Archive for the ‘Restaurants & Stores’ Category

12 minute miles, and a good reason to run them

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Apparently I run 12 minute miles. That’s pretty freaking slow, but I am still proud as can be, considering I do THREE OF THEM AT A TIME. Go me.

Also this helps make up for the many dumplings and spare ribs and bao that went into the piehole at Hei La Moon this weekend. Very good dim sum, of about equivalent quality to China Pearl, but with two notable differences: 1) no black sesame jelly roll that I could find, and 2) the best damn turnip cake I have ever eaten, perfectly flavored and griddle fried fresh to order.

UPDATE: on a second visit, I scored some black sesame jelly roll from one of the first carts that came around at 11am — by the time we left an hour or so later it was all gone. So get ’em early, y’all. They’ll keep on the table for you.

hit and miss at The Publick House

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I really enjoy The Publick House in Brookline. It has awesome beer and very good french fries, and a congenial atmosphere. (I enjoy nerdy beer snobbery.) But it does seem there’s a spottiness to the quality or at least the execution.

The french fries are even better than last time, which would have been difficult, but now they are *crunchier*. I didn’t detect quite as much meaty flavor, which makes me wonder if they changed cooking fat. If so, I guess I am willing to trade crunch for porkiness. And the sauces, good lord, the sauces: truffle oil mixed into ketchup. garlic mayo. spicy mayo. mayo-mustard whatever it is. YUM.

But my arugula salad with duck cracklings really missed the mark. The cracklings tasted off, stale, as if the fat was old or they’d been sitting around. It made the otherwise acceptable baby arugula mostly unpalatable, and I would go further to say that the goat cheese didn’t do the duck flavor (even had it been at its best) any favors. Bummer.

The ribeye was delicious, with a bit of truffley butter and an unusual and surprisingly complementary diced salad of minted tomato and cucumber, but its shaved potato gratin wasn’t sufficiently cooked. Just because you cut a potato paper thin, y’all, doesn’t mean you get to skip out on cooking the damn thing. I dunked it into the truffley ketchup and ate it anyway, but it bummed out the tallasiandude.

All was forgiven, though, because the Rodenbach beer was so terrific. It’s a Flemish red ale, light in body and extremely easy to drink, especially on a hot day, with a strongly sour flavor, almost like a citrus drink but with more complexity and a bit of bubble and bitter. Absolutely delightful, and just the thing for me after a long couple of days at work getting to a release deadline. Hurray!

Eastern Standard has definitely improved

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I mean, we always liked it. The steak tartare was tops and the cocktails were always well made, and you can’t beat the busy comfortable vintage atmosphere. But most things were drastically oversalted, and the cocktail attitude needed to be adjusted — when I read your cocktail menu, I’d at least like to know the general flavor and format of the drinks.

Notwithstanding, we’ve been going there a few times a year now for several years, and this last visit, we realized: all those problems have gone. There’s a new cocktail menu, still a little oblique but at least you know whether you’ll get gin or whisky or fruit or bitters. Nothing that arrived was oversalted, and the scallops in spicy roast corn was truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten there, perfectly balanced, creamy, spicy, savory and light.

So yay — a place we liked a lot before has a lot more to like now.

summer minutiae

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Ninegret oysters from Rhode Island are delightful. Little superbriny nuggets of shellfish flavor. We had some at The Oceanaire last night for Father’s Day.

Ripe mango from the Indian market + queso fresco from the Latin market = delicious breakfast.

Frontera Grill – sparkling passion and chicken soup

Friday, June 4th, 2010

We had the usual array of delightful things at Frontera Grill last night, but two things stood out clearly. One was a chicken soup appetizer that arrived glowing verdantly with bits of avocado and some leafy item. It tasted of rich, strong chicken broth and had bits of crisped chicken skin floating in there along with the vegetables. Spectacularly good.

The other was a cocktail made of Harpoon IPA, passionfruit juice, fresh lime, and hibiscus tea to tint it pink. Luscious, with a hint of bitter hops and bubbles cutting through the sweet passionfruit. Perfect for summertime.

sweet holy hannah, achatz has done it again, damn his eyes

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Check out the blurb on Huffington Post about Grant Achatz’s new restaurant and soon-to-come cocktail bar.

