Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hey... It Was My Birthweek

The Rattlesnake Bar and Grill - Boston, MA
Poe's Nachos

     FINALLY… this trip was 3 years in the making. Don’t ask me why it took me so long. I don’t have an answer. I have wanted to try the antelope tacos at the Rattlesnake since I moved here and first discovered them. If you recall, I also went on a run a couple years ago (titled it "Nacho Average Run") and scoped out all the places in the city that apparently had the best nachos. The Rattlesnake is on the list. Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake has a really unique menu and gets great reviews, especially for its roof deck. I had decided well in advance that this was

Jimmy and Catherine on The Rattlesnake's roofdeck
to be my birthday celebration destination. No ifs, ands or buts. Since my birthday was on a Wednesday this year, I wanted to get dinner with some friends the weekend leading up to my birthday. One of the best parts was that my good friend Kelly from MSU Crew just moved to Maine and was able to come down to join us! Meagan, Jimmy, Karl, Dave, Catherine, Joan, Lauren and Zack all made their way out to join, and I was so grateful. We were able to snag a nice big table on the roof and ordered some delicious drinks to start. I ordered the Thai Mojito which was by far the best mojito I’ve ever had. It was the standard rum, lime and soda water mix, but they threw in some lemongrass syrup too. Big fan of the lemongrass addition.
     Since we were all dying of starvation, we ordered Poe’s Nachos. These chips were loaded with
We all wore teal and were pretty excited about it :]
shredded beef, pepper jack cheese sauce, refried beans, lettuce, black beans, asparagus, corn salsa, minted tomatillo salsa, salsa fresca, cotija cheese and sour cream. This was definitely the most unique plate of nachos I’ve ever had. I loved how they did the steak. It was moist and full of a deep, spicy flavor. The cheese sauce was really unique too. It wasn’t at all like the regular processed “cheese sauce” you’d expect on nachos. I could tell that it was clearly a homemade cheese sauce and it easily covered all the chips. The cotija cheese also added such a great flavor. It’s a harder cow’s milk cheese, and since it’s a little bit more powdery and crumbly it blended in nicely with the cheese sauce and juices from the salsas in the bottom of the dish. I know that may sound weird, but it made for some excellent flavor combinations. The three different salsas had their own awesome unique flavors. Some spicy, some sweet. Plus … with the addition of chunks of asparagus and baby greens… this nacho plate was far from average. I did feel a little bad though when I snapped at the waitress who tried to take away the dish when it still had some of the juices left in the bottom.
Antelope Tacos

Birthday brownie with chipotle ice cream
     For my actual meal I ordered the long anticipated antelope tacos. There were three to a plate, and they came in fried corn tortillas. The antelope meat wasn’t as game-y as I had expected, but boy was it good. I had trouble discerning whether or not the incredible flavor was from the antelope meat itself or from the fact that it was infused with duck fat. Also stacked within each taco was smoked fresno chile, Chihuahua cheese, jalapeno, and bacon ranch (not sure what that is). The all-star of the taco was definitely the meat, and they made sure of it by not overloading it with too many other flavors. The Chihuahua cheese, however, did add a mild and slightly sour flavor. By the end of the third taco, I wished there was a fourth… and a fifth, but all good things must come to an end right?
     For dessert, Meagan and Kelly (not so) sneakily told them it was my birthday, and they brought a big fat brownie with a scoop of chipotle ice cream on top. The brownie was nice and toasty warm (and tasted like freezer to Jimmy). The ice cream was really unique and had that smoky ,spicy chipotle flavor. It was pretty odd, and I definitely couldn't sit down and have a bowl of it, but it was fun to try!


Rangzen Tibetan Restaurant - Cambridge, MA

     My birthday lunch was on my friends in the accounting department at GG, but the choice was up to me. I had been wanting to try Rangzen for a while (ever since I've lived in Cambridge really), and I truthfully had no idea what Tibetan food would be like. They had a lunch buffet, so I was all in.


