Thursday, December 18, 2008

With a Last Name Like Mine, Well the Burger Better Be Good!

I'm sorry that I've been so light with my posts these days. Busy busy busy. And by the time I get around to thinking about writing something either a.) I've forgotten exactly what it was that I ate b.) I don't have any pictures or any motivation to really pull something together. Sadly, my lazy ass ways get in my way too much in my life. But anywhooo....

Well, what sort of things have I been eating lately? A lot of homemade meals for sure. With the economy as poor as it is, E and I spend our monies buying groceries that allow us to not only economize but eat well too. Since we're both food lovers, going out for meals can sometimes be costly endeavors. But cooking at home allows us to enjoy some lovely meals for a fraction of the price of dining out, plus we end up with really fantastic leftovers for lunch.

Most of the meals we've eaten have already been documented here...homemade pasta and bolognese, pork chops but this week E made a really nice chili in the crock pot.

While the chili sauce/broth didn't really thicken up as much as what I'm use to the favors were still very good. And what really brightened up the flavor was a pear and orange pepper salsa that E used to top the dish. With cheddar cheese and fresh corn bread crumbled into the bowl, this dish was delicious, comforting and filling! I could barely finish my one bowl of chili. Maybe E will share the salsa recipe with you, or maybe not. But it's a great idea. I like the kinda homey comfort food chili paired with the freshness of raw pears and peppers. Sounds odd but trust me, it was very good.

As well as we've been eating at home, we certainly have been missing our stepping out for meals. Or at least, I have on occasion! I enjoy the act of sharing a meal at a bar or a restaurant with friends. And so last night E and I met our friend J and A for dinner. We decided to meet at Eastern Standard because they had some business to conduct as well as wanted to stop in for a pre dinner cocktail. I arrived and was famished. Since I hadn't had anything to eat, I decided to hold off on a drink right away. E arrived shortly after and we went back and forth about where to go for a nice meal. While E and I had a lovely quick conversation with Garrett Harker (I really do adore that man) and A + J called over to Tommy, the head bartender of Craigie on Main, to see if they had room at the bar for four. A and J have been raving about the burger, and well, I'm always in search for a good one. It turned out Tommie had room for us and after a short cab ride over the river to Cambridge, we arrived at the new Craigie Street.

What use to be a medium sized mediocre Italian restaurant had been transformed into a lovely cozy bistro style dining room with an open kitchen complete with a "chefs table" of a counter top and bar stools at the entrance. I didn't get to see much of the dining room portion of Craigie because we beelined it over to the bar to the right of the entrance. A little, fairly dark lit space, it oozed the word "cozy". We had a bit of a wait but soon enough we got seats and were able to properly greet Tommy. A and J know Tommy well, but I only know him because of his work at Eastern Standard. He would often take care of me and E. And when he first started she called him Dennis the Menace (a term of affection). Tommy was a very good young bartender. A pro at his craft with an easy manner and a very charming smile...he's a really good guy.

We ordered four burgers off the bar menu (all of them medium rare expect for me. I tend to like my meat as rare as possible) and an order of pate to share as a starter.

The pate was lovely. It was served with small dollops of grainy mustard, minced gherkin pickle, minced shallot, salt and black peeper and a tiny salad of frisee and baby greens on the plate. We all got served good sized bread points (toasted and big!) so we could spread the pate on. I was a little cautious at first and just took a little bit in case I didn't like it. Too bad that wasn't the case! It was absolutely delicious. It was meaty, fatty and creamy. The texture was both smooth but not so smooth that you didn't think it was house made. If I could have toast always spread with this stuff, I'd probably never eat anything else ever. That pate was so good and it truly didn't need any of the other stuff on the plate. I guess the salad was there to break up the meaty fatty richness of the pate but I didn't eat any of it and didn't want it. I was fine with fat and meat pulverized and spread on my toast!

The burgers came soon after. And they were lovely to behold. The buns were so perky and the sea same seeds looked as though they had been lacquered so the bun appeared to be almost looked fake. The burger came with fried sweet potato threads and more of that frisee salad. Tommy said that the buns were made in house especially for the burgers.

Okay so first thoughts: I wasn't happy that traditional french fries weren't served with it. I also wasn't happy that we weren't offered ketchup or mustard. I also forgot to ask for bacon for my burger for which I'm sure I would have been stoned by the chef. Anyway, all that aside...

The burger was very seasoned with salt. I liked that but I could see how that might be off putting for some people. I mean, I like salt and have been known to add salt to potato chips at times so that should tell you something. The meat was very loosely packed almost to the point of falling about too easily for it to truly be a "burger". While I don't love a dense pack, I do like a burger that holds together well. The meat was almost fork tender in terms of texture. Apparently it was a mix of lamb, beef, marrow, fat. It had a very good meaty mouth feel and I liked the amount of fat they used. The taste was everything a burger should be but the texture of the patty threw me a bit. I was pretty happy with it and thought it was so delicious that I didn't need mustard or ketchup but like the pate we were served prior, at least the grainy mustard was on that plate so I'd like to offered those staples.

The fried sweet potato fries or threads were very good but not my favorite. They got very cold fast and I actually found them hard to eat. I gave most of mine to Elizabeth (who loved them!) who traded me the other half of her burger. The little salad was a nice touch and I enjoyed it as a way to break up the meatiness of eating one and a half burgers. At this point, I also order a regular coke so I could enjoy the sugary sweet carbonation against the backdrop of the burger. I get a little nostalgic when I eat burgers. It reminds me of Dad grilling burgers when I was young. And the drink of choice back then? Well, regular coke, of course!

Overall, I enjoyed the burger quite a bit. I felt that it was well made and actually worth the $19 price tag. Yes, I would go back for the burger and definitely rate it higher than the Radius burger hands down!

However, is it possibly the best burger I've ever eaten? No. Burgers serve all sorts of different purposes for me from the nostalgia of Dad grilling to my poor college student days at Mr and Mrs. Bartleys eating a triple "Clinton" burgers elbow to elbow next to my fellow starving student friend to a relax burger at brunch with friends just because I can! I think that Craigie's burger certainly has its place and is possibly one of the best in Boston for sure. But I also think it shows the caliber of Craigie (it was very thoughtfully made and well executed) and made me more hungry to try other things on their menu. I want to go back for the chef's whim menu and some of those Nova Scotia smelts (think they're better that New Castle, PA smelts?).

But what made the evening so great was being able to share the meal with E, J and A and Tommy too. I will definitely rate that evening at Craigie very highly for the company and the food. So everything combined, the evening rated a perfect 1o for sure!

And on closing, I will say I finally had a drink after my meal. Tommy mixed what I think was called a 50/50 with this beautiful Vermouth I think that was called Doylton. It was a perfect end to a lovely night out with friends and loved ones.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving, My Single Contribution

Elizabeth did all the cooking this year! I was so happy to just chop veggies and make my daring bakers cake. I did contribute one item which I will detail later.

We ordered a locally raised turkey from Savenors and had to go pick up it. So after work on Wednesday (only a half day!) E and I took my rolling suitcase over to Beacon Hill to pick up the bird. I think the key to urban living sans car is a rolling cart or suitcase of some sort, fo' sho!

We decided to make the most of our time on Beacon Hill and went to Bin 26 for a lovely romantic pre Thanksgiving Day dinner. True to form, the service was great as was the company. The chef changed and so the food, while usually quite good, was a bit too salty. Actually a lot too salty. I felt awful but I actually (me, Queen of the Salt) had to send my entree back. It came back and was pitch perfect. Yum. A lovely evening spent with my favorite person.

So Thanksgiving dinner...I had nothing to really report. The meal was very good and there certainly plenty of food. The only thing I made was the cranberry relish which is a family tradition and one of my favorite things in the world. You can use it to cover the turkey or any other part of the meal that you might not find as tasty as other things. It's a wonderful little side because this relish is still really tart. Plus it's really simple and can be left on the stove to just simmer away while everything else cooks. Try it!

1 package fresh cranberries picked over for bad ones or stems
2/3 cup oj
3 tablespoons orange zest
2/3 or less cup brown sugar (clearly the less you use, the more tart the relish)

put all of the ingredients in a pot on the stove over medium heat. as the cranberries start to heat and pop, you may turn the heat down if desired but keep cooking the relish until all the cranberries had pretty much burst and the liquid has thickened.
can be eat hot or cold.

Daring Bakers Challenge November

This month's challenge comes from:
Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe ( … he-recipe/)

And hosting this month:

I'm late in posting due to a weekend of missing internet access. Oh well. Better late, then never?

I admit that I let out a long sigh when I saw that this month’s challenge was yet another cake with buttercream frosting. I’ve made so many cakes since joining this group and well, I like cake as much as the next person but I’ve never enjoyed buttercream frosting in any form. It has a mouth feel of biting into a stick of butter for me. So to say I was a tad bit disappointed might be an understatement. But you know, I joined this group so I could bake more and learn more. And well I had done those two things so being a part of Daring Bakers is well worth mastering buttercream!