I already want to go to both real bad. The son of a bitch is gonna take MORE of my money, and I’m gonna enjoy it. Again. ūüôā

suspicions confirmed: Ryo airport food

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Last night en route to a dancing weekend, our AirTran flight got delayed 2.5 hrs, and because of some last-minute chaos as we were leaving, we didn’t know this till we got to the airport and parked. Sigh. So the cost-saving measure of eating some dinner before leaving was blasted to smithereens, and we needed to eat some more… airport food. SIGH.

My usual tactic for this in terminal C of Logan is Currito, which is at least recognizably food, if not especially good food. But tallasiandude was feeling cravey and his disgruntled innards and emotional state took him to the asiany rice offerings of Ryo. We got one rice plate with “orange chicken” which looked like standard-issue crappy-chinese-restaurant General Gao’s chicken in the steam table, and we got another rice plate with beef teriyaki, which seemed like a good idea when the place presents itself as mostly Japanese and the teriyakis are cooked to order.

The orange chicken wasn’t terrible, I’ve definitely had worse. It still had a little crunch, and every 4th or 5th bite was detectably spicy, and there was nothing too gristly about the chicken. But when I opened the styrofoam clamshell to behold the beef teriyaki I just broke up laughing. Not that it was especially amusing to find a gravy-soup containing sauteed cabbage shreds and gray bits of the gnarliest beef (sorry, “beef”) I’ve seen in some time, but it hit me funny that anyone would imagine such a thing to be teriyaki. It was more like the chop suey I used to eat from the Kahula Chinese-Polynesian restaurant as a kid, with cabbage instead of celery and a bit more sugar in the gray gravy. Yipes.

We ate most of it, because we were hungry and it didn’t taste so bad you couldn’t eat it. But it did make me sad, and even sadder to remember that this is what most Americans get when they eat Asian food. We’re making big strides in our cities and some suburbs, and urbanites are getting more exposure to genuine cuisines, but if you don’t have that advantage, you mostly get this kind of stuff, sometimes better quality but under no circumstances the real thing. Sigh.

just like old times: FoodNerd and WineNerd loose in Chicago, part 2 – Moto

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I have been meaning to go to Moto for ages, since before I left Chicago. ¬†I would bike past it every day on the way to work, and it was reputed to be a molecular gastronomy place as spectactular as Alinea. ¬†So when C turned up in Chicago at the same time as me, it was really the perfect opportunity. ¬†I hadn’t eaten at anyplace even remotely like Alinea, and I very much wanted to know if it was the style of food itself that was so amazing or if it was Grant Achatz’s particular genius.

When we walked in for our 7pm reservation on a Wednesday evening, there was one other table of 2, and that was it.  For the entire evening.  Not another soul.  Yikes.

We did the 20 course tasting, and shared one wine pairing. ¬†This set us back an unholy sum, and though I don’t regret our meal, I have to say that it’s not worth the price. ¬†Save your nickels and go to Alinea instead.

For one thing, it is downright inconsiderate to serve 20 courses when each of them is the size of a normal high-end appetizer portion. ¬†We were 5 or 6 courses from the end when we started to dread them, and we were so uncomfortably full when we were done. ¬†I woke up the next morning still full. ¬†Compare this with the many 1- and 2-bite courses in Alinea’s 24 course barrage, which left us sated but not even a little bit uncomfortable.

The wines offered were all interesting, and several were very good, but we didn’t love all the pairings, and found all the whites to be served much too cold. ¬†C can fill you in on the wine specifics in the comments. ¬†ūüôā

Here’s the course by course rundown:

Moto - menu

First, your Edible Menu. ¬†Actually rather tasty: a crispy toast with the menu pasted on, plus a roasted garlic clove, some salted butter and a balsamic drizzle. ¬†The cheesy presentation started here, unfortunately, in the “here’s the dazzle you’ve come for, rubes” tone in which they let you know the menu is food.

Instant Risotto – freeze dried rice and peas, with a hot liquidy sauce poured over to rehydrate, plus a bit of fried fish. ¬†Tasty enough, but I didn’t love the texture of the peas.

