Wednesday, August 5, 2015

But It's Complimentary...

Tupelo - Cambridge, MA
Southern fried chicken with collard greens and jalapeno mac and cheese.

     Inman square is so full of restaurants I want to write about and places I want to do well. So many of them are small, have great food and inspiring stories. Tupelo is one of these places. They opened in 2009 and served southern food that has a New England influence. Their menu changes seasonally, and they locally source a lot of their products (yay!). Damon (one of my CREST REU kids I'm working with this summer) got a few people together one weekend and invited me along, which was pretty cool a) because they must think I'm ok and b) because I've been wanting to go to Tupelo forever. After a "45 minute wait" (that was more like 20 minutes) they were pouring our waters into mason jars. I drink out of mason jars not because it's hip nowadays, but because I have since I was little, so when it happens at restaurants it makes me feel all nice and fuzzy inside.
     Jackie (another REU student) is too cute because every restaurant she goes to she asks what their best seller is. That's a really great idea. I think I might start doing that. She asked and the waiter listed off all 4 things I was trying to choose from which was especially unhelpful because their menu is so small (not that that's a bad thing). I ended up going with the southern fried chicken because people at all the tables around me were eating it, and there really was no other option once I saw it. Great choice. Go me. It was incredible. I'm going to go ahead and make the bold statement that it may have been the best fried chicken I've ever had. For real. The breading was solid and crunchy but flaky at the same time, in that when it broke apart some would flake off like oatmeal or in oatmeal sized pieces (but I don't think there actually was oatmeal in it). The chicken was also super moist and hot. But it stayed hot, which isn't always the case. It was perfect, and I was upset that it had to come to an end.
     The chicken was served on top a pile of the best collard greens I've ever had too. Sometimes restaurants make collards too sweet perhaps because most people don't like them so adding sugar helps? I don't know. But Tupelo got them just slightly sweet with a little zing (which Austin and I decided was apple cider vinegar) without the vinegar punch. You know what I mean? They were so good and perfectly steamed. Sometimes collard greens are more limp and steamed to much making them stick together and be wilty, but these were more stiff and hung out around each other more like shaved parmesan cheese does sitting in a tub (don't hate on my analogies).
     The second best part of the meal though was the jalapeno mac and cheese. I like spicy sometimes, so I was a little worried this may be too much, but it wasn't at all. The mac and cheese had a jalapeno flavor throughout without the heat of jalapenos. Not to mention, they mastered the cheese sauce to noodle ratio meaning that it wasn't too runny or too gooey to the point that you're practically eating cheese noodle soup. Each noodle was coated in just enough cheese so that you could get all the flavors and ingredients on a fork without scooping.
     I highly recommend Tupelo for southern food in Boston, for a nice meal out, or for their free complimentary cornbread (which they gave us three servings of because Damon wouldn't stop asking). Sometimes southern food can leave me feeling fat, salty and in general relatively unhealthy but this didn't. Incredible food engineering.


The Asgard - Cambridge, MA

The world's saddest potato skins.
    So Jimmy and I set a date to go get sushi to use my birthday coupon. However, we realized that day that it was actually his birthday, and we should/could do something else for his actual celebration. The sushi place I had a coupon for was downtown, we were hungry and transportation down there just made me want to throw up, so we opted for some place with better parking. Plus Karl came along, and he doesn't like sushi.
    I walked into the Asguard a couple years ago while on a run because I wanted to check out the menu. It sounded so good with a bunch of different Irish foods and the interior was a big open, dark bar/restaurant. This had a different feel than most Irish pubs because of its size, and that was slightly intriguing. Jimmy went to Ireland once, so I thought this might be a great place to go.
     For a lack of better words, it was disappointing. Not awful, but just nothing exciting, and almost irritating. For example, the service was not good. The man seemed really rushed and tried to take our menus before we even ordered. It was confusing. What was also confusing was that they only offered their 25 cent wing deal if you ate inside verses on the patio. What? Why? Who thought that made sense? Either way, we ordered the wings anyways, and Jimmy asked for them to come naked with the sauce on the side. A pretty standard request I'd say. So how did they come? Not naked with the sauce on the side. Of course. And as far as the taste, they were just your standard wings. Nothing crazy.
Chicken Pot Pie
     For the other appetizer we had to have the potato skins which were stuffed with bacon, beef, lamb, melted cheddar jack cheese, and guiness gravy. There were 2 issues. One potato skin and the other. Yea ... 2 tiny potato skins made from the world's smallest potato to split between 3 people. They had minimal amounts of all those things in them, and I couldn't really taste the lamb. Lamb has a lot of flavor. What the heck? The gravy was good, but I don't want super delicious gravy to cover up my lack-luster potato half-skin. I want good potato skins. Oh... AND they came out cold. Clearly cold because the melted cheese had already started to solidify. The worst part? $10. Blew my mind.
     Finally for dinner, I ordered the chicken pot pie; Something I'm not going to make myself (especially in this heat). This was served like most chicken pot pies in restaurants in that it's a bowl with the pie ingredients and a puffy piece of dough on top. It wasn't bad, but I'd say it was 75% cream. There were not enough peas, carrots, celery or chicken. So (75% of the time) I found myself just taking scoops of cream as I worked my way through. Waste of time. I didn't order a cream pie. The puffy dough on top was great though. The only thing that really required no skill to cook. Congratulations.