This month’s challenge was a caramel cake with a brown butter frosting. I saw that there was a homemade caramel syrup that had to be made and immediately that was where I’d tweak the recipe just a bit.

I had a new bottle of Bittermen’s Bitters that had been created just for my clothing shops. It was cleverly titled the “Sexy Freudian Slip” and had the essence of ginger, lemongrass, anise and hot peppers. What I wanted was a bitters that not only worked as something edible but also something wearable as personal scent. And did it succeed? It did! It’s a lovely earthy little perfume that is rather interesting and a bit musky and spicy. Plus it helps to make damn fine cocktails too!

So I decided to shake some drops of my “Sexy Freudian Slip” into the syrup once it cooled. Upon tasting the syrup, the flavor of the bitter really came through very nicely and I was surprised how well all those flavors went with the caramel syrup. It was quite a tasty little creation and I imagine it might be fun to use as a sauce for vanilla ice cream. It would definitely keep your guests guessing what you used to flavor the sauce!

Once the syrup was done, I moved into making the cake. I didn’t have a cake pan that I thought would be deep enough so I made two cakes instead of the instructed one. I cut down the baking time but I still think I might have overcooked the cakes a little. I considered soaking them in something to moisten them up, but personally, I felt that to do so would have been cheating a bit. However, the dry cake might have more to do with my crappy electric oven. Cakes never seem to cook well in my oven. Sadness!

Once the cakes were done, into the frosting. And here is usually when I sigh deeply and think “oh yet another buttercream.” But this recipe was different! And actually really kinda cool. Browning the butter was kinda like a fun science experiment. Who knew that butter contained so many solids? I strained the butter filtering out most of the lumpy solids but some of them did get into the frosting. The frosting was ridiculously easy and came together quickly. I took a quick swipe at the bowl mostly to test the consistency. As I started before, I hate buttercream so I wasn’t expecting to like what I was about to taste.

And what a complete shock I was in for! The frosting consistency was a bit more tender that most stiff buttercreams I’ve tasted plus browning the butter gave a really kinda complex flavor to the frosting. It was in short, freakin’ delicious! Sadly, the flavored caramel syrup taste didn’t come thru at all but the frosting was still an interesting and tasty creation. I was quite pleased with it. And definitely will be making the frosting again. Who knew that browning butter would make such a huge difference in taste?

The next day, in time for Thanksgiving dinner, I assembled the cake. I toasted coconut and pecans to put between the layers with the frosting. And began frosting my cake. The frosting was a bit firmer due to time in the fridge overnight. I had to nuke it for a couple of seconds to get it pliable. My finished product:

I think that the cake came out a little too dry as a result of my two cake solution or perhaps due to my oven. The short term eating solution? Cutting a slice of cake and pouring a bit of milk on top of it. It sounds odd but it’s really good and solves the dryness isse. Besides who am I to throw away cake?!? The frosting was kinda this amazing thing and I wasn’t about to throw that out! Sadly, even though the “Sexy Freudian Slip” shined through in the caramel syrup, the flavor was all but lost in the final product. Perhaps I could try soaking the baked cakes in the syrup next time?

Overall, this cake definitely will take some tweaking from me to get it right! But it’s definitely a keeper and I’m thrilled that I had a opportunity to make it. And this praise is coming from someone who was not thrilled at having to make buttercream, so you know this sh_t is the tight!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Suisse Enchiladas

My Mom is a fantastic home cook. I have many fond food memories from my childhood: thickly frosted homemade chocolate birthday cakes, apricot bars, meatloaf, beef stroganoff, turkey tetrazzini, sweet and sour meatballs and creamy enchiladas. I have fond memories of frozen Weaver chicken too but that’s another entry for another day.

She was self taught and learned by trial and error. Most of her recipes are very reflective of the 70’s back when my brothers and I were still mighty young. By the time I was off to college, she had added salmon and healthier food to the mix and even used such exotic spices as cilantro.

I think many of us long for the foods of our childhood but lately my craving for my Mom’s enchiladas was getting a little out of hand.

So this past Sunday, I called my Mom intent on getting the recipe for the enchiladas of my childhood. Little did I know that E was listening as I was getting the recipe and was starting to get a little alarmed.

“Whipping cream? Do you think I can use half and half and milk instead?”

Yeah. So since I grew up with these enchiladas, I never once thought they might be “odd”. But as Mom went thru the ingredients which included whipping cream, tomato sauce, I realized that perhaps this dish might be only delicious to me and was hardly “authentic:.

Nevermind that E might find my enchiladas repulsive at least she’d get a taste of what 7 year old Leah liked.

The dish took a bit of time because I decided to use chicken quarters and I needed to roast those. I used my beloved Goya adobe seasoning and generously sprinkled it on the tops and bottoms of my chicken. Once cooked, E and I skinned and shredded the meat so it could get combined with the chopped spinach.

Once the enchiladas were assembled and popped back into the hot oven, the dish was quickly done!

But how did it taste? Awesome! No, really, it was good. Rich and creamy and just like I remember as a kid. I think E liked them too but I doubt that they are crave worthy for her. But they are delicious. Sure, they are fat filled and kinda decedent but perfect for a chilly day dinner. I think pairing it with a crisp light salad would be lovely and very complimentary.

When I called my Mom back to give her the full report on how the enchiladas, she mentioned that the original recipe is a James Beard creation called “Suisse Enchiladas”.
I don’t know about the original recipe but here is the one I got from my Mom, enjoy!

8 Flour tortillas (I used 12)
3 Chicken Breast or a whole roasted Chicken (I used 5 chicken quarters)
Tomato sauce, enough to moisten (I used tomato paste thinned out with water b/c it’s what I had on hand)
1 package chopped Frozen Spinach
1 medium onion, chopped (I omitted b/c E doesn’t like onion)
3 cups whipping cream (I used half &half and 2% milk again b/c it’s what I had on hand)
3 chicken teaspoons of chicken granules
A generous slice of jack cheese for every whole enchilada

Step by Step
1) Sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Add chicken, spinach and just enough tomato sauce to moist but not be wet and simmer 20 minutes.
2) Heat cream gently; dissolve chicken granules in cream.
3) Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, roll and place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with a non-stick coating.
4) Pour cream over.
5) 375 degrees for 20 minutes or less.
6.) Put cheese slices on top and bake until golden and bubbly.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

'Zza: October Daring Baker's Challenge

I had a friend who called pizza, "zza". It took me a while to figure out what she was talking about but once I did, I was glad to have a friend who's deep love of pizza meant that she had a pet nickname for the food.

One of my absolute favorite foods, all my childhood memories is a moving evolution of pizza. My family moved every two years and so every move meant a new pizza supplier had to be found! Stouffers French Bread to Pizza Hut to Little Caesars and finally to Bertucci's, I loved it all! When I was 14 I found a wonderfully simple recipe for homemade pizza dough in the back of seventeen magazine. I still use the recipe and have the ripped out pages to refer back to.

So when I learned that this month's Daring Baker Challenge was pizza, I was over the moon! I couldn't wait to try a new recipe for dough. I looked over the recipe but was a little bummed by one small issue. It was a two day deal, which was okay, I could do all the work one day but the issue was timing. The second day's instructions said to pull the dough out of the refrigerator two hours before it needed to be ready. Sadly, with my schedule the way it is with the store and all, I'm lucky to get even an hour to prep before guest arrive for dinner! Luckily, E was doing the challenge with me and had the day off so she was able to come over to the apartment and pull out the dough.

Yay! But back to the actual process. I followed the directions and kneaded the dough a bit more than the 5-7 minutes instructed. I was concerned about the consistency of the dough. It seemed a bit tough to me and I was wondered it would turn out too hard (like the Ina Gartener pizza dough had done on me). I kneaded for more like 10-15 minutes and crossed my fingers that the resting time would allow the dough to really get soft and tender.

The Challenge this month also called for sauce. Didn't matter what kind of sauce but I like a simple pizza and so I thought if we made a tomato and cheese pizza well, a jar sauce wasn't gonna be very tasty. I decided to make a simple tomato sauce from scratch. It was so simple. I simmered a can of crush tomatoes and a couple of cups of red wine with a spoonful of tomato paste, a bit of chicken broth, a handful of dried and fresh basil, dried oregano and two cloves of garlic, Later, I added a slug of olive oil and pat of butter and tasted. It was good but something was missing. I sprinkled in some crush red pepper and tasted again. Still good but missing something still! I stood around and pondered, "hmm..."

I added freshly ground nutmeg and the tasted again, the sauce was awesome! Simple but yet complex. The nutmeg seemed to amplify all the other flavors in the sauce. It was quite lovely. Seriously, why is nutmeg not used in more recipes? Hmm... anyway, I highly recommended it for fall soups and sauces!

