Thursday, October 23, 2014

Found: Boston's Best Nachos

@Union - Allston, MA
Carbohyrates please...

     I love being able to say yes to spur of the moment brunch outings. Even when it comes to a $4 glass of fresh squeezed OJ. Seriously... fresh squeezed is the way to go. The other stuff shouldn't even be called orange juice. Anyway, I met Kevin for brunch at @Union one Saturday because I hadn't seen him yet since he moved to Boston. I've heard this place was good and it seemed decently priced and close to home. Right in the heart of hipster Allston, this place boasted big open windows, a bunch of tables, and a bright and colorful atmosphere. Their menu was pretty extensive too and they had a decent selection of specials. I ordered the orange blossom french toast, which was very simple and actually rather light. It didn't have much of an orange flavor other than from the orange wedges I squeezed onto it. However, the mix of the orange and a little syrup was delicious.
     I also ordered their homefries because yelpers said they were awesome. They were right. Nice big hunks of potatoes that were grilled, not fried, with some veggies. All great things.


Joe's American Grill - Braintree, MA
Spinach and artichoke dip
     Joe's exists many places throughout the city, but I had never been. After some siiiiick F1 racing for David's sister's birthday, we headed over to Joe's for dinner. It kind of had a similar fancy but casual feel to places like Cheesecake Factory and PF Changs. We sat outside on their beautiful patio as the sun mutated my ghostly skin. As an appetizer we ordered their spinach and artichoke dip which was amazing x 1000. Super creamy and salty (in a good way) and cheesy. They served it with tortilla chips and these crisp parmesan cheese chips. So good. I could've eaten just that for dinner. We also got their chips, guac and salsa, but it was pretty standard. The salsa was strange though.
Turkey burger
     For the meal I ordered a turkey burger. Big, fat juicy guy with fresh greens, tomato and onion on a buttery toasted bun. It was super satisfying, as was the salad that came with. The dressing on the salad was stellar too. It was a sort of lemon vinaigrette but was a little sweet.  I wanted some in a to-go bottle.


Wolfe's Tavern - Wolfeboro, NH

  I'm going to write about this little place a) because I'll probably never be in this area again, and b)
because this french onion soup was delicious. It was super loaded with cheese that poured off the sides and melted to the edges of the pot. Crispy cheese always wins in my book. That is all.


Pavlova - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

My pretty pavlova :]

     Frances told me a long time ago that Pavlova was her favorite dessert. So naturally, I wrote it down, lost it, and had to ask Melanie what the name was again when her birthday finally came around. This was my first attempt at a type of meringue and it was incredibly difficult. First of all, I didn't have white wine vinegar, and the only white vinegar that Trader Joe's had what white balsamic, I figured it would do, until I added it to the egg/sugar mixture and the whole thing smelled and tasted strangely like mushrooms. I thought I had ruined the whole thing, but put it in the oven anyway, hoping that the vinegar taste would cook out. 
     The kicker I think was that you're supposed to let it cool over night in the oven WITH the oven door cracked. I didn't know that the oven door was supposed to be cracked, and therefore when I got to my pavlova in the morning it was sticky. I attempted to bake it a little longer, but as you know that baking is all chemistry, that didn't really help me achieve the ideal texture... but I decided it would do. Honestly, it seemed to work out quite well. The sweet, melt-in-your mouth flavor of a meringue was there, and you really couldn't go wrong with the homemade whipped cream and fruit on top. It was a big hit, and Frances loved it. That was all I wanted :]


4 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (I put mine in a food processor for a few minutes)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped
Mixed fruits, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, bananas or whatever your heart desires.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. In a tall bowl, beat egg whites and salt together until glossy peaks form. With mixer running, add sugar in three additions, beating until meringue is stiff and glossy. Sprinkle in cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla. Fold to combine.

3. Mound the meringue in the center of a cookie sheet liked with parchment paper. Using a spatula, evenly spread meringue out towards the edges, forming a circle. Transfer baking sheet to oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

4. Turn off oven and let meringue cool completely in oven with the door cracked. When meringue is cool and completely dry (overnight is preferable), top with whipped cream and desired fruits.


Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

     Hayley mentioned the idea of a roasted butternut squash pasta sauce a long time ago, so when Meagan had extra leftover squash, I offered to make some sauce with it. I found this recipe on a blog called Teeny Tiny Foodie. I was really excited because roasted squash is great, and I could only imagine what would happen when you add in a bunch of herbs and some creamy ricotta cheese. It was just as good as I had expected, and then some! The only thing I would've done differently is I would've added a little bit more of the noodle water to thin it out a bit. It was pretty starchy the first time around. In my second serving though, I added some water to thing it out and it become a little easier to eat. While it may seem a little complicated, this was a great way to use up some butternut squash when you get a big one. Super tasty too. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

½ roasted squash bulb, peeled and cubed
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 small onion, diced
1½ cups arugula
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¾ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 lb pasta of choice
½ cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
Olive oil, shaved parmesan or romano cheese and red pepper flakes, to taste

1. Over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes with a pinch of salt until the onions are golden. Stir occasionally.

