Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Who Throws A Muffin?

Blue Frog Bakery - Jamaica Plain, MA

Bread Pudding Muffin
     I admittedly hate delivering boxes alone on Box Express days. One benefit though is seeing a delicious bakery and immediately stopping without needing to consult the crew. I had just dropped some boxes off in Jamaica Plain and was waiting at a stoplight when I saw this enormous blue frog sculpture popping out of the side of a red brick building. I love frogs, so I was instantly intrigued. I was in the door before I even finished reading the word "Bakery" on their sign.
The Ciabatta
     Blue Frog Bakery is a tiny little shop with standing room for only a couple people. They had some incredible looking pastries and a bunch of fresh, organic breads. I saw a muffin that looked like a morning glory muffin (the ones with carrots, raisins, pineapple, apple, coconut and who really knows what else) so I asked for "the crazy looking muffin." She says "oh the bread pudding muffin?" Um... excuse me? Um yes. Give me this godly bread pudding muffin. It was incredible. It was clearly fresh because it was still warm. It had chocolate chips throughout that were still melty. It had a stiff muffin top crust supported by its incredibly dense, and moist core. It was just like the kind of bread pudding you scoop out of a casserole dish. I lost my mind eating it in the van. "Having said that, I do have some thoughts." (name that reference) While I loved the inclusion of chocolate chips, I think they may have detracted from the uniqueness of the muffin. No one makes a bread pudding muffin, so I wanted to taste more of the bread pudding. The chocolate chips were rather abundant throughout the muffin and were very sweet. Their sweetness and abundance seemed to mask the bread pudding flavors. As a suggestion to Blue Frog Bakery, I'd suggest fewer chips or more bitter chips, so they're not as overpowering and masking your ingenious and inventive bread pudding muffin.
      I intended to only get a muffin, but then I read that they won "Best Bread" in Boston for 2015. I got a loaf of their Ciabatta bread which was incredibly soft and delicious. It was so simple and didn't have this distinct mildly crunchy shell you picture most fresh breads having. This bread was so good. Good to the point where I could easily just sit there and eat it plain.  I couldn't stop with the bread and butter. Then again, ciabatta generally has a decent amount of holes inside which make the best little receptacles for your melted butter. No shame.


Michael's Deli - Brookline, MA
Michael's Corned Beef Sandwich

     So excited. I've wanted to go to Michael's Deli for a long time, and the time finally came! Cecil and I were out on a Nippon Express job and Nobu dropped us off in Brookline to forage. I brought my lunch, but as soon as I saw Michael's I knew there was no point in trying to fight the urge. Michaels is a tiny New York style deli in Brookline with a delightful staff. The man behind the counter was quite charming and super patient dealing with my indecisive self. I needed the corned beef sandwich though. That's what they're known for. They're a pretty famous name in Boston, as they've been named to Boston's "Best of" list many times and featured in countless magazines and award lists. 
     It was delicious. It was rich, succulent, salty and had that little sour hit from the sauerkraut.  I'm trying to compare this corned beef sandwich to that of Katz's Deli in New York, but they're different. Let's start with the meat. Michael's meat was thinly shaved whereas Katz's was thick cut. I think Katz's meat was more flavorful and richer, but I also liked the thin shaved meat at Michael's. It was unique and different, and oh man they loaded it up. It held together in the sandwich better, and I think they layered the sauerkraut and thousand island dressing throughout the layers of meat. Genius. That was the coolest part of the sandwich. I love inventive sandwich makers. Because they dispersed the sauerkraut and dressing throughout, it never got pushed out, which is clearly one of the worst things to happen whenever you're eating a sandwich. The one downside to Michael's sandwich was the bread. Because the meat/kraut/sauce combo was rather juicy, the thin sliced bread got soaked and fell apart quickly. I would've loved a more hearty slice. 
     I also got a spinach kanish to go and had it for dinner the next night. I'm not sure if I've had a kanish before, but it's basically like my grandma's sfeeha; a hunk of dough stuffed with anything you desire. The spinach kanish was pretty tasty, but I wanted a lemony bite with the nutty flavor of pine nuts, like that of grandma's spinach pies. 
     I love Michael's Deli, and I want to go back for that sandwich... or the conversation. 


