Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Wish Every Week Was Restaurant Week

Osaka - Brookline, MA
The Money Bag

     I wish every week was restaurant week. What does that mean? During restaurant week (or technically “Dine out Boston,” various restaurants around Boston offer a price fixe menu where you get a specific number of courses and options. I’ve never participated in restaurant week before, so this trip to Osaka with Jimmy and Coree was a new one. Osaka is a Japanese sushi / hibachi style restaurant in Brookline. For restaurant week they offered you one appetizer, a choice of an entree, and a dessert for $23 dollars or something. Not too shabby! 
     We all ordered a different appetizer so we could sample each others. Coree ordered what seemed like deconstructed sushi. It was a bed of ice topped with various raw fishes. It was interesting to sample the flavors of these fish minus all the other ingredients of sushi. Jimmy ordered these raw tuna sacks. They were literally raw tuna slabs wrapping up avocado and surrounded by swirls of various spicy, sweet, and herb-y sauces. 

    My appetizer was my favorite. It was called the Money Bag. Instead of triangular shaped rangoon, they were crab meat and cheese wrapped up in a wonton wrapper, fried and tied. Kind of like a little baggie. They were incredible. The crab cream cheese mix inside was slightly sweet and was served with plum sauce.  
    For my meal I ordered the sushi plate. The first sushi was called the Hot Lover roll and was served in the shape of a heart. It was very unique in that each piece was in the shape of a tear drop and was wrapped in a pink soybean paper. Inside was shredded spicy tuna, shrimp tempura and avocado. This sushi roll was light and a good contrast to the other roll. I don't remember the name, but the second roll was stunningly gorgeous and was served on a big leaf. Inside there were tempura flakes, grilled avocado, all wrapped in seaweed, tuna, and topped with roe (my favorite), a couple different types of sauces, sprouts, and some sort of little white balls. With 10,000 components, it was hard to identify all the flavors, so I found myself taking little bites to find them all. All the flavors. I know this is a sushi faux pas, but I do not care. It was incredible. I loved the flavor of the slightly charred, grilled avocado. That was a new experience for me. 
    For dessert, they served vanilla mocchi balls with smears of chocolate sauce on a larger than life plate. There wasn’t anything outrageously delicious in the mocchi dish, but I do love that gooey, chewy rice coating that the balls are coated with. I’d like just a dish of that goop please and thank you.
     A lot about this place was about presentation. From the food to the modernistic and artistic decor, these really aren’t the kinds of places I frequent often, so it was fun to experiment with all the tiny flavors hidden on each plate.


Trina’s Starlight Lounge - Somerville, MA

My dog of the day!
     It was my last day at Gentle Giant (tear :’[) and Frances and I decided we were going to head out to Trina’s Starlight Lounge because I’ve been talking about wanting to go forever. Trina’s is Rob’s favorite bar, so it wasn’t hard to convince him to come. And it was a bar so… Victor was in (haha). David and his sister, Rachel, showed up too along with a couple other GG fellas. It was a small but casual get together/send off, and I was just so grateful to spend the last couple months with this family. 
     From the website, Trina’s seems like a colorful but “riskay” 1920s kind of bar, but I was still confused as to what it might look like. In all actuality though, Trina’s seems like quite a few other bars. It’s nothing like your standard dark wooden Irish bar, but isn’t quite the modern douchey downtown bar. It’s got a relaxed and casual yet refined feel to it. 
     Trina’s does a “dog of the day” so… being the adventurous soul that I am… I went with it. I applauded myself later for this decision. So they must’ve taken the hot dog itself and split it down the center… hot dog style… and grilled it. I’ve never had a dog cooked this way and initially I would’ve guessed I wouldn’t enjoy it as much because it doesn’t allow for the dog to explode from all the hot juices inside. But I was delightfully surprised by this splitting action because it made for 4 different surfaces all with a crisp outer texture. The toppings on this bad boy were fried chunks of ham, melted white cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives. It was like a loaded baked potato on steroids. Obviously minus the potato and plus meat. In my opinion, 100 times better. I could’ve eaten 10. Frances agreed. Hands down one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten… ever. Must try more hot dogs of the day. 


Midwest Grill - Somerville, MA
     Karl eats very few things. I don’t know how he survives. One thing he does eat is meat. So
naturally, we opted for a meat filled birthday dinner for him. Jimmy, Meagan, Dave, Karl, Kate, Ellis and I headed to Saloon in Davis Square for some drinks (AND INCREDIBLE PRETZELS AND QUESO) before heading to Midwest for Brazilian BBQ. The moment you walk in you’re overcome with the mind-numbing smell of roasting animals over a fire. That’s what it is. Don’t hate the verbage. The place wasn’t fancy, but made me feel Brazilian. The live bossa-nova-esque music set the mood (even though the woman playing the tambourine was texting at the same time), along with the Brazilian flags scattered among every foot of the building.
     So if you’ve never been to a Brazilian barbecue place before, how it works is you pay a flat fee and you have access to a full “salad bar” and waiters come around to your table with meat on big long sticks. You can either accept or decline the meat, and they’ll move on. I’ll start with the salad bar. I didn’t touch the salad. How could I? There were a ton of other delicious options like a pork hock stew and a bunch of other types of meat + beans + rice concoctions/stews. It was tough not to load up on those things though when you knew what was coming on the long sticks. My favorite part of the bar was the scoop your own ice cream. 
    The first meat to the table was a well done sirloin. I was hoping a medium or a more rare sirloin was coming, but it never showed. Regardless, I got one of the crispy edges of the hunk of meat which takes on that sought after grilled and partially charred flavor around the marbled fat,
     My favorite meat by far was the lamb (no surprise here). Roasting lamb over a fire is the number
So much birthday hatred
one way to prepare it. It’s just the best. It’s simple and the fire gives it a primal flavor. I just love it. Their garlicy buttered rolls were cooked over the fire too and came out piping hot and crisp. The bacon wrapped chicken was mediocre, the pork loin was a little dry, the chicken hearts were tasty little nuggets but a little over cooked. The kielbasa was nothing to write home about and the Portuguese sausage was delicious but super salty. The beef and lamb stole the show for sure for me. 
     Since I was at a Brazilian place, I had to order my favorite drink: the caipirinha. This is the same one I raved about from Muay Queca when I went with Zack. I think I liked the previous one better than this one because it was less sweet and tasted a little bit more fresh and less sweet. These were cool though because they had a glowing green ice cube in them. So fancy. 
     The second best part of the night was when a large portion of the staff came out signing happy birthday to Karl, the lights flickered along with the music, and the band switched over to happy birthday and played 2 variations of the song. If you know Karl, you know that he HATED every second of it and made sure to tell us all how much he hated us after it was over. It was one of the finer moments of my life:]