On Day 2, I came home to E prepping the toppings. A lovely sight indeed :) She had been kind enough to take out the dough and we were ready to rock and roll. I started to follow the instructions on how to toss the dough but I chickened out. I also chickened out on turning the oven up to 500 and left the oven at 485. (I've been a little scared since my oven door glass shattered due to roasted cauliflower). Luckily, E was kind enough to toss the dough for us. I did notice how tender the dough had become. It was perfectly stretchy and soft. Perfect!

E topped it with my homemade sauce and locally made fresh mozerella and slipped it on the pizza stone.

The final product? Awesome! It was a very, very, very simple pizza all made from scratch, but it might have been the best pizza I've eaten in a long time! The sauce was fantastic but the crust was really quite delicious. It was crisp and light and it cooked perfectly with no soggy edges anywhere!

For pictures and more detail, you should check out E's blog

I've very pleased with this Challenge and will definitely keep this recipe handy! However, in the future I'll need to play around with the 2 hour ahead of time step. I'm thinking more like 1 hour or 30 minutes before instead ;)

Thanks for letting me play again Daring Bakers!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It’s not often that I read something in Boston Magazine that gets me thinking about the deeper moral implications of one’s actions. But there is an article in October’s issue, the entire issue is dedicated to “Envy”, that got me to think about what it means to be authenticate in a world of copy cats.

The article is here:

Essentially there is a newish restaurant in town that has gotten a very large amount of critical acclaim in a seemingly short amount of time. After Frank Bruni gushed about it in the New York Times (he did say that all the places review was only stellar because they had the handicap of being outside of NYC, um thanks Frank?. A move that is sooo typically Frank Bruni), the place seemed to explode in terms of exposure. I would talk to people about Oisshii and instantly, I’d get the one up stance of “Yes, but have you been to Oya? Really, no? Then you have no idea what sushi truly can be!”.

Seriously? As someone who happened to own one of the first stores to appear in Boston dedicated to jeans, I know first hand what it’s like to be suddenly told that the younger, newer kid on the block is outshining you. I’m of the belief that there is room enough for all of us. But Bostonians tend to believe, in true Highlander form, that “there can be only one”. It’s a mentality not exclusive to Boston, but in a town trying to called a cosmopolitan city (look we have a new Mandarin Oriental Hotel and a new huge Apple store, look look!), well it’s very, very cut throat because there aren’t as many people to impress as say New York. However, even with how competitive Boston is, there are certain rules of protocol and decency.

I think that because Boston is small, most people in any given service industry know each other…And it is mostly through personal encounters. It’s not surprising when a Sales Rep calls me at work and says amazed “Everyone in this town who owns a shop knows you!. Well, in a place as small as Boston that’s not surprising. If I go into a locally owned shop, even if I know I’m just there to pick up a dress or a candle, if I find myself mentally taking notes of the layout or the brands, I will then make an effort to introduce myself and honestly, let the person know what I’m doing. This not only clears my conscious but is the right thing to do in such a small town. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m taking clues from them in a dishonest fashion.

Our new store has a dressing room fashioned after the one’s at Stel’s. I went in and told Tina and John exactly what I wanted to do and with their blessing was told how-to. I know that Nilda from Parlor has called other shops to make sure it’s cool with them to carry a line and I’ve also placed similar calls to other shops and even canceled orders because a friend told me that they wanted the exclusive to a line which they made a good case/point about. This might sound a lot like we’re mixing business with personal but none of us entered this industry for purely business reasons. Granted we all want to make money and make a living, but owning a business is like sharing a huge piece of your personal side. You sell the things you love and you talk about how it came to appear in your shop. Those stories are often hugely personal. Very rarely, did anyone else to see a performance chart regarding what brand/models/colors sell the best and go from there. It’s often about gut and feeling. I had a gut feeling that Rag &Bone would explode. I had a gut feeling that Sevens would do well for us.

As a chef, I would imagine, a lot of it is gut as well. But you can’t make the call to a supplier and say “I’d like you stop selling ketchup to XYZ” because I have ketchup too. You can’t protect the brands/supplies but you can protect the way you put things together and the way you display your talent.

Pictures, films, music and words are easily protected from plagiarizing. Just look at even food blogs these days. One of the major ones I read on a regular basis went after another blog for not only stealing her photos but her recipes as well. We’re talking almost came to a lawsuit. Another one I use to follow shut down, because the food blog community for not sighting properly where her recipes came from shunned her. This might seem like a lot from food blogs…but it’s now a clear understanding of a violation of a larger theme. There are few things that a chef can really protect and doesn’t he/she have a right to do so?

So in a city/town as small as Boston is, for the owners of O Ya to not come entirely clean about what they were up to, even if it meant nothing to them (which clear is not the case because the guy was taking copious notes) when visiting Uni and Oisshii is not only very dishonest and bad form, it should border on illegal. This might seem like a harsh thing to write but think about it. The entire Cindy McCain stolen recipes from Food Network might had not been so bad had someone on staff just added the caveat that the recipes were “inspired” from ones on the Food Network website. We’re clearly all influenced by other things around us and for the owners of O Ya to even just say, “yes, I was very influenced by my meals at those places but it’s deeper than that. He really studied that was going on there. He had the menus faxed to him twice a week and appeared at the restaurants for dinner and was never honest about who he truly was.

Perhaps, any place else, this man’s actions might make sense but not in a town like Boston. And it’s not about a “fraternity of chefs” or a “fraternity of store owners” or even about ENVY. Rather, it’s about being able to wake up every morning knowing that YOU came up with the ideas for what to carry in your store, that YOU made the decision how to put ingredients together. It’s about true integrity and honesty and how we as a community (small or large) and society award such efforts.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fried Unicorn

It's no secret that E and I have dated off and on for a couple of years now. And all this time, E has talked about her fried chicken. She speaks of it in boastful sentences. "My fried chicken is off the hook!", is a constant refrain. E has made it for other people in her life...ex's, friends, acquaintances, randoms but not for the likes of me. Hmp! Finally one day, after hear her boast yet again about her fried chicken, I said that her friend chicken was a unicorn to me. Actually, I kinda lost it.

"Your goddamn fried chicken is a f_cking unicorn. I've never seen it!!!! Stop talking about this freaking fried unicorn already".

So after much freaking out on my part and much boasting of her, she offered to make it for me. We invited a couple of friends along for the ride. And so it was that last Saturday I had fried unicorn.

Now, please keep in mind, I don't make fried chicken. However, I am a fried chicken lover...I mean, for goodness sake, I am Korean American and we're all about fried chicken so I like to say it's in my blood. I have fond memories of frozen Banquet fried chicken out of the box, KFC, Popeyes etc. But nothing really compares to my friend Caroline's fried chicken. She's a master of the chicken! She spent an entire summer perfecting her recipes and I was one of her happy guniea pigs. I think she uses cornmeal in the crust and keeps it wam after it's fried in the oven. The result is a juicy chicken and a crisp, light crust that shatters upon impact with one's mouth. Yum. Caroline has made a bit of a snob out of me. Once you have really good homemade fried chicken, it's something that sticks with you. You dream about it all the time. Seriously.

So E set out to make something for me that had already reach mythical preportions in terms of the brag as well as something I already had high expectations regarding. If I had only had commericial fried chicken all my life, perhaps my standards would be low but alas Caroline ruined any chances of that.

E soaked the chicken in buttermilk over night. She asked me what sides I wanted for this imporant meal. I wasn't sure. Almost every chicken meal I had eaten with Caroline only involved chicken. I mean, afterall, wasn't it the star. I think I made something up about wanting biscuits. But then I got an idea. I'd make waffles to go along with the chicken! What could make fried chicken better? Why waffles, of course. And not just any waffle, but a Hello Kitty waffle! (A gift from Caroline, no less!).

So Saturday I made up a mess of batter. I ran out of milk and so used some buttermilk in it's place. I also developed a trick for making the batter a little lighter thanks to Emeril. I watched him use egg whites. He whipped them up and folded them into the waffle batter. Genius! So I do that now everytime I make waffle batter.

E decided that she would make biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes and collard greens. All some of my favorites. She was going to send me to the store to buy bacon for the collards but spotted the ham bone in the freezer from my crock pot pork picnic and threw that into the greens.

How she was able to whip up all that food in two hours is kinda amazing. My kitchen was a bit of a disaster but eh.

So finally I sat down to the mythical fried chicken. (Sorry no pics. I took them all on my digital camera that I haven't bothered to download yet.) And how was it?

It was good. It was a little spicy and the crust was a little less dense than Caroline's. I liked it a lot. But perhaps it's because I've eaten Caroline's fried chicken for so long that I wasn't insane over it. Or maybe because it has been built up so much for so long? Hard to say. It was very, very good though and all the sides were fantastic. My waffles were great but got a little dense as they got cold, so eh to that! But overall the meal was beyond tasty. I can see how E is proud of her friend chicken skills.

And I got a fridge full of leftovers too! I made potato pancakes out of the leftover mashed potatoes and eat them with apple sauce on the side, yum! I heated up the biscuits for breakfast and even though they had cheese in them, I drizzled a little honey over them. Delicious!