 Rangzen is a tiny little place on Pearl Street next to Pepper Sky's. The inside was so beautifully decorated with tons of fabrics, unique lighting, and art covering the walls. The food was even more beautiful, and therefore I had to try it all. It's nearly impossible to describe everything because I didn't know what half of it was.
     They served chicken curry (Chhasha Curry) that was different than the Indian chicken curry you may be used to. It had potatoes, onions, tomatoes and spices up the wazoo. It was in a slightly thinner sauce that was less creamy and less powerful in terms of the curry. They also had a chickpea curry dish that was a pretty thick mush of chickpeas, curry and lentils maybe? I'm not positive on that one, but it was one of my favorite things of the whole meal. It was delicious alone or wrapped up inside some of their steamed bread (Phaley). The bread they served reminded me of the bread served at Ethiopian restaurants except that it was a tad less spongy and didn't have that slightly sour flavor. Other dishes included their chicken and mushrooms in a teriyaki sauce (Chhasha Shamo) and Shypta which was basically just pan fried shaved beef with hot green peppers. Both of these were tasty, but nothing too fancy. I get bored of teriyaki easily, so I didn't go for seconds of that.
"Kindly, Please Respect the food and
Do not waste it." Amen. 
     They also had dumplings called Tsel Momo that I believe had spinach, cabbage, tofu, ginger and garlic in them. We all agreed that they needed some sort of dipping sauce (maybe there was one), but we weren't sure what half of the things at the buffet were. The noodle dish they served was called Tsel Chow. It had tofu, spinach, cabbage, carrot, red onion, scallion, ginger, garlic and a little soy sauce and cilantro. I loved the noodles that were in it. I'm thinking rice noodles? They were those kind of translucent ones that are bouncy in your mouth.
     As far as side dishes go, they had a lot of really unique salads and steamed veggies like bok choy. One of the salads had mango, green apple, tomatoes, onion, cilantro and lime. I can't say I was a huge fan, but it was totally worth a try. Lots of different flavors that didn't really go together well. They also had a cucumber and yogurt salad, and a bunch of different slaws and pickled dishes, some spicy and some sweet. Everything was very unique and nothing was described well (which is totally fine), so you really had to be up for some experimentation at this buffet. All around I was very please, left full, and got a taste (literally) of what real Tibetan food is like. I love eating in Boston :]


Bisuteki Tokyo - Cambridge, MA

All the goods... and an onion volcano.
     Sometimes I'm too cheap for my own good. But other times, I'm pretty excellent at seeking out
and taking advantage of free food when I can. After crawling the interwebz in search of free birthday meals, I found the perfect one. Bisuteki Tokyo is literally directly across the street from Riverside, and it always smells incredible. I've had this big idea to just walk over there one day after practice and get dinner, but it's one of those "maybe tomorrow" kind of deals. Well... apparently you can go on your birthday, and you get a free entree. So that's exactly what I did. I met Meagan there after my workout, and we sat at a table overlooking the river. If you're unfamiliar, this place is one of those Japanese Steakhouses where they cook everything on a flat topped grill called a teppanyaki grill in front of you. Generally you choose an entree consisting of some sort of meat, and it comes with a salad, soup, appetizer, and veggies. 
      I absolutely love the salads they serve at these types of restaurants as well as sushi places. It's some sort of bright orange ginger dressing. I don't know what makes it orange, but it's got such a light and refreshing flavor and is a great way to prepare your palette for your meal. The soup is generally a miso soup, and I really enjoyed this one because it came with large fresh mushroom slices in it. 
      After we finished up our soup and salad, our chef wheeled his little cart over to the grill and started with his fancy knife work. He clinked them, he clanked them, and he made weird noises with his mouth. He built a volcano out of onions, poured oil in the middle, lit it on fire and had a toy boy "pee" on it. He wasn't enthused. I was. Mission accomplished. It was all a show, but it was more hilarious than impressive. Because the entree was supposed to be free, at first I thought I must be slightly confused. I mean...some of the entrees were $30. I thought that there would be no way you could get a lobster, filet minon, and scallop entree for free. No way. But... you could in fact choose any entree you'd like. I wanted the filet minon and scallops. Great choice. He cooked the filet nice and rare like I requested, and the scallops were perfect too. The appetizer
that came with our entrees was a couple shrimp which the chef cooked on the grill with some soy sauce and teryikai. We topped a bed of sticky rice with the meats and a bunch of grilled squashes, sprouts, carrots, and onions. Everything had a slight soy flavor and was super simple. I'd love if I could whip up a meal that quick and perfectly with such minimal clean up. Next Christmas, grandma, I'd like to have a teppanyaki grill installed in my apartment. Thanks!
     As a party of two (and someone who is receiving a free meal), I think our waitress was fairly unamused, as was our chef man. No one squirted Saki in my mouth like they did for Zack. No one banged a gong or sang when they delivered my free birthday cheesecake at the end of the meal. I'd say I was upset, but I wasn't. It had been a great day with lots of good food and great company. I couldn't have asked for anything more :]



