 

The store is located at 83 Newbury street and bedecked in pink lighting with a chic interior it is not your average bakery.  Their menu features over 100 unique flavors, with 18 served daily on a rotating (daily and monthly) basis. Their store also features an open kitchen where customers can check out the cupcakes getting baked, frosted and decorated.
I had the opportunity try a few of their samples- a Red Velvet, a Boston Creme, Chocolate Coconut, Peanut Butter Fudge and a bite of their Salted Caramel.  Their frosting is, in a word, divine.  Rich, creamy and whipped to perfection, each was just sweet enough to satisfy that pesky tooth, but not overpoweringly so.  I was not as equally thrilled with the cake unfortunately.   I found it oddly spongy with a too distinct crumb structure.  They weren't "dry" exactly but bordered on so.  I was also disappointed to find that those cakes that were supposed to be filled with a filling (IE the Boston Creme) were not stuffed with enough filling and it was basically lost in the cake.  Overall however, I feel that the flavor combinations are truly unique- Lemon Berry, Maple, Cinnamon and Honey Banana topping that list- and their frosting is lovely and decadent.  

I urge you guys to check this new spot out for yourselves though- and to make that even easier for you- this Saturday, June 16, Georgetown Cupcakes will be giving away 1 FREE cupcake per person, any flavor available that day, all day from 12pm to 9 pm.  Stop by and check them out!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rose Wines Now Featured at Eastern Standard, Boston

Photo Credit:  Marlo Marketing and Eastern Standard
 If you're like me it's entirely possible that you have had a little bit of prejudice against Rosé wines. Of course, like all prejudices, I'm sure you've also learned that these pink wines are getting an undeserved bad wrap.

Created either as the primary product-by removing the skins of red grapes early in the process or as a by-product of the red wine process, Rosé wines are light, usually crisp and refreshing. To my palette I have found that Rosés have similar depth of flavor as the red, but without the heaviness that can accompany. This, of course, makes for a perfect summer sipper!

One of my local favorites, Eastern Standard is celebrating the season with a host of these added to their wine list. ES also has some of the best bartenders around who I know will be helpful guides in selecting which one is right for you.  So head on over, enjoy their fabulous patio, and taste test a glass....or two.

Eastern Standard’s 2012 Rosé By-the-Glass List:

2011 Chateau Commanderie de Peyrassol, Provence, ($11 glass) Often considered Eastern Standard’s signature rosé with regulars and wine aficionados eagerly awaiting its arrival each year, the Peyrassol is also available by the bottle, magnum and jeroboam. A blend of Cinseault, Syrah, and Grenache, this wine leaves a fresh strawberry and stonefruit character on the nose while a subtle creaminess fills the palate with soft acidity and an herbal finish. 

2011 Fattoria di Basciano Sangiovese Rosé, Tuscany, ($9 glass) This 100 percent Sangiovese is a more deeply colored and intense in flavor rosé wine due to the saignée technique. It is medium bodied and fresh on the palate with floral aromas and soft cherry fruit. It has a very lively character, bountiful acidity and a hint of residual sugar. 

2011 Domaine de Mourchon Séguret Rosé “Loubie,” Côtes du Rhône, ($10 glass) A Cinseault, Syrah, Grenache blend, this wine originates from a secluded valley in Côtes du Rhône. The terraced hillside vineyard is predominantly clay and grey limestone which combined with its microclimate produces a wine of truly unique terroir. Aromas of strawberries, citrus fruit and spring flowers combine with a palate that has good acidity, is refreshing and full of fruit and length. 

2011 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Rosé “Les Griottes,” Burgundy, ($11 glass) Pierre-Marie Chermette and his wife Martine are pioneers of sustainable viticulture in Beaujolais and adhere to natural winemaking principal, making wines in a truly traditional way by working with small parcels, indigenous yeasts, and acutely tended Gamay vines. Their wines are favorites in many Parisian wine bars. This Rosé is 100 percent Gamay and is fresh and delicate on the palate. 

2011 Domaine du Collotte Marsannay Rosé, Burgundy, ($12 glass) This Pinot Noir is grown on vines that were planted over sixty years ago and are tended completely by hand at this family run estate. As soon as the Pinot Noir grapes are picked and crushed, the juice is passed into stainless steel fermentation tanks allowing it to preserve its fruity character. This dry, somewhat serious rosé is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty meal like salmon or steak tartare. 

2011 Sattler Zweigelt, Burgenland ($10 glass) The Sattler family has been producing wine is Austria for four generations.  Erich Sattler, the current winemaker, attended the School of Winemaking in Krems and then the University of Agriculture in Vienna. He took over production in 1999. This wine, a 100 percent Zweigelt, is produced in the traditional saignée method; the juice is kept in contact with the skins for a short period of time and then vinified like white wine.

COST:                    Varies, see descriptions above
WHEN:                 Available May 1 – October 10, 2012
WHERE:               Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pinkberry Launches Brand New Greek Yogurt Line with Free Treats for YOU!