Tilt’n Diner - Tilton, NH
Liver and Onions

     Nature is my favorite. Food is my second favorite. So the appropriate reward after summiting a 4,135ft mountain is a delicious meal. Zack mentioned that this diner had some great home-cooked soul food. He had me at home-cooked… and soul food. Tilt’n Diner has the look of your standard diner. Lots of silver, lots of pink and teal. Lots of great long-term waitstaff and a home-y feel. 
     I don’t know if I have ever seen liver and onions on a menu at a restaurant before, so I was all about it. This dish is always reminiscent for me of afternoons spent at my grandpa’s house. He always had a wheel/roll (or whatever you call it) of liver and I loved it. We didn’t have the full liver and onions meal often, but I knew I loved liver, so it was worth a shot. The liver came (probably) lightly grilled and in thin sheets/shavings and was topped with bacon and onions. It’s really hard to describe the flavor of liver. It’s not like anything else. It’s not like any other meat, and the texture turns almost pasty once you start chewing it. This had the same flavor I remember from my childhood (and from the stellar liver patte my Aunt Joanne makes every year for Chirstmas Eve). The sautéed onions and the homemade mashed potatoes WITH THE SKINS STILL ON made for a delicious, savory, rustic home-cooked meal. There were no frills. It was just simple, hearty flavors. 
    To compliment this masterpiece, Zack and I split a side of sweet potato fries and he introduced me to the magic that is sweet potato fries and maple syrup. Holy mother of mercy I don’t know how I’ve gone 26 years before dipping my sweet potato fries in this sensual syrup. You might think that’d be too sweet, but you’d be wrong. Gotta give it a try. 
Sweet potato fries
    To end it all, we split a black and white milkshake which was just magical. Food and sugar comas ensued on the drive back. Struggle city. For me at least. Zack was an all-star alert driver. 

Wing It - Allston, MA

Honey bbq chicken tenders
     After eating our weight in froyo, Ian and I decided to walk it out… and found ourselves walking in to Wing It off Comm Ave. I’m helpless when someone asks me if I want to get additional food. There's always an empty pocket in my stomach where I can fit something else. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve run by Wing It and been overwhelmed by the sensual aromas. It was finally time. We got 6 regular honey bbq chicken tenders to split. After sweet froyo, it hit the spot. Absolutely nailed it. The chicken was so moist and lean. 
    Ok so here's my moronic analogy...You know how each individual orange slice is made up of small, fleshy, juice-filled capsules? I want to say polyps, but that’s not it. Either way, this chicken broke apart into thick, moist fibers that reminded me of each one of those little pockets of juice that comprise an orange slice. I really like the honey barbecue sauce because it was only lightly sweet. Oftentimes I think honey barbecue can be too sweet for me and takes away from the savory experience of the wings. I also really enjoyed the breading because it was thick and meaty. By that I mean that it stuck heartily to the chicken and wasn’t uniform all around the strip, so there were thicker crispy corners (just like when you get an apple fritter donut).Those are my fave. That’s my kind of night cap. 

The Ice Creamsmith - Dorchester, MA

     I have found my new favorite ice cream shop in Boston. After a short but sweaty hike, David and I went on the hunt for some ice creams… of course. Since we were down by the Blue Hills, I had no idea where anything was so we headed straight for the first ice cream shop that came up on google maps. The Ice Creamsmith is this tiny little shop on the border of Dorchester and Mattapan. They opened their doors in 1976 and have been serving up their homemade ice cream on hot days ever since. I loved the feel of this place. They had antiques hung on the wall and everything was simple, as ice cream shops should be. They were the hometown version of a Coldstone Creamery if you’ve been to one of those before. 

     For my two scoops, I went with chocolate and chocolate chip. Deciding on a mix-in was proving to be quite challenging. The the woman behind the counter heard me murmur that I wanted a cookie too, and she said the magic works “I can mix the cookie in if you’d like.” The glow of my smile started to melt all the ice creams. So… in went a big chocolate chip cookie all mixed up and mashing into my ice cream. It. Was. Amazing. And not only because it was a super hot day. The ice cream was delicious and simple, and the addition of the cookie pieces was 10x better than cookie dough ice cream (crazy, right?). Way better than Coldstone and way better than Ben & Jerry’s Cookies and Milk. Definitely the best ice cream experience I’ve had here in Boston. 
Chocolate and chocolate chip with a cookie :]

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