2. Add the arugula, another pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

3. In a food processor/blender/with an immersion blender blend the ricotta, squash, onion-arugula mixture, salt and pepper. Process on high for 1 minute or until it is smooth.

4. Add the reserved water from the cooked pasta, ¼ cup at a time, until your desired consistency is reached. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

5. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta, mix and top with grated parmesan or romano cheese and enjo


21st Amendment - Boston, MA
I give you Boston's best nachos!

     Knocked another one of Boston's best nacho places off my list! My mom and Jay came to visit a couple weeks ago and I met them downtown to walk around and show them the sights. I'll say... I wasn't upset when they asked if there was a pub around. They were thirsty and hungry, and I was (as always)... hungry. We were up by the state house, so immediately I thought of 21st Amendment and their nachos. IT WAS TIME. The moment had come and I'd get to try them. The inside of the 21st Amendment is very dark and old style pub-y. It reminded me of a place politicians downtown would come to. The local watering hole. The building itself was constructed in 1899, and the pub has been through a few different names, but it was a local hangout for some of the state workers.
Momma and I!
     So for the nachos. These were definitely THE best nachos I've had in Boston. Let me explain... The winning factors here were the mile high piles of guac and sour cream. I kid you not that had to be 3 avocados worth of guacamole and an entire tub of sour cream. It was amazing. The chips were great too. As I learned from a previous experience (I called them a couple years ago to see if they made their own chips), they were hand cut and fried corn tortilla chips. This made all the difference. The chips stayed nice and crisp regardless of the fact that these loaded nachos were piled high with melted cheese, grilled chicken, jalapenos, scallions and another generous helping of their fresh tomato salsa. Sometimes I don't like when salsa is added to nachos because it's generally pretty juicy and put the integrity of the chips at risk. But this salsa wasn't juicy, and had some great fresh flavors adding to the nachos. 5 star nachos. No doubt. 


Russell House Tavern - Cambridge, MA

     Russell House Tavern is one of those restaurants I think about going to every time I think about going out to a restaurant. But then I remember I'm poor, and I choose someplace else. Honestly, Russell House Tavern won't completely break the bank, but I'm on a student budget. It's one of those restaurants you let your parents take you to when they come to visit. So that's exactly what I did. 
     It was too bad it wasn't warmer out because Russell House Tavern has a beautiful patio in an alleyway next to their restaurant. The downstairs definitely has a classy tavern vibe, with a lot of large incandescent light bulbs, bricks, and black and red accents. Very swanky looking place. We were seated upstairs near the bar, which kind of stunk because it was really loud. Either way, I was too excited about the food to care. 
     For an appetizer, we ordered their charcuterie board that had chicken liver pate (my favorite... love smooth),  smoked pork fillete (came cold under a layer of fat... a little strange), smoked fish rillette (my least favorite... too fishy), a sweet berry jam, and a few of their house-cured meats. All of these came with crispy, thin slices of bread (they have a technical term, but it evades me at the moments). While it was fun to sample all the different cuts of meat, a lot of them seemed to blend together, in that I couldn't tell the difference between them and couldn't recall the descriptions the waiter gave.
Charcuterie Board
     It was national pierogi day, and I was dead set on their wild mushroom pierogi, but they were out. Boo. Instead, I ordered their Smoked Lamb Belly Meatballs. These two precious meatballs came soaking in a roasted tomato sauce and topped with taleggio cheese and crispy sage. I always love the lamb-sage combo. They just compliment one another to well. The meatballs were super juicy, and the taleggio cheese was new to me. It had a mild, but almost fruity tang to it. It was delicious with the savory flavors of the meatballs.
Beet salad on the left, smoked lamb meatballs on the right.

     I also ordered their beet salad, which was another winner. It was very different than I anticipated, in that they had cut up the beets and mixed it with Vermont chevre (goat cheese as a binder) that allowed it to be formed into a patty. It came topped with candied pistachios, sprouts, dried cherries and stringy greens. I love goat cheese and beets together. Add a little sweetness from the cherries, and it's a winning salad. The whole thing was resting in a pool of a clear, bright green sauce, but I can't remember what it was (these are the moments I kick myself for not having written about places like this until weeks after my visit). Oh! They also served some sort of bread basket too and I hate that I can't remember what it was like. I do recall that they offered it with a small cup of what Jay and I swore was truffle oil. But the waiter said it was just garlic olive oil. I don't believe him. It had a different flavor, almost like that of oysters. Super interesting and delicious. I could've drank it (that's a lie). 
     I surprisingly said no to dessert, but I am glad Jay persuaded me out of that silly decision. We got the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream, a toffee sauce, and "bruleed fig", which apparently is burnt fig. I can't say I pinpointed that flavor when I was eating it, but I also don't think I was aware of its presence. The toffee pudding was great though. It was served warm, and had a very rich and sweet toffee flavor. I was glad we split it. Great choice  :]
My mom and Jay with our Sticky Toffee Pudding  :]

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