Monday, December 26, 2011

Heaven on Earth

Bagel Sandwich on Roids – 578 Washington #3, Brighton, MA

“Heaven on earth.” Generally an overused phrase. I guarantee you that the idea of heaven on earth you just created in your brain is different than mine. There’s no shame in that though. Let me give you a glimpse into the simplicity of my morning heaven. Step 1: Cut a hole the box… just kidding. Unrelated completely.
            Once again, it was Saturday morning. Time for a treat. I knew uncalcified fetus was on the menu, but wasn’t sure how to dress it up. I had a poppy seed bagel that was nearing the end of its life, so that needed to be included. Simply put, I fried up a few pieces of bacon, fried an egg in the thin coat of extra bacon grease and toasted and buttered the poppy seed bagel. Get this… bagel, egg, bacon, crumbled feta cheese, chopped green onion, bagel. I left planet earth. I’m sure of it.

Everything but the____ cookies - 578 Washington St #3, Brighton, MA

           How often do you get invited to a cookie swap? I'd say not often. At least, I've never been invited to one. I always seem to end up with tons of carrots, and I don't eat them fast enough. Plus, I LOVE carrot cake and I LOVE cookies. There had to be some way to mix the two together. I found a recipe online that did just chocolate. These cookies were amazing. I have no idea how they were supposed to turn out, but they were very fluffy. Almost cakey. Delicious. And they were very mountainous. They didn't spread out much, perhaps due to the lack of butter. There were so many different flavors in each bite. Raisins, carrots, chocolate, oats. Yumm :]

1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
¾ cup finely grated carrots
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
Add 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips if you're feeling rebellious!
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2) Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
3) Mix together the oil with the sugar, honey or syrup, and carrots until the sugar is dissolved.
4) Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the raisins and nuts and mix until they’re distributed throughout.
Drop tablespoons of the dough on to a cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Notes: I didn't use the walnuts, simply because I didn't have them. I used soybean oil. The good thing about these cookies is that they're not so bad for you. They have less sugar and fat that most cookies, and they're filling. Perhaps due to the oats. Speaking of oats, I accidentally bought the steel cut oats that are more like oat bits rather than flattened oats. They still turned out well though, in case you happen to make the same mistake. 

Windsor Café – Boston, MA

            Unfortunately, I had been to China Town before but had never eaten there. Supposedly you’ve got to be real careful though because some places will make you blow the bowl. I read in the Boston Improper about this place called Windsor Café that supposedly had the best Dim Sum in Boston. I still didn’t really know what dim sum was other than something with dumplings and asian type things. People rave about it all the time though, and I think it’s what all the real Asians get at restaurants when us whiteys get General Tso’s Chicken. Who is General Tso anyway? And what did he do to get a delicious chicken dish named after him? New life goal. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain what I think I ate and how I think it tasted. Truthfully, there was a lot of uncertainty involved in this meal. Pleasant uncertainty, of course.
            So I met Brian downtown, and we headed to Windsor Café. It was a tiny little restaurant nestled between 3 or 4 other asian restaurants. The street was tiny and smelled like garbage. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s all part of the experience, right? The whole place was full of Asians. Just what I hoped. They had “communal tables” in which you sit down and other people you don’t know sit with you. It was actually kind of cool. Two Asians sat next to us, and they ate like kings. I was jealous of their superior chopsticks skills.
            As I came to learn, dim sum is the asian version of tapas. Tapas and I get along great, so my relationship with dim sum would probably be similar. The staff was relatively on the ball, even though we could never understand what they were saying when they asked us questions. You just gotta go with it.
Naturally I wanted to get the weirdest things on the menu. My first choice was beef stomach. Which stomach? Not sure. Some of the chunks of stomach had a different texture than others. I assume maybe that’s because the chunks were from different stomachs. Either way, the stomach came in a very light and mildly spicy broth. I say broth because it wasn’t the consistency of what I would consider a sauce. It looked like a mix between a fungus, seaweed, and a sea sponge. Seemed to taste like all three too. It was very chewy, but not to the point of frustration. The spice came from some red chilies that they added. Overall, pleasantly surprised with the stomach to stomach interaction.
            Another dish we got was a lotus seed dumpling. Yes, lotus the flower. I definitely didn’t know you could eat a lotus. But this was delicious! A lotus seed paste sat in the middle of a super fluffy bun like dumpling. The dumpling itself was a little sweet and had been steamed. The lotus seed paste was relatively smooth with a little bit of grit was it had a light, sweet taste. No overwhelming flavor punch. It was just simple and sweet.
            I also chose a stuffed eggplant dish. A couple chunks of thick eggplant came sitting in a brown liquid/oil. I have no idea what the liquid was, but it complimented the eggplant well. The eggplant was stuffed with shrimp and something else that I couldn’t pinpoint. I think they must have baked or roasted the eggplant because the outside was lightly crisp and the inside was super soft. It didn’t seem fried though. It was different than any other eggplant I’d eaten before.
            Another one of my choices was a pork sausage dumpling. Each little dumpling had a tiny pork sausage (I think it was pork… who really knows though) in it. It was a little spicy but tasted great tucked inside a sweeter dumpling.
            Beef balls. Not beef testicles. Just beef balls. Literally they were balls of beef sitting in a shallow pool of broth with some…. Seaweed? Leeks? Green onions? Not a clue. They were pleasantly salty. Pardon my comparison, but they looked like the ball of seagull vomit that came hurling at my chest nine years ago at the Arts Beats and Eats festival. Except this time I didn’t cry when I took it to the face.
            You’d think a turnip cake might be similar to a carrot cake. Nope. Not even. So the turnip cake came in two square patties. The outside was moderately crisp and the inside was hot. I want to say it had a consistency similar to that of a crab meat/tofu mixture. Weird, I know. But you could cut it with a fork. There wasn’t too much going on in each patty, but there were small slivers of turnip hidden throughout the cake. It had a slight rooty flavor, but I think most of the flavor came from the crisped edges. Mmm!
            The last dish we got is a mystery. Brian says chicken something, but I thought it was something with vegetables. Either way, I wasn’t disappointed with anything we got, so this must’ve been good.