In-House Cafe - Allston, MA

     This past Sunday was one of the best Sundays and most "Sunday" Sundays I've had in probably 2 years. What I mean by this is, I woke up, made myself some toast, Jimmy called and we went to breakfast, and I returned home to watch some shows and movies with various people filtering in and out the rest of the day. I did run down to the park to kick a soccer ball around with Tresser and her kids later in the day, completing the great Sunday picture. Anyway, it was just really relaxing because I submitted my thesis the day before and had no guilt (ok minimal guilt) about not doing anything all day. 

     Back to breakfast. Jimmy and I went to this little cyber-cafe looking place over on Harvard Ave which is not really a cyber cafe at all. Idk why I thought it was. I think just because their logo looks like it has a play button in it. I chose them because they had a "fourteen page breakfast menu" which would've been 2 pages if they had put more than 3 items on each page. I'm not mad, it was just kind of funny. Anyway, it was a cool little place in that there were random sized tables and chairs scattered throughout, kind of like you'd expect to see in someone's living room. Maybe that's why it's called In-House Cafe? Anyway, I ordered the Soprano Omelette, which was decent. It had sliced Halal Italian sausage, provolone cheese and caramelized onions. I think I would've liked more onions, more caramelized, and I would've liked them in strings rather than diced up so small. You didn't really get the unique caramelized onion flavor because they were just cooked (if that makes sense). The sausage was tasty, but had the texture of a hot dog. It wasn't a hot dog, but I like when breakfast sausage has that chunky texture.  I felt like the omelette overall was missing some substance. It had a ton of cheese, but I'm thinking the addition of maybe some multi-colored italian peppers would've taken it to that next level and complimented the italian sausage. It was served with some really delicious home fries and toast. However, I wished the toast was buttered. All it had was this little dime sized squirt of who knows what on top. Weirded me out a little. We were going to go for the banana caramel and pecan french toast, but we decided to wait until we got our first breakfast before ordering our breakfast dessert. However, in true Jimmy and Laurissa fashion, we were too full by the end and not patient enough to stand in line to order the french toast. Next time. 
     Overall, In-House was a decent little breakfast joint. Nothing fancy. Nothing special. But a cute little place to pop in for a quick order at the counter breakfast. 


Dumpling House - Cambridge, MA

     I have a confession. I briefly considered quitting On High Heat. Sometimes I just want to go out to eat or cook something and not take a picture. Sometimes I just want to enjoy the food, and I did just that for the Dumpling House. Long story short, I don't think I'm going to give up just yet. So here goes... Dumpling House is stuck in that mysterious area between Central and Harvard Square in Cambridge. It doesn't get as much as attention as the squares, but it boasts some pretty amazing restaurants like Zoe's, Mass Ave Diner, and Dumpling House.
     I've seen this place quite a few times, and it's always full, so when Alyse came to town and suggested meeting at Dumpling House, I was beyond excited. Not to mention I was coming from work and was starving. I was so surprised how big this restaurant was! And boy did they need all the space they could get. It was packed. We sat at one of the big circular tables with the spinning center table thing. What the heck are those called? Either way, it was great because we got everything family style, meaning we could all share everything and spin it around to each other on the swively table top.
     I want to apologize though, as I have a very limited idea of what we ate. I was starving, got there late and never looked at a menu. Nor did I snap a photo. Either way, we had one plate of some sort of lo mein with chicken which was tasty. Salty. I needed it though. We also got another plate of some sort of fried chicken in sauce (that same food court style asian food you know you crave sometimes but hate yourself after eating) which was delicious and a higher quality than Panda Express type fried chicken. The best part was the dumplings. Hence the name I'm assuming. We got two different kinds. The first serving were seafood dumplings which came steamed in these silver stackable containers. I'll admit I have no idea what's going on when I eat dumplings. You can never see what's inside, so it's always a surprise. These seafood dumplings were good though. Pretty simple, but tasty.
     The other dumplings we got were soup dumplings which Alyse has mentioned many times before. She says they take a cube of some sort of condensed soup, put it inside a dumpling, cook it and it liquifies so that when you bite into the dumpling, it's filled with soup! How cool is that? These were delicious, savory and bursting with flavor. Like chicken soup in a dumpling. Probably my second favorite next to the sauce fried chicken nonsense.
     I wish I had some sort of photo to show them to you, but I don't. You'll just have to trust me when I say, if you're looking for good dumplings, you don't have to go all the way down to Chinatown.