The Glenville Stops - Allston, MA

     Malcolm is a great dude. And not only because he likes good food. He couldn't make my birthday gig at
The Rattlesnake, so we decided to head over to one of his favorites called The Glenville Stops over in Allston. The original building had been around as a bunch of small stores since 1922 until a fire took it out of commission in 2012. After some renovations, it reopened this year and is quickly building quite the name for itself. Something I learned that I thought was really neat is that in their basement they've preserved a ledge of boulders that date back 10,000 years. I don't believe the public is aloud to go down into their cellar, but I still respect the efforts.
Day Boat Scallops
Mushroom Baguette
     This place is also unique because it sits on Glenville Ave in the middle of a completely residential street and has no sign on the outside. It says the name on the door, but it's barely visible, and a passer-by would never guess there's a restaurant inside. As a family run establishment, the Glenville Stops boasts a great atmosphere and a pleasant, polite and polished wait staff. Everything was simple, clean and elegant yet casual.
     Malcolm and I were both starving, and we like to try new things, so we started with a few small plates. The first dish we got was called Day Boat Scallops, and it was two scallops in a mole chocolate sauce with jicama salsa (mexican yam) and grilled mango. You could taste a subtle hint of chocolate, and the sauce was pretty thin with a rich roasted pepper flavor. The scallops were cooked perfectly and had those brown crispy edges you aim for. We also ordered the mushroom baguette with cold seared oyster mushrooms. The oyster mushrooms were so much more dense and chewier than regular button mushrooms. On the base of the baguette was a delicious lemon aioli and basil. So creamy. The dish would've been completely different without it. They threw on some fresh purple sprouts for a little flair.
     They also served a couple slices of soft bread with crunchy exterior. It came with a type of hummus that had a rich and heavy olive oil taste but no bite like that of tahini. I absolutely could've eaten it with a spoon... and I did.
Lamb Meatballs
Roasted Beets
     For the main dish, my first choice was the lamb meatballs. They were simple and juicy like a sponge. The juices would ooze out when you pressed the meatball with a fork. They sat in a bed of tzatziki that was thinner than most, making it taste a little lighter. I liked that much better because the flavor took a back seat to the lamb flavor. Baby greens and sliced mini cucumbers were thrown on top with toasted bulgur. The menu says harissa oil was used, but I can't say I noticed that. Maybe I wouldn't notice? Harissa oil is chillies and rose water, and I'm sure I have no idea what that would taste like.
     Per Malcolm's recommendation I wanted to try the roasted beets too. These were red and yellow beets on a bed of a whipped feta and surrounded by a light dill dressing. The feta had a somewhat smoky flavor, but I couldn't pin it. I wonder if they added some smoked peppers to give it the red color and flavor. It was so smooth and creamy. Everything was topped with small pieces of fried shoestring potatoes and celery leaves. So many textures in this one dish.
     Malcolm ordered the sticky pork riblets which were small 1-3 inch rib pieces served covered in a chunky sweet, peach sauce. This was a delicious alternative to standard barbeque. They were served with hunks of roasted almonds and shishito peppers that weren't hot but gave the brown dish a burst of bright green color. The pork was perfectly tender and took no effort to pry from the bone. The edges of the meat were crispy while the inside was still juicy. Oh the magic of slow cooking.
Sticky pork riblets in a peach sauce.
     Don't judge us. We also ordered the mussels which were soaking in an awesome and unique lemongrass coconut broth. The sauce was so fresh tasting yet rich because of the coconut. Slices of pink pickled ginger were tossed on top along with some green and purple sprouts. The mussels came with two big slices of sourdough bread toasted with what seemed like a form of pesto. The olive oil and herb mix had soaked into the bread like a sponge and crisped up on the edges. That bread was to die for. I'll take the whole loaf please and thank you. The way the oils and herbs separated from the bread once in your mouth was great. So much flavor.
Bar Harbor Mussels
     We almost got out of there without dessert, but then we spotted the drunken goat cheese plate. This came with two huge hunks of a very unique goat cheese. It was different because it is made in a wheel and was much harder than normal goat cheese. It had less of a bite and had been soaked in some sort of wine (hence the drunkeness).  They topped it with roasted almonds and honey and served it with crostini bread (just little crisp slices of olive oil soaked bread) and slices of mango. The perfect arrangement was the crostini with a little piece of cheese and a wedge of mango on top. It was delicious. The savory olive oil taste from the crostini, the mildly sharp flavor of the goat cheese, and the sweetness of the mango was a combination from heaven.
Drunken Goat Cheese
     I love when you can go to a place like The Glenville Stops and try new things that someone has clearly spent so much time experimenting with and inventing. It's truely art, and I enjoy eating things that get my creative juices flowing too.

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