I guess I can check eating fried unicorn off my to do list now :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This past Monday night, I had plans to attend the Boston Magazine Best of Boston Dining Party. It was happening really close to the shop and was easy enough for me to make a quick visit. Who am I to say no to free drinks and food?

Actually, as I've gotten older, I've gotten less enamored with such events. A lot of times, the drinks are horrible, the food is mediocre and sparse. The crowd doesn't seem very interesting. Mostly moochers and "style writers" of Boston who all think a little too highly of their selves and their opinions. Not really my scene.

So as I was waiting for Elizabeth to arrive so we could go to this shin dig, I started to think more and more about how I really didn't want to go. What I wanted was a quiet evening with the woman I love. E arrived and was cranky about having to get thru all the Red Sox traffic to get to me. So our fate was decided. Bail on the party and find a nice, quiet place for dinner together.

We headed off to the South End and decided to try out Sage. Elizabeth's friend D.. from Brix had given her the recommendation and said it as his favorite gnocchi in town. That was absolutely worth seeking out!

To our delight, most of the restaurants in the South End on a Monday were ghost towns. We really could have had our pick of any of the places that are typically hard to get into. But Sage was our destination.

We arrived and it was very, very quiet. We both quickly noticed that Sage didn't look all that different from Umbra, the restaurant that was in the space before it became Sage. I didn't mind the lack of decor change because I always liked the space plus it had cork floors which E was delighted to discover when she walked acrossed the dining room in search of the bathroom We decided to sit at the bar and let Vanessa take care of us.

I had had a fairly tough day and was ready for a nice cocktail. I would have loved an Eastern Standard Boxcar but alas. However, Vanessa was game for trying to make one for me. It was a fine attempt and one I very much appreciated. However the vodka tonic I ordered later was a bit better. I did notice that they had Hangar One vodka and that got me really excited. Very few place in this city carry Hangar One and I'm a big fan. Usually I take it as a good sign if such a thing is sitting on the bar. E has a different test...a specific brand of cognac that she loves.

We placed our order and bread with an odd little tomato, olive oil mix came with it. It resembled and tasted like gazpacho but I think it was meant to used with the bread. The bread was standard issue Italian focaccia, which I happen to love, and so I thought the bread was great on its own. No odd gazpacho needed.

E ordered us a cured meat, pickled veg and cheese appetizer to start. The cheese included was only a parm reggiano and E wanted to swap it for an interesting sounding asiago. The cheese sub didn't happen and we didn't want to cause a problem so we ate the cheese that arrived. But Vanessa went and got us a little slice of the Asiago to try. It was lovely. I liked the starte quite a bit. But I found the pickled eggplant to be the most compelling part of the dish. I think the eggplant hadn't been cooked. It was thinly sliced and picked. Since I love all things pickled, I loved the eggplant. It was a nice way to begin.

I ordered two appetizers as my main. I got the duck confit panino and a mixed greens with blue cheese salad. The duck was indeed appetizer size, but it was quite good. The bread was very buttery and golden and the duck was pretty plentiful in those tiny little triangles of bread. It also came with a watercress and pear salad, so I had plenty of roughage that evening.

E's gnocchi with rabbit came and it was amazing! It was everything a gnocchi has to be. Tender, light as air and fluffy. She was kinda enough to give me a bite and I instantly wished I had ordered the gnocchi.

We ate with us pretty much being the only people at the bar. It was a lovely way to dine. We had a competent and attentive bartender, the game on the TV and each other....Oh, and the gnocchi. It was perfect.

And considering my crappy Boston dining experiences, it was just what I needed. Sage very well might become our date place. So if you ever want to see us, stop by Sage on a Monday night, you'll probably spot us there :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I'm sorry for my absence. My life has gotten quite hectic as most normal adults' lives tend to be. I'm certainly not any different for sure. But I've been so uninspired by food in Boston as of late that I don't really feel much like talking about it. Even my old stand-bys have let me down considerably. Why, why, why?

Boston is a city with a considerably smart population of people that tend to eat out quite a bit. I think I eat out for perhaps, on average, 4 of my dinners a week. Sometimes out of sheer laziness but mostly because I'm trying to connect with various friends and breaking bread is a very good way to bridge the gap in terms of spending time with folks.

The best way to sum up my past month with food might be a quick list. A quick and very disappointing list.

1.) Oleana - The meal that mattered the most to me this past month. My parents were in town and meeting my betrothed for the first time. My mom wanted to go here because she enjoyed the carrot soup and thought the food to be fresh and nicely prepared. I made the reservation and was so excited to share E with my folks.

A few slips in terms of service. 1.) table wasn't ready, really no big deal, but didn't even offer us water or a seat at the bar while waiting. 2.) the server was a real pompous bitch. Understand it takes a lot for me to say that about any server. But when my Dad yelled out "waitress" (he comes from a different generation all together) I had to smile. Typically, I'd be mortified and correct my Dad. But this girl was so rude and so condescending that I didn't care. Typically, service doesn't really get to me much but this time it really bugged me. It also goes into my next gripe.

The food kinda blew. That carrot soup my Mom had been looking forward to wasn't on the menu and instead of being sweet about it being missing, our "waitress" (hahaa) kinda glared at my Mom and seemed to lack any sort of sympathy. I ordered a haloumi and squash blossom appetizer. The apps took forever to arrived and we had to beg for bread. When mine arrived it was aflame in ouzo (I think). It finally burned off or so I thought and I proceeded to dig in. Only to find myself choking on a mix of cheese and alcohol. The alcohol had not all burned off and it seemed that maybe the cheese had absorbed the alcohol. It was soaked in the stuff to the point where I couldn't eat it. Sigh.

I think we all liked dessert which took forever. It was the slowest meal ever plus one of the rudest I've had. It was such an awful experience that I'm now crossing Oleana off my list of loves and standards. The meal that mattered the most to me was a big huge f-cked up mess. It was stressful because of the server and the food. And instead of focusing on making this big meeting go as smooth as possible, I found myself focused on the slowness of the dishes to appear, the bitchiness of our server, the lack of attention to the amount of flaming alcohol on my cheese.

2.) Lockobers. My family went here for my Dad's 70th birthday. They told us that they could accommodate two four year old boys with a plate of spaghetti or a grilled cheese. They didn't and wouldn't. And for the amount of money my Mom blew on that place (four digits), it was the least they could do. Food was heavy and rich. Again, I was disgusted at what was a complete lack of customer service when it came time to make good on a promise to be flexible about a meal for my two young nephews. Not cool.

3.) Beacon Hill Bistro. Meal was eh. We sat at the bar and the bartender was a nice guy (no Lee for sure!) but not fantastic because he didn't seem to show much of his own personality. But he was capable and that seemed to be good enough. The skate I was ordered was a skate wing plopped on a piece of squash with some spinach and hazelnuts. It was the most disjointed meal I'v eaten in a long time. It lacked seasoning and connection. It was just weird. I think E's pasta was ok. She didn't really have much to say so that's not a great sign. We did order dessert b/c I was intrigued by the walnut tart (very good) and the peach pie (so late in the season but not very good).

4.) Eastern Standard. My absolute go to place! My last meal with my star employee and we both got the mac and cheese. It's usually gooey and cheesey with a crispy buttery bread crumb topping. It's everything a mac and cheese should be. It's rich and you kinda feel ill after eating it, but it so amazingly good, you kinda always have to order it! Well, they changed the recipe!!!!!! It now includes ham. You know, I love pork but I'm a mac& cheese purist and ham is not suppose to be in my mac and cheese! Plus it's not nearly as creamy and gooey. It was kinda on the dry side. It was disappointing and I wonder if they will ever change back to the way it was before. Sigh.

I was raised to believe that if you have nothing nice to say, well don't say it at all. It's painful to have to talk about how sucky I feel the Boston food scene has been of late. Perhaps it's the places I've been choosing. I dunno. However, I will keep the faith and hope that October marks a better month of food for me!


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not Quite Daring, More Along the Lines of Cute and Sweet

I was very, very excited about this month's Daring Baker Challenge. I was starting to get discouraged with the sheer amount of butter cream I was making every month. I've never been a fan of the taste of butter cream and so it was starting to feel like it was seeping out of my pores.

So I was so happy to see the Challenge take a new turn this month. Eclairs!!!!! The basic form for the recipe this month was from famed Pierre Herme. The rules stated by our lovely host blogger said that we needed to keep at least one chocolate element. Hmmm, nice. That wasn't going to take much arm twisting for me.

Lately, I've been craving Nutella. I can't keep it in the house because much like dulce de leche, Nutella falls into the category of Crack for me. So I thought I'd do a challenge that included nutella in some way, shape or form.

I decided that I'd make a Nutella "pastry" cream by mixing it with whipped cream and piping it into the pastry shells. This challenge was not only going to be interesting to me (as all of them are) but actually was going to be something I was excited about eating too.

I've never worked with choux pastry before and because there is a heating step to making the dough, I always assumed that choux was hard to make. And that couldn't have been further from the truth!