Punjabi Grill - Cambridge, MA

     Rolando made me do it. Or I could blame Guillermo or Rob. For lunch once day in the middle of a job out in Davis Square, Rob decided he wanted to get Indian food. I brought my lunch, as always, but I agreed to go with them anywhere. We ended up at Punjabi Grill in Davis for their lunch buffet. Buffet. NEVER get a buffet for lunch when you're moving furniture all day. NEVER EVER get an Indian buffet for lunch when you're moving furniture all day. Or maybe just have some self control. Or just don't go to a buffet. We were all dying after, but it was delicious.
     Again, this was during my "I'm not going to write about food anymore" phase, so I have no pictures. Only memories. And because it was a buffet, I have no idea what I ate. So, I'll write about Punjabi Grill from a general standpoint. Everything was super fresh, delicious and exploding with flavor. Their samosas were fresh out of the fryer and the naan was fresh out of the oven. It was incredible. Even the rice pudding was excellent. What made it even better was that my bill maxed out at $10 for unlimited delicious food. This experience just reminded me how amazing lunch deals can be. Forget getting dinner... wanna go get lunch?


Brown Jug - Revere, MA

     So it's funny because the other day David and I were talking about my food blogging and how some people go to a restaurant, try one thing and then just assume the restaurant is total junk because the one dish they happened to try was not so good. What's funny about it was that quite soon after that we went to The Brown Jug in Revere and had the absolute worst pizza I've ever had. It was their taco pizza. Now I've had an exceptional taco pizza before in East Lansing at Georgio's Gourmet Pizza. Brown Jug's pizza was so far from exceptional. On the menu it said it had hamburger on it. Well... it sure did. They cut up hamburgers and put it on the pizza. If you're going to make it a taco pizza, use ground hamburger and at least add some taco seasoning or something that even remotely resembles the taste of a taco. They used shit cheese. There were a couple chunks of obnoxiously large tomatoes through on top milling about with shards of white iceberg lettuce. Literally nothing about the pizza was good. Not even the crust, and I'm easy to please when it comes to crust. It tasted like trash and made you feel like trash. Tacos would never be that mean.


Chickpea Sauté - My Kitchen, Allston

Full disclosure: This is not my picture. It's from Girl Versus Dough.
But I couldn't not show you how pretty this dish is. 

     Yes, I'm finally writing about something I cooked! I've been so unenthused about the things I've made recently. However, this chickpea sauté got me out of my funk. I found this recipe on Girl Versus Dough and tweaked it a little to fit my Lebanese heritage with zatar instead of caraway seeds. I think it turned out exceptional and I'd suggest following my recipe. The mint is key. Don't skimp. This is a nice light, but filling dish that's super satisfying. And don't be scared of the olive oil, pepper, yogurt mix. It's a strange but great addition to the whole dish when you dollop a little bit on top.

Chickpea Sauté

1 bunch (about 8 cups) Swiss chard, leaves separated from stems
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for garnish
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 tablespoons Zatar
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Toss in a small handful of sea salt, then add Swiss chard stalks. Blanch stalks for 3 minutes, then add leaves and blanch another 2 minutes. Drain and rinse chard under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, then transfer to a cutting board and chop roughly. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots and zatar and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas and chard; cook another 6 minutes. Add garlic, herbs, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat; add more salt or pepper, if desired.

3. Stir together Greek yogurt, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Transfer chickpea mixture to a serving plate and top with yogurt mixture, an extra drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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