Moto - instant risotto

French Onion Soup – a broiled smear of pureed bread and cheese on the side of the dish, a tangle of braised onions, and a tableside pour of broth. ¬†Plus a handmade “funyun,” and I can’t lie, I love that kind of high-low irreverence. ¬†A little weird scraping gummy toast-cheese off the side of the bowl, but again, tasty and I did enjoy this one. ¬†However, this is one place where they really suffered from a direct comparison to Alinea: the spoon had a spiraled metal handle, which held a few sprigs of fresh thyme, in order to provide the scent of thyme to the diner while eating, similar to the olfactory components Alinea adds to some dishes — but the metal coil was awkward to hold, and was thick enough to keep your hand far enough off the herb that it couldn’t warm the thyme to release the scent, so instead of being clever and pleasurable it was mostly just annoying.

Moto - french onion soup

Urban Garden – here’s where the trompe l’oeil really kicked in: a tiny clay flowerpot arrived, filled with a dirt made from crispy brown balsamic-flavored breadcrumbs and topped with a scrap of edible paper trash and a “packing peanut” amid the microgreens sprouting in the dirt. ¬†There were bits of heirloom tomato and mozzarella under the crumbs. ¬†I enjoyed the crispy crumbs, and the presentation was mildly amusing (if perhaps with a little too much “oh we are witty, see how we are slumming” about it for my taste), but overall a mostly ordinary dish.

Moto - urban garden

Deconstructed French Fries РThis one was awesome.  Teeny brunoise of cheese, bacon, and jalapeno confettied over a smear of potato and butter and sour cream puree, with a drizzle of french fry oil.  Again you had to kind of scrape it off the side of the dish, but it tasted perfectly of french fries and all the toppings, with a smooth, unctuous mouthfeel.  Completely compelling and freaking delicious.

Moto - "french fries"

Red Bull Paella Shooter – Essentially all the flavors of a paella chucked into a blender and turned into a thick soup. ¬†Delicious and deeply savory but I wanted it just a bit looser, so half of it didn’t stay stuck to the shotglass. It was served from a Red Bull can direct at table into the shotglass for the full faux impress-the-rubes effect. They drilled a hole into the back of the can to drain it then fill with the soup, so they could pull the pop-top and everything. (The craft-project nerd in me totally digs that, and I wonder if the server had been less of a hipster poseur — or more convincingly theatrical — if I might have appreciated this more.)

Moto - paella shooter

Cuban Cigar – A cheapo ashtray with an extremely convincing half-smoked cigar ashed out in it. ¬†The cigar wrapper was braised collard greens, and the filling was a pulled pork barbecue, with a red pepper sauce at the tip for glowing ash. ¬†I forget what the gray ash was, I think maybe some crushed sesame. ¬†Rich flavors that all worked together, and a clever conceit. ¬†A little awkward to eat, and again with the slumming — I think my issue with it was that it was pervasive rather than an accent. ¬†This dish would have been fine if it was the only low-rent joke in the bunch, in the way that a crude joke is funny when an otherwise sophisticated person tells it, but cringe-inducing when your lecherous drunken uncle tells 20 of them in a single evening.

Moto - "cuban cigar"

Rabbit Maki – Looks like I forgot to photograph this one. ¬†Oops. ¬†A loose rice roll with tender rabbit meat inside; we liked it, as I recall, and it was a well-balanced blend of Japanese and French but it ate a little messier than I’d hoped.

Pork Belly – Absolutely perfect preparation on the square of pork belly. ¬†Crispy skin, softly rendered fat, tender moist meat. ¬†The equal of any pork belly I’ve had in the Chinese restaurants of LA. ¬†This one came with Vietnamese flavors, which worked really well with the pork, and were nicely balanced by the bitter broccoli rabe. ¬†The trompe l’oeil mushroom was made from mushrooms turned into powder and reformed with the magic powder they use to make cornstarch packing peanuts, and was mostly pointless in terms of flavor even with the maitake ragu underneath it.

