Saturday, March 1, 2014

Just Do It. Just Lick the Plate.

Flatbread Company - Somerville, MA

     Sometimes I do things that are fun and realize how much I dislike how busy life is. Doing something fun and enjoyable shouldn't seem like it's a rare occurrence or not the norm. I need to find a way to adjust my life. Find things that I have in excess and cut them off. Rearrange things. Make more time to enjoy things. Anyway... after many many attempts to meet up, Griff and I finally got together for some food at Flatbreads in Davis Square. He had told me eons ago that this place was good, and I have wanted to go ever since. Truth be told, I totally thought Flatbreads was a dive bar with a janky bowling alley or something. It's on a side street and is inside, what I thought was, a small brick building. I had no idea when I walked in that it was going to be so big and open. Directly in front of you as you enter are the bowling lanes. We didn't end up bowling, but the balls you use are really tiny. It looks super fun though and provides a great background noise for your meal.
     The dining area to the left is one huge room with a ton of wooden tables. All the table tops and seats are wood and metal and fit in with the rustic feel of the place. It was also relatively dimly lit, but there were a ton of colors all around that stuck out of the darkness. There were different colored lights that illuminated other objects throughout the room along with many signs painted in bright, vibrant colors. The main feature in the room, however, was the clay wood-fired oven and the stacks of wood next to it. You could see a nice roaring fire in the oven as the pizzas bubbled off to the side. One of the workers was almost always stoking the fire or putting in a pizza that had been prepared right next to the oven in their open kitchen area. It all had a very simplistic feel. My kind of place.
     Onto the food. To start we ordered one of their salads that was on special. It was their normal mesclun
and organic sweet lettuces, shaved roasted beets, and shredded pickled cabbage and carrots. There were supposed to be grape tomatoes in it, but I found zero. It was delicious anyway, so I didn't complain. I also don't recall the waitress saying what the dressing was, so I played my own game of guess the flavors. I definitely got some sesame seeds, and I thought it tasted rather asian. Gingery perhaps? Upon checking their menu out when I got home, I saw on their menu that they add toasted sesame seeds to their other salads and have a homemade ginger-tamari vinaigrette. I win. It was delicous. Truthfully the dressing was my favorite part. It was just so light and refreshing.
     For our first pizza, we ordered a small Somerville Community Flatbread with their wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce, organic caramelized onions, organic mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. The tomato sauce was the best part of this pizza. You can't often say that about a pizza.  It was perfectly sweet and chunky (another thing you can't often say about pizzas). I also loved that there were a ton of mushrooms all over the pizza.
          The second pizza was their sauce-less Homemade Sausage pizza with their own nitrate-free maple-fennel sausage, organic sulfate-free sundried tomatoes, caramelized organic onions, organic mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. At first I thought a sauce-free pizza was silly, but oh boy was this pizza delicious. I think not having a sauce allowed me to focus more on the toppings, and it truthfully wasn't necessary. The sausage had the texture more of cooked ground beeg, which I wasn't expecting. But it had this amazing sweet and maple-y flavor. The sweetness of the sausage plus what we believe was a subtle sweetness in the caramelized onions gave this whole pie a completely different flavor than any other sausage pizza I've had before. It wasn't dessert-like though, as you still got the savory flavors from the fennel in the sausage, the mushrooms and the sundried tomatoes. Gosh the flavor that those sun dried tomatoes took on when they roasted a bit and the edges crisped up in the oven was fabulous. Mmmm!
     One thing I really liked about their pizzas is that they let the toppings be the stars of the show. Now don't get me wrong, I love some delicious, melty cheese... but sometimes pizzas can have too much cheese and you may not get to experience what the toppings have to offer as much. You may not agree, but that's ok. But on both of these pizzas, I realized that I was able to notice little things about the flavors that I may not have noticed if it was loaded up with cheese. Like some of the herbs, the fact that the tomato sauce was chunky, or how I never realized I liked smaller pieces of mushrooms on pizza because you get some in every bite. 
     Oh and I didn't even mention the crust! The crust was incredible! They make an organic bread dough that they sprinkle with homemade garlic oil and blend of organic herbs. It was real thin on the bottom and got a little soggy the longer it sat, but it was still delicious. My favorite part was the crust around the edges. It seemed very different than pizza dough in that it was way more flavorful, much softer and more chewy. Almost like a deliciously chewy dinner roll you'd get in a bread basket at a restaurant. I wanted so badly to butter up the crust like my mom and I used to do when I was younger. 
     All in all, a great atmosphere, great company, and delicious food. I'd love to go back and try bowling with those small balls. Ha.