Luckily, E had already gotten all the ingredients together for us to use. So all I had to do was measure and mix. After I quickly measured and dumped everything into the heavy bottomed pan for heating, including the flour! Eeeek, I had to dump out my first try on the mix due to my flour mistake, but even still, the dough came together fast.

It looked really cool in the bottom of my pan. One cute little dough ball that later because a fairly sticky and gooey dough. Because I'm a fairly utiliartian cook/baker, I don't know a pastry bag or tips. Instead I loaded the dough into a 10 gallon plastic bag and cut off the tip. I considered making mini eclairs like Elizabeth had done but hers were very cute and I didn't want to compete with such cuteness. So I went the opposite direction and made big fat rounds out of the piped out choux pastry. Into the oven they went. I will say that we had to double, maybe even triple our baking time (well I did, of course, but so did E and she made the mini ones). So the baking time on the challenage seem a bit off. In any event, the puffs came out of the oven looking awesome. Behold!

They smelled divine. Egg-y and buttery. I was really excited. I let them cool and went about making a hole in the side of each of them so I could pipe in my whipped cream/nutella. Once I did that, I went ahead and nuked the nutella (or whole food equivelant that E found for me, thanks babe!) for 40 seconds. It was melty and perfect. After whipping my cream to firm peak form, close to butter, but not quite there, I folded in the melty nutella. Using yet another plastic pouch from my stash. I loaded the nutella whipped cream in and cut off the tip.

Much to my dismay, I couldn't pipe the cream into the holes I made. The choux pastry puffs were a bit more dense that I had imagined. So I gave up and just sliced them down the side and put the cream in the middle. It actually worked out better for me because it meant I could really load up the pastries with that yummy nutella whipped cream. Mmmm....

Afterwards, I drizzled on the glaze that Elizabeth had made for her eclairs. It had Iclandic dark chocolate in it. I broke off a piece and liked it alot. But I'll be honest. I didn't see much difference between that chocolate or hershey's dark chocolate. I guess I'm just a low brow girl ;)

I was very pleased with the final product.
Look at how cute they are! How did they taste? Um, let's see chocolate, nutella, whipped cream and freshly made choux pastry...that's a recipe for delicious!!! Needless to say, I was really pleased with the results. The choux was airy and eggy but still more dense than what I imagined it would be. I was actually very happy with the resulting pastry. Fairly simple to make, fairly cheap ingrediants and teedaaahh, eclairs!

The nutella whipped cream wasn't as complex in flavors as what Elizabeth did with hers. She used local Mexican chcolate bitters and added other spices as well to her filling. But there's something to be said for the simple. And since I was craving nutella, this challenge hit the spot with me!

Thanks for picking this as August's challenge. I absolutely loved it!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am...

craving anchovies. That is all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


One of my shops happens to be downstairs from my apartment so often when I'm working I will just put a sign on the door, close the shop, run upstairs to make myself some lunch and amble back down. But I do like the lunch options in Fenway. My staff is kinda tired of the selection so it's a good thing a new Panera bread, Chipotle and a sushi join opening up. Our area of Fenway has a fairly ordinary demographic of a lot of offices in the area. Sure, more people and families are moving in but for the most part, the population tends to be desk jockeys.

Across the street from me and the store is a place that was once called Know Fat. As the name would imply, it was a fast food place devoted to "healthy" fast food. The signs were done up in such a way that it always made me think of Time Square or the Vegas strip. The sign seemed like it should say something like "Chicago on Broadway" or "Live Nude Girls". It was big and bold and lit up with big colored light bulbs. Sadly, despite the huge sign, I'd always forgot that Know Fat was there and even an option for food. I think I had it in the back of my head that it wasn't a food place. So I never had a chance to visit and try it. My staff had and they didn't love it but they did have good french fries and that seemed to the consensus.

Two weeks ago outside of Know Fat, stood two people dressed up. One as a giant froyo in a cup and the other as giant French Fries. The Froyo and the French Fries definitely did their job because they caused me to take a second look at a place I'd grown so accustomed to seeing in all it's neon glory. But wait! It wasn't there!!! And in the place of the "Know Fat" sign was a much more subdued sign saying "Ufood...feel great. eat smart". Hmm, looked like they changed their name and their sign.

Honestly, I'm not sure that Ufood is much better that Know Fat. Neither name really get me salivating much. But I was intrigued by the idea of a place that served tart froyo. This is probably the point at which you tell me, "Leah, just go to pinkberry".

Um, gladly, if Boston HAD one. And we don't. Seriously, please believe me when I tell you that not only is Boston slow to pick up trends in clothing but also slow to pick up on trends in food as well. Tart froyo is light years away from hitting Boston. Sigh. People are just beginning to infuse bacon into various things like bourbon, vodka but from what I've heard, New Yorkers are already ovah that!

So since our sour frozen yogurt places are few and far between aka we don't have any, I decided to give Ufood a whirl.

The place is set up so that if you want just a smoothie or froyo there is a stand for you in the front. If you're ordering more substantial things you go up the stairs and to the back of the place. The girl at the froyo stand didn't look like a very happy camper for some reason or other. Even those there was just one other person in front of me ordering. Hmm...I decided maybe I'd get a sandwich with my froyo just to avoid Cranky Pants in the front.

I was glad I made that move because the woman at the cash register was loving life. She was sweet and nice. She repeated the order back to me and even smiled several times. When my reciept printed out, she seemed really happy that I got a free coupon for a small froyo. "You can come back tomorrow and get it", she smiled at me. Omg, only if I get to interact with you! She was so sweet. I got my order to go so I could go back and man the store but also because the place kinda reeked of chlorox. And while I like knowing that anyplace involving food is clean, I don't really enjoy eating it in a place that smells like a public pool.

So how was everything? The portabello mushroom sandwich was expensive and kinda bland. It was very fresh and the bun was nice and squishy but eh, not great or memorable.

The frozen yogurt on the other hand. OMG!!! Okay so a small with fresh raspberries cost me $3.50 and if I wanted it plain it would have only been $2.50; seems like a bargain to me. And it was fantastic. The flavor was perfect and the machine it was pumped from ensured that it would be perfectly smooth. Overall, it was a reasonable price to pay for really tasty Pinkberry type yogurt. It might be my newest food obsession. And all thanks to people dressed up as giant containers of froyo and french fries.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dear People Who Make M and M Ads,

I have a bone to pick with you. It was alright when you gave M&M's faces and then even assigned gender roles to the various ones. Okay, it wasn't really alright, it was kinda creepy. I can't even eat a green one without thinking of the girl m&m in little white go go boots, or how about the red one who plays "smartie" to the yellow peanut one? Short of giving them names you made ads that seemed to subtly endorse cannibalism and didn't make any sense what so ever.

And now you are helping to introduce the world to premium M&M's by sexing up the green one. Enough already!!!!! I don't want to think about M&M's doing the nasty when I just a quick chocolate snack. And once again the ads confuse the hell out me. Am I suppose to want to be like green and think I can be a little sexpot if I eat premium M&M's? Does eating premium M&M's make me sexy? And why, for the love of God, why are the M&M's directing and staring in ads that endorse eating them?

Perhaps I'm just dense; I don't get the hip humor and messaging of the gendered M&M ads. So please just make it stop already.

An ex-customer who is too creeped out to eat M&M's anymore (even the almond ones!!!)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hell's Kitchen - The Kiddie Edition

I saw this over at Serious Eats and just had to share it. I'm sure many of you've seen it by now, but this little kid gets everything about Gordon Ramsey right! Right on down to the hand on the hip with the other hand with fingers pointing accusingly. Omg, even as a child, Gordon is a bit terrifying.

I hope there will be more of these ads to come!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Day in the Life and Rachel Ray, This is How You Do $30 a Day!

"I had a very good food day" I im-ed to E late last night. "Really? Tell me about it." She im-ed back. And I did

And thus is my life with food. I think about food quite often through out the day. But some days aren't such good food days. The days when I forget to eat at the store and end up scarfing down a handful of nuts and a lone cup of water. Yeah, I know.

I have a true love/hate relationship with food. I know what I should eat and how much of it I should be eating but I can't stick to such things. If I was good, I'd keep to a protein shake in the morning, salad at noon and a big serving of steamed fish and veggies at night. I'd work out everyday and be all fit and shit. But I don't have the will for such things. I once asked a very cut male stripper at a gay bar, still wearing his g-string, if he ever ate chicken wings. The answer was no. And my response was "I don't want to live in a world without chicken wings". And that pretty much sums it up for me.

Like most women I struggle with thinking "life would be so great if I lost 10-20 lbs!". It's an uphill battle kids. Uphill! But what I've found is that the more I embrace the notion of good food for myself (and that DOESN'T include protein shakes) in any manner or form, the better off I am. I'm happier, more content and yes still motivated to work out and take care of my body. It's only when I veer off in either direction - starving myself (which I have done and it's not fun) or binging a bag of potato chips washed out with a huge chocolate shake that things don't work for me. I start hating my body and well, that's not good.