Moto - pork belly viet style

Reuben – An unnecessarily huge schmear of Russian dressing (let’s be real, if it’s there I am totally going to eat it), plus a wedge of a Reuben sandwich with lasagne pasta sheets instead of bread, and a dusting of dried dill flowers. ¬†If I am remembering properly, a pickle-flavored potato chip is what’s leaning up against the wedge. ¬†Delicious and rich, and a much better deployment of the slumming aesthetic.

Moto - Reuben lasagne

Umami Cappuccino – By this time I was tired of the trompe l’oeil gag, so I lost patience with this dish, a savory broth with edamame and something else I’ve forgotten, plus a pitcher of mushroom foam “cream” and a square of truffle butter “sugar.” ¬†Too salty and a little disjointed, though truffle butter does make just about anything taste better.

Moto - "cappuccino"

Duck Cannoli – Yet more trompe l’oeil, but this was freaking delicious. ¬†If they were all this masterfully orchestrated, I might not have lost my patience at all. ¬†A rich duck shredded into a mole sauce, stuffed into a crispy shell and topped with crema and crushed peanuts.

Moto - duck mole "cannoli"

Crepes that are cheese – Ew. ¬†For real, I have never been served anything this bad ever. ¬†We took one bite of each item and sent the plates back. ¬†The two on top are big blobs of mostly-raw crepe dough formed and dyed to look like two different types of cheese. ¬†The one at bottom is a fried piece of cheese stuffed with marmalade to look like a crepe. ¬†I still can’t believe they fucked that last one up so bad — I actually clapped my hands in glee when they told me what it was as they set the plate down, but the fried cheese had the texture and taste of plastic. ¬†They should be ashamed to have their heads so far up their conceptual asses as to let this anywhere near a paying customer.

Moto - crepes that are cheese

Cereal & Milk РAt least they made it up to me with the next dish.  Freeze-dried strawberry slices full of berry flavor and fluffy crispy cereal flakes, with a dry ice vanilla soy milk poured over the top.  It exploded in your mouth, literally, setting off little sparkly barrages on your tongue.  We giggled like little girls and loved it unreservedly.

Moto - cereal & milk!

Foie Gras Cupcake РA little weird but it worked.  A glistening bit of pan-seared foie gras with a foie-gras flavored mini-cupcake, berry reduction, and truffled milk.

Moto - foie gras cupcake

Unknown РThey told us they brought this dish to make up for the horrible crepes.  I remember really enjoying this, but I completely forget what it was.  Damn me for not writing this up sooner.  I think there was a grapefruit involved.

Moto - i forget, doh!

Snow Balls РI forget this one too.  Crap!  C, help me out here?

Moto - snow ball

Cheese Burger – Yet more trompe l’oeil. ¬†This time it’s a tiny 3-bite burger built completely out of sweet dessert ingredients. ¬†Not that good and a little too sweet for me. Adorable presentation on a flanged white dish.

Moto - "cheese burger"

Acme Bomb – Self-explanatory. ¬†I don’t remember this one either. ¬†We were so full by this point, and tending to obsess over the minutiae of the wines instead. ¬†The dessert wines were so badly matched to the sweet dishes it was absurd. ¬†They were all nice wines, though.

Moto - Acme bomb

Truffle – Hey, guess what? ¬†A trompe l’oeil dish! ¬†Sigh. ¬†A “whole truffle” made from chocolate mousse and cocoa and so forth. ¬†Pleasant to eat.

Moto - "truffle"

Root Beer Float РAnother fun one.  Tasty, spicy homemade root beer, with dry ice doing something or other, and a homemade marshmallow.  Light and refreshing, the right thing to have at this point in a very long, heavy meal.

Moto - root beer float

And then we were done.

The restaurant was empty, we had a forest of wine glasses in front of us (we were definitely causing the waitstaff some grief keeping all those glasses going at once, but it’s not like they had anything ELSE to do so we didn’t feel too bad), and we were full past the eyeballs. ¬†It was really nice to have a long, extravagant, absurdly foodie meal with C again — I miss him and it was awesome to be able to hang out and bullshit for a few hours.

just like old times: FoodNerd and WineNerd loose in Chicago, part 1 – Humboldt Park

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Last week I went to Chicago for work, and FINALLY, after years of waiting, my trip coincided with one of C’s trips. WAHOO!