Greek Corner - Cambridge, MA

     This restaurant adventure was another one of those week long discussions/decisions that Mary and I had.
Mary really wanted some Greek food, and well... it doesn't take much to persuade me. I know this place was on the Food Network at one point, and it was voted as Best of Boston 2008 for Greek Food. One of my old coworkers loves Greek Corner, and I've truthfully had some Greek salad and a grilled cheese from there before, but I've always wanted to go back for the real deal. Today was the day. We went directly after our Saturday workout so we could try all of the things. I was really excited to try some things similar to what Grandma Dini used to make and compare them.
     As an "appetizer" we ordered the Sampler Plate, which had dolmathakia, tsatziki, taramosalata, spinach pie, hommus, tabouleh, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant salad and olives. This plate was presented with a large dollop each of hommus (Greek spelling), tsatziki, and the taramosalata and all the goodies were places on top of each spread. Dolmathakia are grape leaves, and they were pretty good! Even though they didn't have meat like my grandma's do, they were probably the closest I've had to what I consider "real" grape leaves in that they weren't absolutely soaked in olive oil. They were much lighter and very tasty. The tsatziki sauce was incredible! If you're unfamiliar, tsatziki sauce is a creamy sauce made with Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, dill and cucumber. It's often paired with gyro meat, but truthfully, it's incredible to just dip pita bread or veggies in. The taramosalata was something new to me. It was basically a red paste that was red caviar blended with bread and spices. We couldn't really figure it out because it was such a smooth consistency leaving us to wonder where the "bread" was. It had such a great flavor that wasn't fishy, but more dill-y. The spinach pies were also amazing. They had some sort of a "dark" flavor that Mary pointed out. I noticed it too, but we were unsure what it was. Perhaps it was just a very rich tasting spinach. Man the phyllo dough though was so delicious, golden and flaky. The hommus was very different than I'm used to but still incredible. I can't pinpoint the flavors, but it had much less tahini and garlic kick in it, and it was a little thinner and more gritty than most hommus. The tabouleh was also a much better representation of my family's traditional tabouleh than I'm used to in that there was more of the 70% parsley and veggies to 30% wheat germ ratio. A lot of grocery stores and restaurants make it into more of a grain based salad with waaaaaay too much wheat germ in my opinion. Not Greek Corner though! They had great ratio, making it the light refreshing salad it's supposed to be. The eggplant salad was delicious too and was very light. It was kind of a mushy mix of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and lemon maybe? All of these things were served with pita bread that we dipped in all of the sauces individually, together, and in combination with the tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. All of the flavors on this plate were phenomenal together. We were literally in shock.
     For the "meal" we split one Corner's Special Gyro with ground beef and lamb. It was served in a hot pita
bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, parsley and tsatziki sauce. One bite in, and I never wanted to eat anything else ever again. The meat was out of this world. It was cut in large hunks rather than thinner shavings. It was hot and the edges of the meat crisped up to give it a great flavor. It had some of the most amazing seasonings I've ever had in meat like this. I've always loved lamb thanks to my family, and this really hit home. The intense flavor of the meat went perfectly with the cool tsatziki sauce. Gosh and the pita it was wrapped in was so thick, warm, and grilled, providing the grilled and slightly burned in a few places taste. The whole gyro was the ultimate package. So so so happy with that choice.
   Instead of getting regular fries with our gyro we ordered a side of the Greek Fries which are big, thick-cut and long fries with the skins on. They're served with a little oregano, lemon juice and a ton of parmesan cheese practically poured on top. I couldn't really taste the lemon on them, but I was a huge fan of the parmesan that was warmed up by the fries. We dipped those fries in every sauce and dip we had left; the hommus, tsatziki, and the taramosalata. So many great flavors.
     For dessert we split one piece of baklava and one piece of what they call Galaktoboureko. Apparently the Galaktoboureko is a Greek pastry consisting of a semolina based custard that is wrapped in phyllo dough and topped with sweet syrup. This was served to us warm and was absolutely mind blowing. The texture of the insides kind of resembled a combination of bread pudding, custard and thicker tapioca. But it had a lightly sweet, eggy and vanilla flavor. The phyllo dough it was wrapped in was more moist than most phyllo dough you experience on things like baklava. The top and side of the dough was slightly more crisp, but the bottom piece of phyllo dough had soaked up a lot of the moisture from the custard and was much softer itself. Every bite was just as good as the last. We were so happy with this new discovery.
     The baklava was definitely one of the best pieces of baklava I've ever had. Splitting it made our individual pieces pretty small, but it still provided outrageous flavor. A lot of times when you get baklava, they're really
heavy, both physically and in your stomach. Often they can be really soaked top to bottom in thick honey... which is delicious... but after today I discovered that I like it much better when it's less heavy. I'm not exactly sure how they made it, but the top of this baklava had very little honey in it, allowing the phyllo dough to stay light and flakey. The bottom of the baklava was were the honey was, but even then it was much thinner than most honey, making it all a lot lighter and more enjoyable. The top of the baklava was sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon that I'm not sure is commonplace. Either way, I loved the flavor that the cinnamon added. Totally took it to a new level.
     This was such a great meal from start to finish. No complaints whatsoever. 

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