So yesterday was a nicely balanced day of food for me. It started with the perfect little latte and chocolate croissant. It had been freshly made and it was delightful. The layers were perfect and there wasn't just one but two long strips of dark chocolate folded into the center. I got my breakfast goodies from a place called KooKoo Cafe in Brookline Village. The line was a bit long for such a small place but it moved quickly and the person who was there working the register and getting coffee orders was so nice that I got my goodies and left a couple of bucks in the tip jar.

After that, I was off to run errands and such. Around 2pm I was getting hungry and was around the downtown area. I decided that since it was a very dreary rainy day, I needed soup. But not just any soup. I needed something with homemade noodles and veggies too. I went to my old tried and true spot in Chinatown - Taiwan Cafe. It's a restaurant where lots of additional menu stuff is written in Chinese on the walls. It's a place that served stinky tofu (it's 100% more stinky that durian folks) and makes no apologies for it. I've always loved the food there. I've had clams in a spicy black bean sauce that were so good, I was practically licking the plate, soup dumplings that were piping hot and sufficiently soupy in the middle.

Yesterday when I went, I was spoken to the entire time in Mandarin. When I opened my mouth it was clear I was so Americanized. But liked being treated like an "insider" for a bit. I reviewd the menu but what I wanted was comfort in the form of soup. And so I ordered the spicy beef noodle soup with spinach.

Since I was there quite late, I got to watch the wait staff clean and prep bags full of beautiful fresh green beens. They all sat at one table and did their work, clearly enjoying each other's company. It was nice to see. My soup came out very quickly.

This picture does the soup not nearly enough justice. The broth was very rich and spicy. The noodles perfectly toothsome and long. The beef was marbled with fat and just melted in my mouth. It was the perfect lunch. On most days I wouldn't have been able to finish such a big serving but I was really hungry and ate it all!

When I was finished I watched the people sitting around and loved the diversity around me. An older Asian couple finishing up some clams. A group of three giggling young Asian women dripping in Louis Vutton paying their bill and planning their attack at Saks. Finally I asked for my bill, but not before I was asked in Mandarin if I was done (or so I think I was asked hah!). The bill came to $6.50 and that included my diet pepsi too. Alright so this got me to thinking between my breakfast and my lunch, if I was Rachel Ray and on $30 a day (which we all know she's not b/c she makes 18m according to Forbes), I'd be pumped. But I'd also not give any sort of tip. I'd tip maybe 25 cents. Ugh. So thinking this, I had to overcompensate for that level of evil, I left a ten dollar bill and called it a day.

Later I hit the gym and worked on building up to 50lb kettlebell swings. Oye, one day I'll do a full swing! I was so pleased with my workout that I decided to reward myself with a nice veggie sandwich made on my George Foreman grill. That grill is fantastic for grilled panini sandwiches. I roasted up some peppers and eggplant I got from ghetto shaws and later layered them on top of some Italian bread that I had slathered with my homemade pesto. I added fresh local mozzarella (leftover from this insanely good dinner E had made a couple weekends ago) and green olives.

It was a great sandwich. Melty and crunchy due to time spent on the Foreman grill. I know, I know it's suppose to "knock out" the fat, but come on, it makes a fantastic grilled sandwich any day of the week and that is truly the only reason I still have it lying around.

I think the veggies sent me back around $10 and I bought enough so I could have roasted veggies for the rest of the week as well. So stuff that in your pipe and smoke it Rachel Ray!

Overall, I think I ate mostly locally made foods and fairly whole foods. Okay so the noodles, bread, cheese and croissant are really "whole" but they were all local and really lovingly made. Plus, I get my butt moving at the gym so I ended my entire day feeling really good.

A good food day indeed!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Places I'd Like to Eat at in the Next Few Months

1.) Hungry Mother
- Hitting it on Tuesday with E and friends.

2.) Salt
-I want to order the roasted duck a day ahead. And as someone said to me "anything you have to order a day in advance has to be good". So true!

3.) Oleana
-I love this place! It's my special dinner place. I never get to sit in their garden and I really want to be able to do that.

4.) Shiki
-Friends raved about this place and I've been dying for some good soba noodles. I don't mean that mass made crap but authentic homemade buckwheat noodles.

5.) Ten Tables
- I've been there twice before and I think I enjoyed it each time. But that was two years ago. Sadly, I don't remember the meals . I do think they were very good, but it makes me want to go back and see if it's truly as good as I remember. Most meals that I loved, I remember. This includes my birthday dinner from when I was 5. Mom made zucchini in a cheese sauce and I ate every damn bite, even though I'm not a huge zucchini fan.

6.) Craigie Street Bistro
-For years I've been meaning to try this place but the truth is I never made it out that far into Cambridge and when it comes time to decide on a place for dinner, it always goes forgotten. I've heard the Chef is a bit of a prima donna but has the chops to carry off such attitude. I wanna see for myself!

The Best Burger in America?

At this year's South Beach Food and Wine Festival, sponsored by Food Network, a competition over the best burger was waged. It was a contest hosted from Rachel Ray. She's a food personality I have very little tolerance for. Over exposed and irritatingly (and fake) perky, her speciality seems to be telling America how to not tip when working with only $40.00 a day and how to "figure friendly" hamburger stew is. Yum-o and sammie are not words and yet RayRay seems hell bent on always using them. Ugh

So since she was the host of this competition, I have very little belief in it's true validity. In any event, the burger at Radius was name #1. And I've been kinda curious about it ever since. It was only after meeting the bar manager from Radius that I decided a trip had to made to see for myself. I dragged E and a few friends along for the ride.

As an aside, I had been to Radius before for lunch during Restaurant Week about two years ago. I thought it was going to be a really fantastic little treat for myself. A lovely lunch to myself. The best thing about the meal? The space was unique and interesting. But the meal? Perhaps one of the worst I've ever eaten. I had an "spice" encrusted fish fillet. The spices were left whole. Have you ever tried eating whole coriander seeds, cumin, black pepper? After a few bites, my tongue actually went numb. It was an awful experience and I hated the fish. The dessert I chose was the german chocolate cake and it amounted to a very dry little lump of cake with caramel and coconut on top. It was like it came from a box mix. It was absolutely lame and I left very disappointed. I chalked it up the overall suckiness of Restaurant week in Boston and vowed that I would never do another restaurant week experience ever again. I feel like people in the food industry hate Restaurant week from the chefs to the servers. Why places participate and always do a half ass job is beyond me. If you don't want to do it, don't!!

And so I was a little wary of returning to a place where I had one of the worse meals of my entire life. But like I said before, curiosity got the best of me.

We met our friends at a table considered still part of the bar but big enough for all six of us. It was nice because it was still located in the bar section but was still part of the main dining room. The bar menu looked decent enough. Nothing too crazy...burgers, fried things...the usual. The only unique sounding thing on the menu was something called "low country" eggs and bacon. Hmm, when we asked about that appetizer, it was explained. It was deviled eggs. Too bad, E and I thought maybe it mean grits would be involved somehow. I was hoping white or red eye gravy. Oh well.

Our friend Avery ordered them. And I ordered the crispy oysters to start.

My oysters:

Avery's "low country eggs":

My oysters were fantastic. They were panko breaded and covered with perhaps $30 worth of saffron stems. The saffron did nothing for the overall taste but did look nice. The oysters were apparently local. They were quite small. I wish they were a bit bigger because much like fried clams what I love about fried oysters is that kinda creamy inside that tastes of the ocean. These oysters didn't have that but they were light and very well seasoned. I did enjoy them.

Avery said the eggs didn't suck but they certainly weren't the best he had ever had. We all loved the whimsical presentation of the bacon. Like a bouquet of bacon!

E, being the expert on alcoholic beverages ordered a lovely champagne for us to share. What the heck it was, I haven't a clue. I think it was rose in color. And it was expensive and special enough that the bartender scolded me when I tried to leave without finishing my glass. I passed the 1/3 left to E and she downed it for me. It was lovely and tasted crisp and bright. I did enjoy it but I'm such a lightweight when it comes to adult type drinks.

Onto the burger. E and I split one and the kitchen was kind enough to cut it half and give us our own plates.

Here is mine:

The burger cames with the cutest little copper pot of french fries. I have thoughts on both the burger and the fries. First the burger.

We ordered the burger rare. It was well cooked but very, very densely packed. Infact, I almost thought for a second the burger had been medium rare but it wasn't. The bun to burger ratio was decent.

Cheese and horseradish were already on the burger. Since I love horseradish I was ok with this but I think it's odd to make that choice for a customer right off the bat. It kinda reminded me of people who put liption french onion soup in their burgers. I don't know why but it felt like a very odd presumptive move. Plus the cheese really did nothing for me. It seemed almost tasteless or lost against the horseradish.

No lettuce, no onions and no pickles are offered. I guess for a $20 burger they're kinda making the statement that this burger doesn't need such things. But I love condiments and I love the way they enhance a burger. And since it is summer and produce is so great, a slice of heirloom tomato or a crisp leaf of local lettuce would have been a welcome addition for me.