The first night, we went out with Bar to Borinquen, to introduce C to the glories of the jibarito. We started with a tamale (meh) and some “fried meat” (a little dry, but crispy and good in general), then each of us ordered a jibarito. ¬†Bar & I both went with the chicken, and we pointed C toward the pork, so we could compare and contrast. C admitted later that he’d been skeptical of the raptures we described, since a) how good could it really be and b) he doesn’t actually like plantain that much. His first bite changed his mind, and because C has a truly enviable capacity to consume, he ORDERED A SECOND ONE when he finished the first. This one turned out even better than the first, crispier and saltier, probably because it came straight from the griddle instead of waiting for two other sandwiches to be ready.

Then, because we were so close by, I took them to the California Clipper for a drink or two. But since C had failed to bring his ID with him, the big dope, they wouldn’t let us past the door — even though it was dead as a doornail in there. (The complete emptiness of various venues on this trip was odd and scary… i should post about that later.) They pointed us down the block but that place was jammed, so we bailed out and walked down Augusta to Western, where we figured if we couldn’t find a bar we could at least find a cab.

We decided we’d try the first Old Style sign we saw once we got to the corner. So we did — but the door was locked. Oh shit. But they came right over and let us in, which turned out to be completely awesome, because it was a textbook example of the old fashioned Chicago neighborhood bar. Old wooden bar, crappy linoleum tile, beer signs, and middle aged Polish folks clustered at the far end of the bar playing the jukebox. Perfect. We sat there for over an hour, drinking Old Style, running the Polish pop songs through the iPhone (it did remarkably well IDing them) and watching men’s figure skating on TV. At one point C ordered “whiskey” and was given Jack Daniels in a shotglass. Around 10:30 we remembered we are theoretically responsible grown-up people and attempted to go home, but we couldn’t hail a taxi, so rather than freeze to death we went to the OTHER Old Style sign across the street to try and call the guy who dropped us off at Borinquen.

This turned out to be the cheesy modern Polish neighborhood bar, also with a locked door, this time with a homemade wooden bar, Christmas lights, a friendly Polish girl about our age tending bar, and one weird dude sitting at the bar. Also men’s figure skating. They didn’t have even crappy whiskey, so we drank the Polish vodka, also from shotglasses. We got points from the barmaid for wanting just plain vodka, no mix. The cab dude didn’t answer his phone nor did he show up, so after a half hour or so, despite a very good time being had by all (including the weird dude), we went back out to try and hail a cab and this time we managed it. Everybody got home in one piece, and no one’s hangover was too wretched. And that is the sort of evening that Chicago does better than anyplace, as far as I can tell.

Tune in next post for part 2 – Moto.

Matt the farm-fresh cocktail man

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

While in LA we went out for drinks with our pal hedge and wound up at the Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Hedge met Matt the bartender at the farmer’s market that morning by happenstance and when we suggested drinks she had just the place to try.
A sampling of Matt’s creations:
– umami manhattan: shiitake infused Basil Hayden bourbon, bitters, italian cherry
– arugula gimlet: arugula, mint, lime, sugar, Hendrick’s gin
– Last Tango in Modena: strawberries, balsamic, Hendrick’s, with St. Germain foam
– vanilla Basil Hayden, ginger beer, lime, sugar, mint
– wo kaffir lime drinks…. one with cherry liqueur foam — we’d prefer an orange foam or no foam in that one. I much preferred the kaffir lime, Hendrick’s, coconut milk thing he whipped up for the folks next to us (he gave us a sample).
We got a couple tastes of his saffron vodka and fresh coconut/pineapple rum, both quite interesting and complex.
And then he whipped up a new drink on the spot based on a single phrase: Just The Tip. This ended up being a multi-part extravaganza in a nipped-waist vessel, with a 20 yr Pappy Van Winkle old fashioned in the bottom, followed by a cherry to block the narrow part of the glass, then lemon, sugar, aperol, and possibly vodka in the top section, with cherry foam on just the tip. Insane. Awesome.