Haru Sushi - Boston, MA

     Two days later, we actually got sushi, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Haru Sushi is a swanky place downtown with a delightful waitstaff that doesn't laugh at me when I'm overwhelmed by sushi menus and terms I don't know. This place was very clean, crisp and dark, making their sushi chefs who were illuminated by bright lights seem like they were angels. I mean... they pretty much were angels because the food was delicious. 
Chicken dumplings (after we ate one).
     As an appetizer, Jimmy and I got the chicken dumplings. They had chicken and shredded veggies in them and were topped with thin green onions and served with a spicy soy sauce which was something new for me. I really liked it. They were so flavorful and salty. 
Spicy Tuna (front left), Kamikaze (front right) and the Lobster roll (back)

     For our rolls, we ordered a spicy tuna (you can never go wrong with a spicy tuna), the kamikaze, the Super Dynamite, and the Lobster roll. The kamikaze is similar to the spicy tuna except that it has yellowtail and tempura flakes in it and the little red roe on top. That's my favorite part. It was good and served as one of the simpler rolls that I like to have to help balance out the special rolls. The Lobster roll was something I had never heard of or tried before, and I thought it was fabulous. It had lobster, boston lettuce, spicy mayo, avocado, cucumber, mango and tobiko (the same red roe). My favorite combination was the mango, lobster and avocado together. The mango added an awesome sweetness. The whole concoction was a great idea. The Super Dynamite roll was my favorite. It had tempura style tuna, freshwater eel and asparagus with sriracha, spicy mayo and eel sauces. Any sushi I've ever had with eel I've loved. When looking at the sushi, however, I can never tell which fish is which, but it's all delicious. The asparagus was really good in the sushi too because it added a crunchy texture. Overall everything was delicious, fresh and quick. Plus... they give you a $20 coupon for your birthday if you sign up for their email list. It got me in the door!

The Super Dynamite roll

Red Mango - Boston, MA
Froyo from Red Mango
     After sushi, Jimmy and I naturally gravitate towards the nearest place with sugary treats. I wanted to try this froyo place I haven't been to before called Red Mango. They have locations all over the country, so I feel a little odd writing about them, but whatever. It's a sushi/smoothie place with a crepe bar (which is totally awesome) down on Mass Ave near Northeastern. I ordered their small cup which they charge you two something for, and then they charge you for each additional topping. I'm not about that because most of the time I just want a couple of each topping because I like variety. They didn't have as many options as Yogurtland or 16 Handles, so that was a bummer. But the froyo itself was good, if you like more ice-like froyo. My ideal consistency is a little bit more creamy.... ie more like ice cream. Yogurtland has this down pat, so whenever I try other froyos like this one from Red Mango, it turns me off. Especially when it comes to things like chocolate, which in my mind shouldn't be so icey. Their mango froyo, however, was really tasty and the texture/consistency fit the flavor. It was ok, but not worth the $$ I'd say. Why don't they have self serve ice cream bars with unlimited toppings? I mean... that's what most people go to froyo place for, right?


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