The french fries were on the pale side. I like my fries with a little bit more golden. And while they were fried just fine, they weren't seasoned! It was a very obivious blunder after the intense seasoning applied to the burger. No salt, no truffle oil, no pepper, nothing! It was kinda odd.

Alright, so clearly Radius doesn't get my vote for the best burger. It was decent and by far much better than my earlier experience with the restaurant but overall, a bit pretentious and not completely well executed.

My favorite burgers in Boston still go to Eastern Standard (homemade pickles!!!), Aquitaine (anyplace that put creme fraiche in their mustard and boursin on their burgers is alright with me!) and U-burger (cheap and fantastic "fast food").

However, I was pleased to finally try the burger at Radius and look we even got two fantastic desserts as well. A goatcheese panna cotta thingie and something we all dubbed the chocolate unit.

Both were fantastic! As was the company for that evening. We had a great time and ended up being the most ruckus causing people in the joint. What can I say? I roll with some very fun peeps.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Clearly, I'm still eating but kinda boring meals. Nothing mind blowing for sure. Friday, I had some really good take out sushi from Sushi Fusion in Washington Square that E went off to get. And Sunday we had brunch at Eastern Standard but lately it's been meals at home for me.

The other day, I was in my ghetto Shaws and found local produce!!!!!! It was amazing to see and of course I had to buy some. I got a big bunch of beets. There were also yellow summer squashes and zucchini. Being that I'm not a huge fan of either of them I didn't get those items. I wish I liked squash and zucchini more because it's nice that Shaw's even stocked local produce and that's a move I'd like to support.

Anyway, I got my beets home and they looked great. I cooked the beet greens like spinach and decided I wanted to eat one of the beets from the bunch raw. I didn't know you could eat raw beets until I read a recent entry over at the Amateur Gourmet blog and saw him mention something about having raw beets. I adore beets but have only ever had them cooked or from a can (and I think those are cooked before they get canned). So I wanted to try it and see if it was something I'd like. I took one of the beets and peeled and chopped it. I added it to some yogurt I had on hand and seasoned it all with salt and pepper. I took the cooked beet green tops and the beets in seasoned yogurt and shoved it all into a toasted pita. It wasn't much to look at but it was a great meal! The beets were certainly not as sweet as they are when they're cooked. But they had great crunch and a flavor that was more like celery root or jicama. Plus the beets colored the yogurt bright pink. Fun! I was very pleased and will certainly be using raw beets in in the future.

Saturday evening, E made me dinner! It was delicious. Spaghetti and meatballs plus dessert. It was a lovely meal and a lovely evening spent watching Thoroughly Modern Millie together.

Sunday evening I was again on my own for dinner. I got the hankering for a blt but I didn't have any lettuce and I wanted to have cheese on my sandwich too. As I was reaching for my bacon from the butcher shop out of the freezer, I spotted my aioli that I had made a month before. I didn't use it all and froze it in hopes that it would keep alright. Well, my modified BLT were certainly need something mayo-esque so the aioli came out the freezer too.

I cooked my bacon in the oven and toasted my thick slabs of sour dough bread. I sliced my bacon and snipped fresh leaves off my basil plants and placed all of that on top of sliced fresh mozzarella. I warmed the aioli container under some hot water from the faucet and got it to unfreeze. I poured the homemade aioli on top of everything and when the bacon was ready put it on top of everything else. With a side of pickles and some grapes, it was a very comforting dinner for me. I think I might start putting aioli on all my BLT sandwiches from now on. Plus the basil was a great sub for the lettuce. I don't know that the cheese really added anything so I might leave it out next time but I love cheese and any excuse to try and include it, I'll always take.

So not a lot of meals out, but still a few great meals while staying in...Not a bad thing for sure!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm a Buttercream Machine

Or at least that's how I'm feeling these days. With four challenges under my belt and three of them involving cake and buttercream, I feel like I'm well schooled on buttercream and that actually being well schooled came in handy for this challenge.

The recipe called for quite a bit of hazelnuts and when I went to my Ghetto Shaws, there were only three measly 1/2 cup packages of hazelnuts. Arugh. Okay, I already knew I wasn't going to make the "hazelnut praline" hooey but I still grabbed a bag of pecans just incase.

Being that I don't own a food processor, I decided I would try pulverizing my hazelnuts for the cake in my blender. Um not the brightest move. (Sorry that the picture isn't flipped for your viewing pleasure).

The parts of the nuts that got chopped started to get a little gummy in the blender and some parts didn't really get chopped at all. Plus, I got a supreme case of the lazies and didn't toast the nuts (I really should have!) so that meant the big chunks of nuts later got filtered out when the dry mixture put sifted thru the mesh sifter. Whoops!

However, for all my hazelnut mishaps, the batter came together nicely.

It seems light and frothy and I was excited about what sort of cake it would produce.
The cake came out perfectly golden and springy to the touch. I was very, very pleased with the results. Onto the buttercream. Alright, so it wouldn't have been a "drama" if my Granny's hand mixer hadn't died in the middle of making the frosting. Drats!

There was no way I was going to be able to beat the semi soft butter into soft whipped buttercream by hand. What was I going to do? Luckily I remembered that the buttercream recipe from my first challenge, the Dorie Greenspan party cake of March was different in that the butter was melted. So I knew I could melt the butter, allowing me to stir it in by hand and end up with a fantastic buttercream.

And you know what? It worked out great! I had a split second of doubt as I poured the melted butter in and started stirring but it quickly came together.
It was shiny and beautiful if I do say so myself ;)

I started on my ganache. The recipe said use a very good quality chocolate. Hmm...personally I'm a nestle's choco chip girl!

The ganache was so easy to make, and I loved pouring it over the cake. I was suppose to smooth it out and make it look all pretty and uniform but I liked how the cake looked with the ganache dripping down the sides. And since I already knew I wasn't piping out hazelnut praline cream all over it, I left the cake be as is.

Actually, I'm very pleased with how my cake ended up looking. I happened to have friends over the night I was ready to serve it. All agreed the cake was very good. Moist and pleasant enough but not near enough hazelnut flavor. Drats! I really should have toasted those darn nuts. Damn my laziness. Oh well, at least I know now for next time ;)

Saturday, July 26, 2008


This week has been a very sad one for me and fine dining. Yes, I had great success with my return to India Quality. But the other three nights I went out for dinner this past week, I was incredibly disappointed in my experiences.

Being that I'm a small business owner myself, I try to keep my whining about other small local businesses to a whimper. If I had a bad meal, eh, it happens. But all three times I went out this week I was left feeling not only disappointed but also a little embarrassed because it was I who suggested we all go to these places.

I use to think Boston was ok with sub par food but some places made me really differently about that. One of them being Oleana and another one being Rendezvous, back when it first opened. I found dining in Boston wouldn't ever be in the stratosphere of New York but it would be fresh, decent and well executed food. But lately, my theory about Boston dining has been challenged and I'm left feeling a bit cheated. So it's with a heavy, heavy heart I offer up my most recent opinions on these places. I won't go on yelp or foodbuzz with these negative criticisms, but I do want to air them and so I will keep them here.

Our first dining experience this week happened at Tremont 647. I had heard about a "grilling social" that was suppose to occur and I had two friends and E pony up $40 each. The chef Andy Husbands has a rep of being a great BBQ-er and so I was excited to think that maybe we'd get a sampling of his work. Nope. Not even close. I won't go into excruciating detail on this one because E already did a very comprehensive overview of the evening on her food blog. Here:

All I will say is that since it was my idea to go, I felt responsible for how much the event/food/experience sucked. Needless to say we're not going back anytime soon for dinner.

My next dining out experience happened on Wednesday. I talked E into going to dinner at Burton's Bar and Grill downstairs from my apartment and around the corner from one of my shops. She agreed to give it a shot. I had gotten a recommendation from customers of mine who said they even liked Burtons better than Eastern Standard. Whoah!

So we gave it a whirl. Burton's is a local chain and it was pretty much chain style food. Everything was fairly bland and over buttered or oiled up to taste good. Even the sugar snap peas that came on the side of E's crabcake dish were bathed in oil. And sugar snap peas are so sweet and tasty on their own that to coat them in butter or oil with no sort of seasoning was kinda unnecessary.

My tuna dish was perfectly cooked with a rare middle. But the tomato sauce surrounding it did little to enhance the flavor of anything. And the artichokes, capers and peppers were sparse and yet again did nothing to help up the flavor ratio. Luckily E was able to turn our leftovers into great little salad fixings for lunch the next day. Another place crossed off the list of possibilities.

And lastly, one of my friends (and future Maid of Honor) Mark was in town for the weekend. So yesterday we had dinner at the Franklin so Mark would have a chance to meet E. We opted to sit at the bar and eat there. The drinks were great and the falafel appetizer E and I shared as we waited for Mark was very nicely executed. Since none of the main dishes appealed to me, I opted to get two appetizers as my entree, but I couldn't choose between the scallops or the mussels. E persuaded me to get both and she's help me eat it all. So I got the fish taco, mussels and scallops. Both Mark and E got the trout.