Great Taste Bakery – Boston, MA

            After lunch we went to this pastry shop called Great Taste. I got some huge puffy custard pastry that I waited to eat until I got to the Prudential Center mall (I needed to go do a workout right after lunch, but I HAD to work off some of the food first. I figured a stroll around the mall might do the trick). I popped it out of the bag once I got into the mall, but quickly realized this bun of glory was not something that deserved to be slighted. It deserved my full attention. Walking and eating it was too much to think about, so I sat down on a bench, braving all the jealous stares. The pastry itself was so light and was flaking all over me. Another reason I had to sit down. There was no way I was going to let all those flakes go to waste if I was walking. This way I could catch them all in my lap and still get to eat them. The pastry wasn’t jammed full of custard. I wasn’t sure if it would be like a custard doughnut or not, so this was a surprise. In the middle of the pastry was a huge air pocket. A custard layer lined the bottom of this pocket. Sneaky. At first I thought they forgot to add the custard. Silly. Shows how much I know. The thing had to be 500 calories. Worth it.

Patrick’s Special Guac – 578 Washington #3

            Cottage cheese is totally underestimated. Generally, I eat cottage cheese by itself. Don’t get me wrong; it’s delicious, but I don’t know what else I would pair it with. I don’t know of any dishes that require it. It’s kind of a weird food. My recent realization of how underestimated it is stemmed from a guacamole experiment I took part in thanks to Patrick. He says, “I’ve got a pretty great guacamole recipe.” I think, “Guac is rather simple and straightforward. How crazy could his recipe be?” Ready for it? Cottage cheese. Is this common? Do other people know about this mystery ingredient? I had no idea. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it until the complexities of the whole guacamole ensemble caressed my tongue. It was amazing! Something about the subtle cheesiness of the cottage cheese mixed with the freshness of the avocado and cilantro, sourness of the lime, and spice of the peppers just made the whole thing complete. Oh and the garlic. I had never used so much garlic in guac before, and it really made a difference. I think letting the guac cool in the fridge for a while helped the garlic flavor penetrate throughout. The best bites were those that had a huge chunk of garlic in them. I totally and definitely recommend using cottage cheese next time your ready to overhaul your guacamole recipe. Here’s the full “recipe.” Just spitball it.

2 avocados
2 chopped red chilis
Diced tomatoes
Diced onions
Tablespoon of minced garlic
Salt and pepper
2 cups cottage cheese
Lime juice
Cayenne pepper

A couple notes: I used a little yellow onion because that’s what I had. I’d suggest a red onion. That’d be killer. I also added cilantro to his original recipe because I think it’s a critical ingredient in guac. I searched 5 different stores and couldn’t find red chilis. Come on. Instead, I chopped up some dried jalapenos that I had and added a little chili powder. I’m sure it’s not nearly the same, but sometimes you just have to improvise. Also, I’d suggest fresh lime juice. Squeeze it yourself. It’s so much better. I found that this guacamole was best tucked inside a pita. Super filling too. I love when friends share good recipes.

Hoy Hing - Brighton, MA

             It was a Sunday, and I was working late. My month long craving for mediocre asian food still had not been satisfied... and it had been a rough weekend. But Karl came through for me when I got out of work. Ellen had been talking about how Hoy Hing was hoppin'. Some chinese place right down the street. The general and I had been separated for far too long, and it was time for a reunion. You can get a "Special Meal Dish" for 6.75 that comes with General Tso's Chicken, white or pork fried rice, and an appetizer. Amazing deal, right? I still don't understand how the special meal dish differed from the specialities, chef's specialities or the combination platters, but it was irrelevant. This was going to be beyond satisfying. I got crab rangoons as my appetizer and pork fried rice. The crab rangoons could've been a little more crisp and crabby. Not as good as Golden Wok, but completely acceptable. I'm not so sure what it is with asian food and dying pork bright red, but there were little red chunks of pork in my rice in addition to some onions and other random things. It was simple, but great. Now the general tso's chicken wasn't no Golden Wok General or Rice Kitchen General on a Saturday night, but it seriously hit the spot. Whatever that goo is that he's so famous for was great. The chicken was mildly meaty, yet provided a satisfying fried flavor and crispness. Ellen said their portions fed her for three days. I finished mine in 15 minutes... tops. 

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