Monday, July 11, 2016

Where Do I Put This Lime?

Roxy's Grilled Cheese - Allston, MA

How cute it this?
     So Roxy's started out as a food truck and now has a brick and mortar location near my apartment! Bummer! I've never been to their food truck, but I've seen it around town a million times and never heard a bad word about that heavenly childhood staple... the grilled cheese. Meagan went a few times when she lived here, and she never understood why I didn't just walk down the street and go get a grilled cheese if I wanted to try it so bad. She had a good point. I don't know why.
     Regardless, David and I were starving after a sick concert out on a boat in the Boston Harbor (we went to see Knife Party... but they never really came on... wth). We got an uber straight from the cruise back to Roxy's in Allston trying to beat the clock and make it there before they closed at 11. The restaurant is typical of a sandwich/burger shop with a long counter and plenty of wooden tables along the side. It's all very simple, and the workers were very accommodating to us taking part in this grilled cheese experience even though they probably just wanted to go home at 11pm on a Friday night. We're the worst.
     Of course, David wanted the grilled cheese with the braised short rib. It came with fontina cheese and caramelized onions. I love all these things (fontina cheese is one of my favorites). They really loaded in this nice and juicy shredded rib meat, and it was delicious. It wasn't so juicy that it got the bread soggy, and it also wasn't dry. It had the perfect moisture level, they melted that cheese like pros, and the caramelized onions added a subtle sweetness to the sandwich. It was heavenly.
     Just to be different, I ordered the Allston, which was goat cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, and arugula. This sandwich had so many unique flavors in it. It was crazy complex, but almost too much. While I love caramelized onions, I don't think they belonged on this sandwich. You lose their subtly sweet flavor because they were overpowered by the sweet fig jam. I would've preferred less of the fig jam simply because of how sweet and overpowering it was. I loved the fresh addition of the peppery arugula. Another bummer about this sandwich is that, because goat cheese naturally gets rather runny when heated, it's tough to keep it contained within a sandwich. It's especially tough when the sandwich makers have grilled the bread to such golden perfection that the edges of the bread stiffen up (great job guys), and therefore each bite becomes a eruption of goat cheese and fig jam. But the runniness of the cheese is no fault of Roxy's. This sandwich idea is a great one, but I just wish I could have kept more of the contents in between the two slices of bread and not all over my plate and table.


Ariana - Allston, MA

Manu, flatbread, and the dipping sauces
     First, a small story. Araiana used to be over in Brighton, and I remember seeing it when I first moved to the area. I have wanted to go since, but they moved over to Allston. Jimmy and I were looking for a place to go eat once, and I wanted to try Ariana so I called to make sure they were open after their move. They said they'd be open in two weeks, and guess what... two weeks later they called me back just to tell me they were open now, and I could come in. How cool is that? Who does that?!? I was so impressed.
     So finally, after going to Antonia's art show just up the street, David and I went into Ariana to check it out. It's a fancy little place that serves up Afghanistan cuisine. Their dim mood lighting, white table linens and blue water glasses made us feel elegant in our running shorts and t-shirts.
Korma Challow
     They brought a basket of (what looked like) homemade flatbread and served it with a sauce trio that included some sort of a walnut pesto, a sweet chili sauce and a cucumber yogurt sauce. That walnut pesto was the bomb. Too made David couldn't eat it without exploding. As an appetizer we ordered the Mantu, which was kind of like a ravioli. It was their homemade pastry shells (that's impressive in itself) filled with onions and beef, served in a shallow pool of yogurt and topped with carrots, yellow split peas and beef sauce. Excuse me? These were incredible and so full of flavor. The pastry shells were very thin and tender and the combination of the veggies and beef was so delicious and savory. It was all very light too. Generally in American/Italian cooking, things involving pastry dough and meat sauces tend to be pretty heavy and filling, but this was light and the perfect little appetizer.
     For the meal, I ordered lamb. Duh. I got the Korma Challow with was leg of lamb sautéed with onions, tomatoes, garlic, green beans, potatoes and spices. It was incredible. It was basically what I expected as far as Afghanistan cuisine in that it was some sort of meat in a tomato based sauce with veggies and a multitude of spices. One thing I noted right away was the complexity of spices in everything. Afghanistan food must generally use a variety of spices we don't use here because there were flavors I couldn't label. Anyway, the lamb was so tender and full of flavor like a good quality chunk of lamb. You won't get that everywhere. The dish was served with rice and lentils. Normally I'm not crazy about rice, but this long grain rice was fluffy and rich with flavor and a unique individualized texture. The little cumin seeds added a great flavor too.
     Ariana was quite impressive. From the atmosphere, to the water glasses, and to the food and flavors, I was impressed each step of the way. I was even more impressed with David's willingness to expand his palette. He's getting there.