The first sign of problems was when they wouldn't let E switch her side of spinach to asparagus. Hmm...yeah we're finding that more and more restaurants in Boston refuse to be accommodating to side swap requests. Even if one offers to pay more, no dice. It's not only strange but a little frustrating. From now on I might have to resort to my Mom's line of "I'm allergic to tomatoes".

The second sign of issues was that the kitchen messed up and put my mussels out first. Our bartender, Nathan (who seemed like a nice enough guy) covered the mistake by telling us he thought we'd like them first because that way there wouldn't be too many dishes at once in front of us. Hmmm.....

The mussels were smoked and decent. They were served with melted butter and since I like butter I was okay with this on the side. The salt and smoke were great on the mussels and I kinda wished that they had done a little broth on the bottom to really utilize both aspects of what made the mussels good.

Finally the mains/rest of my appetizers came out. I was really bummed out by both of my dishes. The fish taco was really a deep fried fish quesadilla. The taco shell had been deep fried and it was still a bit greasy. The filling was covered in cheese. E commented, "I can't taste the fish". And she was right. Everything that I love about a fish taco...the light summer feel of it. The crisp cabbage, the freshness of the fish wasn't there. It was kinda awful.

The scallops were overcooked. E had them sent back for me. I hate sending food back but on this one it was the right call. With only three scallops to have all three overdone seemed more than a bit lacking. The dish came back and the scallops were perfectly cooked this time. I don't remember much about the accompany salad on this dish or anything else so I guess it was okay or perhaps forgettable. I like scallops a lot so I liked this dish but would I ever go out of my way to order any of the dishes from that evening. No. No. No.

E gave me a bite of her trout and while it was well cooked, it was still kinda bland. It seemed under seasoned and uninspired.

For a meal that was an important meeting of two people in my life, I was hugely let down yet again. The dinner wasn't great. It was okay but certainly not something I'd come back for anytime soon.

Sigh. Looks like I'll be cooking a lot more at home these days. Certainly not a bad thing but still it'd be nice to have a reliable mid range dining experience.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

India Quality finally learned to look me in the eye and it was delicious.

About a year ago I stopped going to India Quality around the corner from one of my shops. Actually I stopped going to quite a few places around the store. Ankara, couldn't deal with the grumpy 'ttude and they increased the price on my usual sandwich even though I had been getting the same sandwich every week and the price on the board was less as well. Petite Robert, an employee from that place bragged and announced that she had gone to an industry party in pants she bought at the shop and wanted to return them after she had worn them out to an event.

India Quality was a place I stopped going to because of what happened to me the last two times I went. Both times it was late in the afternoon (I don't eat lunch until around 3pm on most days) and all the servers tend to congregate by the bar where one picks up his/her take out orders. In I walk and as I wait for my change, I feel three sets of eyes on my chest. I'm wearing a tank top, sure but it's certainly not that skimpy and I'm less than an A cup. It skeeved me out and I quickly dashed out with my food. When it happened a second time, I decided I couldn't go back. Even standing there waiting for the 3 minutes to get my lunch and change is kinda agonizing when your chest is gawked out.

And so India Quality's fate was decided. I wasn't going back. But this past rainy Wednesday, the store was fairly quiet and I was in need of something delicious but I wanted something with heat as well. I wanted comfort and spice. Hmm....the options were limited for sure. I decided that since a year had passed since Chestgate 2007, I should give India Quality another shot. The food there is so damn tasty. They're known for having great Indian food. Their goat dishes are fantastic and their vindaloo is plenty hot enough for the likes of me. I went ahead and placed my order for chicken curry with a side of raita. What's a little sexually inappropriate behavior when there is hot and well seasoned curry to be had?

I made my way over and found the place to be very busy even late in the lunch service. There wasn't the usual gaggle of servers at the bar. Infact, the man behind the bar was an older gentleman and he smiled and looked me IN THE EYES when I spoke to him. I was shocked and didn't want to press my luck too much. I tried to get in and out as quickly as possible, shouting over my shoulder "have a lovely day, thank so much, bye" before I left. Afterall, I wanted to try and be polite still.

Once at the store with my lunch, I unpacked everything. The picture on the post of this post (minus the limeade big gulp) is from my lunch special! What I love is that they are thoughtful enough to put a disposable plate into the sturdy white lunch bag. And the plate is pretty darn sturdy too. I got a huge container of rice...white basmati mixed with saffroned basmati and tiny specks of fennel seeds too. And the chicken curry is a very good sized portion too. I asked for it hot and it was the perfect amount of heat for me. My nose was good and runny by the end of my meal and that's a good sign to me. The chicken was tender and moist and there were huge chunks of it in the container. The meal comes with complimentary little papadam crackers. India Quality has nice ones. They don't skimp on the course ground pepper baked into the crisp wafers.

The meal was perfect and exactly what I wanted. By the end I was a bit stuffed and probably should have saved some of it for a snack for later but it was all just too good. It made me want to go back again for dinner sometime soon and get the lamb vindaloo and goat dishes. It made me really happy to know that perhaps they went thru sexual harassment training or that there is at least one person there not fixated on boobs, because it's nice to have a fantastic Indian restaurant back on my food roster.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Circa 1999

When I was younger, straight out of college, it was important to me to connect with other queer Asian folks. Thus I had what I called an Asian queer posse. Now that I'm older, I don't really seek out friends based on sexuality or race but I definitely understand the necessity and the desire to do so. Because not everyone understand it when I say I'm so over being asked if I'm Chinese or not. Or the assumption that I need a man in my life. Anywhoo...

One of the best things to come out of that stage of my life (besides some very important and profound friendships) was the great belief that food is much better shared and the seasons for food are somehow honored. Hot pot parties were held in the winter and summer roll parties were always in the summer.

A lot of my Asian posse is gone now. Many have moved away from Boston and well even though I stayed here, my life is supremely different than even I could have imagined. I'm happy and in love and most days I love what I do for work. But did I ever see myself discussing what fashion styles are "trending" with most people? Did I ever see myself telling someone that their ass looked amazing in a pair of jeans? No. The answer would be an emphatic no.

So a lot of my immediate friend circle in Boston isn't Asian or even gay for that matter. But that hasn't put an end to my longing for summer rolls. My lust for them begins around this time every year and often I find myself satisfying my summer roll needs on my own. Since I wasn't raised with a ton of Asian culture, I never felt quite up to task for hosting such an event. What if I bought the wrong rice roll wrappers or tofu. Would I know which chives to buy? And rolling the suckers???!!!! Omg, don't even get me started.

I am, perhaps, the worst summer roll wrapper on the face of the earth. Sheer greed and laziness take over as I pile more and more things onto my poor little rice wrap. In the end, I'm always left with something resembling a fat burrito from El Pelon (no offense to El Pelon). I say I like to make them big because I don't have to get up for more very often, but the truth is, I'm a complete glutton. And out of shame for my fattie summer roll technique, I've never hosted a party on my own. I mean, what kind of Asian would I be if I showed non-Asians how to roll summer rolls and they all looked like over stuffed burritos. Nevermind that I'm Korean and raised by white folks, still, the shame, the shame!!

Finally, this summer I decided to own my internal summer roll issues and hold a party of my own. I got up early and went to Super 88 in Chinatown. There I found everything I needed. Infact I was so impressed with myself, I knew what tofu to get based on what I remembered the label looked like from years ago. I would like to say that getting all the stuff wasn't a hassle and in a way it wasn't because everything I needed was right there but it was kind of a pain. If you haven't been to the Super 88 in Chinatown on a busy Sunday morning, you might not understand. But it got to the point where I became okay with mowing down old ladies in the aisles. I know, I know, but dude, seriously, they were shoving me and cutting me off first! I'm just sayin'.

I got pretty much everything I needed and everything you see on the table picture above and guess how much it cost? $15 bucks! Woohoo, I was wicked excited. I need to start buying my veggies someplace other than the ghetto Shaws. That place really is expensive and horrible.

Anyway, I got home and prepped the veg. I triple washed everything and trimmed it all up, which took me a good hour to do. I took a cast iron pan and after wrapping the tofu in a tea towel, placed the pan on the tofu and left it there for a couple hours. This ensured that the tofu would be firm and not watery in the rolls. I prepped the shrimp and noodles and made the peanut sauce (1 part peanut butter, 1 part hoisin, 1/2 part soy, water to thin to whatever consistency you like).

It turned out to be an easy, cheap and fun way to entertain. My guests enjoyed the experience and some of them turned out to be summer roll rolling masters (I'm looking at you E) or least better than their host.

I was so happy to share my love of summer rolls with a new batch of friends and in turn realized that sometimes it's not about being "authentic" with the food when you host a dinner party but it's about being "authentic" with your desire to make sure everyone has a great time.