Friday, August 17, 2012

"I Like the Way it Feels on My Teeth"

Shabu-Ya - Cambridge, MA

     Swish Swish. Go ahead. Say it. Fun, right? So James and I head to this Shabu Shabu restaurant called Shabu-Ya in Harvard Square. Shabu Shabu is the type of restaurant, and it means "swish swish." I'm feelin' pretty hip as we enter. Everything is very modern. Bright colors, awkwardly uncomfortable looking furniture. You know what I'm talking about. Each table has a mini electric stove on it that's used to boil the bucket of broth they bring you. We're clueless. After 20 minutes of trying to figure out the menu and avoiding the beef tongue, we narrowed down our options. It's a 3 step process. 1) Choose your meat. We chose lamb and chicken. 2) Choose your broth. We chose beef. 3) Choose rice, vermicelli, or noodles. We chose the vermicelli, but pronounced it vermicell because the menu spelled it that way. Truth be told, we decided it was actually mermaid hair. Don't know what that's like? Yes you do.
     Anyway, the waiter brings over a dish with 4 little condiments. Already I'm overwhelmed with the portion sizes. Someone's going to have to roll me out the door. There was a Japanese bbq paste (I think), scallions, garlic, and a hot pepper sauce. About a half a teaspoon of each. Our other provisions included soy sauce bowls, little strainers, some goofy spoon thing and an extra bowl for sauce creations. Next came a plate of veggies and the mermaid hair. Some sort of sprouts, bok choi, carrots, and tofu blobs. Our waiter turned on the stove and we sat confused. What now? What's going on? I'm hungry. Help me. Then our appetizer and meats came out at the same time. The appetizer was 2 mini chicken skewers covered in some sort of mildly spicy chili paste. Decent flavor. Hot but mildly sweet. I was stuffed. Phew.
     The meat arrived in very thin slices on a platter. This meal was colorful and I was pumped to eat it.... once we figured out how to cook it. We asked the waiter and he explained it all, but ... well... we were both still confused. The broth feverishly boiled and we threw in the veggies, meats and mermaid hair. Using your little strainer, we fished out the substance and dipped it in our sauce creations. No forks and knives were provided, so chopsticks were your only option (unfortunate day for James... lol). Picking up that damn mermaid hair was a pain. Try to eat it right out of the little strainer and you spill it all over yourself. No wonder asians are so skinny. It takes so long to eat anything. After developing about 3 different food cooking strategies, all of which I'm pretty sure were incorrect, we had destroyed every ounce of food that had been delivered.
     Analysis? This was super fun. The experience was different and unique. I like being out of my element like that. There was nothing superb about the food itself. Boiled meat and veggies dipped in sauce. Oh man but I did make this one brew that was off the hook. It had all of the assorted condiments in it plus soy sauce. Tasty.
     The night did provide another first for me. It was my first time trying fried ice cream. Heaven have mercy on my soul. That stuff is nuts. They took a scoop of ice cream the size of my fist, breaded and fried it. The physics blew my mind at first. On top of the magical mountain was chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a "cherry." Shoot. This was phenomenal. Sweet but fried and simple. I need more of this. Daily, please.

Anna's Taqueria - Cambridge, MA

     Hash run anyone? Amazing. Those people are fast geniuses. Have you ever done a hash run? Me neither, but I totally recommend it. I'm not going to explain it, but either way, you're going to want Mexican food afterwards. After the run with Mary, Antonia and Will, we all were starved. Well, we wanted food regardless of what else was in our stomachs. Since I was still full from my pre-run PB&J, Antonia and I split a veggie quesadilla. This was not your typical quesadilla. First, it was rolled up like a burrito. Odd. But there was cheese, beans, and wedges of sweet potato, zucchini and squash maybe? I don't quite remember, but it was delicious. I was thoroughly surprised. Some sort of dead animal would've made it even better, but I was happy with it. Next time. ALSO... I finally found good homemade tortilla chips in Boston! Yessssss! We got a side of chips and salsa for $1.25 or something crazy. I swear I could've eaten 4 bags. They were crisp and salty. What more can you ask for?

Newtowne Grille - Cambridge, MA

     So.... naturally, we finish eating (post hash run) and head to another restaurant, where we got a $4 cheese pizza. What a treat. Cover that bad boy in more parmesan cheese and pheeeeew-ee. That seriously hit the spot. #2 spot. #1 was the Mexican food. Maybe it's cheese that's pleasing me. Not sure. Either way. I rolled out of there happy as a clam.  We*** rolled out of there. The quote of the night goes to Mary in regards to the cheese on the pizza, "I like the way it feels on my teeth!"

Zucchini Bread Pancakes - 578 Washington St #3

     Well I'm not going in order here, but I don't care. After a 3am arrival back in Boston post-Henley, my body naturally woke up at 7am. Why? Who knows, but the anticipation of making zucchini bread pancakes that morning had been building up for weeks. Needless to say, I was too excited to sleep, so I had to get up and make them. I got this recipe off of Smitten Kitten, the blog. I was so happy with how they turned out! It's basically just like normal pancakes with a little less sugar and some shredded zucchini. So simple, but so delicious and moist. She made a good point when she said she liked the contrast between the unsweetened pancakes and the sweet syrup. It really seemed to allow me to separate the flavors of the syrup and pancakes, rather than just tasting a big sweet combo in my mouth. They're super dense but super awesome. Easy too! I made a half batch and ate every single pancake. Here's the recipe:

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

Makes 10 to 12 pancakes
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown, dark brown or granulated sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 9 ounces whole, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini), heaping cups are fine
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet

1) In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.

2) Preheat oven to 200°F and place a tray — foil-lined if you’re into doing fewer dishes later — on a middle rack.

3) Heat a large, heavy skillet (totally use cast-iron) over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm. Repeat next weekend.

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