As the days have been getting warmer and warmer- there have been a lot of discussions about the best frozen treats around these parts.  However for those of you who don't always crave the chill, resident favorite Pinkberry is launching a brand new line of dishes featuring their own Greek Yogurt. 

These items are made with fresh (read not frozen) Greek style yogurt and range the gamut of sweet and savory dishes, breakfast style and some suited for later in the day.  To celebrate this brand new venture- Pinkberry is hosting a launch party tomorrow, June 9th, from 8 am to noon at their Harvard Square, Prudential, Newbury Street, Hingham, South Shore Plaza and Wellesley locations. 

What will these parties feature?  One completely FREE snack size Greek Yogurt item! 

There will be 6 items to choose from- their complete line of new products including their Strawberry which features a base of Greek yogurt topped with mangoes, strawberries, strawberry puree, toasted almonds and coconut, and their Cucumber which styles cucumbers, yellow and red bell pepper, sea salt, honey and chili powder all over that rich and creamy Greek yogurt.

The full line up of enticing treats can be found here, this is sure to be an awesome addition to Pinkberry's already impressive line up.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mooo, Beacon Hill, Boston

There is a certain quiet elegance that encases downtown Boston. Unlike the hustle and bustle of New York, or the laid back beauty of LA, Boston is subtle, sophisticated and yet, commanding. It is a town of strong ideals, historic culture, overwhelming pride and a pretty awesome sense of humor.  It is only logical that in the very heart of the city, a restaurant would exist that would celebrate these very ideals. 

Mooo sits in the historic XV Beacon hotel, originally built in 1903 and situated at the very crest of Beacon Hill, next door to the grandeur of the current State House.  Mooo is touted as a contemporary take on the classic steakhouse, but I believe it is so much more. Its dining room oozes of the same understated elegance of the city itself, and its private function room, a gorgeous wine cellar is steeped in the history that this city is known for.  With wine bottles salvaged from ship wrecks, and long lost vintages, it is worth a trip for the curious eye...

The ambiance of Mooo is anything but a classic steakhouse- here the dark undertones have been elevated into lighter tones, and a generally airy feel.  The often overwhelming chandeliers have been muted with large shades, making them feel cozier.  The artwork is the real statement here.  Up close and personal images of friendly cows decorate the walls, adding just a bit of scandal to this steak house.  

The staff is extremely knowledgeable of their menu, inclusive of wine lists, and after welcoming me in, balanced the perfect line of social and leaving me to investigate their flavors.

I began my meal with their Tuna Tartar.  A perfectly formed disc of large chunks of tuna, lightly tossed with chives, and then placed in a moat of citrus ginger dressing and topped with earthy micro greens was set in front of me.  Very little salt was used in this dish and that was a wonderful decision by the chef.  The tuna was a pure flavor, and when mixed with a little chive or the ginger citrus dressing variations were formed, which kept the dish interesting.  The simplicity of this rendition made it one of the best I've had-it was difficult to put my fork down.

I always have difficulty choosing which steak I want to indulge in when I visit steakhouses, however the staff at Moo made my decision simple as I selected their Painted Hills New York Sirloin.  This was a 14 oz grass and grain fed steak from the Painted Hills, a collaborative ranch out of Wheeler County in Oregon.  I paired this with their Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes and their B&B Mushrooms.

The B&B Mushrooms were button mushrooms sauteed and served in a brandy and butter sauce.  These were some of the plumpest, juiciest mushrooms I've had the pleasure of enjoying.  However, I did feel that the brandy had been applied with a bit of a light hand and it's punch of flavor wasn't felt in the side dish.  

The potatoes, on the other hand, had wonderful flavor with notes of butter and cream circulating throughout them, and perfect texture stemming from the whipping of real potatoes.  The flavor here was also pure, without the addition of too much salt, and with just a small smattering of chives on top to vary the flavor when desired.  

The steak, above all, was a piece of artwork.  Served with a bone marrow butter as a simple accompaniment, the flavor of the steak stood well on it's own. The beauty of the grass fed beef is the more delicate flavors that are found- the light hints of sun drenched grass and healthy grains.  Moo seasoned and cooked this steak beautifully, a perfect medium rare was found on the inside.  I found that the butter wasn't at all needed, though I did love its visual affect, served in a bone.  

Though I knew dessert would be overdoing it, I was talked into trying their Banana's Foster (they really had to twist my arm on that one).  An ample size boat filled with scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream with bruleed banana halves in between was set in front of me, and then, table side, the steaming hot sauce was poured over the top.  Rich scents of butter and sweet banana wafted immediately to my nose and as I dipped my spoon into a sphere of ice cream and caught some of the sauce- the flavors were bright and delicious.  I really enjoyed the bruleed bananas-their crisp top provided a lovely textural contrast to a traditional dessert.

Mooo was an absolute delight, and I must thank them for having me in to explore their menu.  Their dishes are put together with attention to details, and obvious pride in their ingredients.  They do not feel the need to add salt or seasoning where it isn't needed, but instead have faith that the ingredients they have chosen are of the highest quality.  Mooo is definitely doing steak right, and is a wonderful place to celebrate the beauty of Boston.         

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...