Stephanie's Village Pancake House - Rowley, MA

     Before heading out to see some of the mansions for the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations free open house day, I let David pick a breakfast spot. Normally this is my job, but I was "busy" or something and wanted to see what he could come up with. He knew that if we were traveling out of town (or basically whenever), I definitely wouldn't want to go a chain restaurant. He was right, and he picked a great place! We went to Stephanie's Village Pancake House, which is actually an old house that was built as a saltbox in 1660. It was renovated into a colonial home 40 years later and is still nearly the same today. When you walk in the front door to the restaurant, you're actually walking into what looks like the old living room of the house. As our waitress guided us to our table, we wove our way through hallways, the dining room, and other various rooms until we got to what looked like an old bedroom with a fireplace. It was literally the cutest restaurant I've ever seen, and it was jammed! Everyone was there. I was so excited. I was so proud of him.
All breakfast. All the time. 
     For breakfast I ordered the Quick Start which was very simply a small omelette with cheese, bacon, homefries, and a fruit bowl. I also got a side of pancakes with strawberries on top because I couldn't not get pancakes at a pancake house (unless it's Ihop...ew). The omelette was kind of silly, to be honest, but I should've expected it. The menu said it was just a plain omelette with cheese and that really was it. Just eggs folded in half with a sprinkle of cheese. The homefries were pretty good with their crispy uneven edges. Bacon is bacon. The fruit was fresh and great, and I love ending a breakfast meal with it. But my favorite part was the pancakes. They were light, fluffy and mildly sweet with strawberries on top (and no not the stupid syrupy type strawberry topping that shouldn't even be considered strawberries anymore). The only thing that would've been better would be fresh strawberries. The best part though was that they served REAL maple syrup. You never see that. Ever. Unless you want to pay extra for it. Not here. Stephanie knows what's up.
     I'd highly recommend Stephanie's if you're ever up in the Rowley/Ipswitch area and are looking for good food. Come for the pancakes, the atmosphere and the history.


Rosa Mexicano - Boston, MA
What a goof. Carnitas were great though.

     Meagan is such a weirdo. Look at this picture. This was taken after our waiter grabbed Meagan's lime that we sneakily put in a cup/candle holder thing in order to hide it. I don't know why it was so funny but it was.
     Rosa Mexicano is a big restaurant down in the Seaport. I've seen it once or twice, but I honestly assumed it was a chain so I never went. However, today was different. We had just gotten out of the Institute for Contemporary Art, we were weirded out by the things we saw and needed to eat things to feel better. This is when I learned it was in fact a chain, but it was delicious, and I will tell you about it anyway.
     First of all they gave us a complimentary appetizer sampler which was some sort of shrimp on a corn chip with a mango sauce and pickled cabbage. It was ok, but it's the thought that counts. The thought to refill the delicious, hot chip basket gave them a few more points too. We just split an entree which was their Carnitas; slow-braised pork with cilantro, white onion and grilled pineapple. It came hot to the table in a cast iron skillet with handmade corn tortillas. We were given a generous portion of pork, nice hunks of pineapple, and a separate bowl of baked beans, rice, salsa and three kinds of sauces included a spicy habanero one, a thin salsa verde and sour cream. I'm completely guessing on those first two sauce, but it's what I'd guess they were.
The complimentary appetizer. Had to be careful not to fill up before the meal.
     The presentation of this whole dish was beautiful and quite overwhelming! There were so many flavor combinations to make. It was thrilling. Pork and pineapple always amazes me. It's such a great combination. The pork was moist and peppery and the pineapple had the subtly caramelizing edges. Those refried (black) beans were incredible! Honestly the best refried beans I've ever had, and I don't know why. They were so smooth. Maybe they were so good because they were black beans rather than the other beans that are generally used. I was so happy there were leftover beans because I wanted to eat them by the spoonful while sitting on my couch.
     The whole meal was excellent and filling, even when split between two people. The atmosphere was lively. The diving man sculptures affixed to the wall fountain behind Meagan were mesmerizing. All in all a good time.


Ironside Grill - Charlestown, MA
Veggie Burger from Ironside Grill

     I don't think I experienced Ironside Grill for all that it can be. Mantas and I went for lunch one day when we were on a job in Charlestown.  Although its name has evolved, Ironside is one of the oldest remaining restaurants in Charlestown, dating back to 1950. Now, Ironside is a little classy sports bar-like place in the heart of residential Charlestown. It's named after Old Ironsides (the USS Constitution) that sits in the Boston naval yard in Charlestown.
     I expected to encounter a bunch of tourists just out of the Bunker Hill monument and that's exactly what we encountered. Out of fear of feeling too full and gross (and about to move a ton of furniture), I opted for the veggie burger, which was was really just a pre-made patty that wasn't their own. So when a restaurant throws something like that together, you're not really experiencing what they can do, in a culinary sense. However, rather than fries, I got their grilled asparagus, which was probably one of the best simple veggie side dishes I've ever had. It was perfectly tender and just seasoned with salt and pepper. They were great. Ha. Easy to please.


Tresca's Eating Place - Watertown, MA
Denver Omelette, home fries, scali toast and pancakes.
     I ask Jimmy if he wants to go to Wegman's. He asks if we're getting breakfast first. Uhhh.... of course. We intended to go to Deluxe Diner out in Watertown, but the line was out the door. No time for that. So we walked to Tresca's just up the street and sat down right away. Tresca's was a nice open restaurant with a typical diner feel and a bunch of tables. We were greeted by a woman with a charming woman with a heavy Irish accent and quickly confused her with a starving incoherent mumbles. I ordered the Denver omelette which had green peppers, onions, ham and american cheese. I wished it wasn't american cheese, but this was an amazing omelette. Normally I find omelettes, especially a mostly veggie omelette, kind of bland at restaurants, but this was a really flavorful omelette through and through. It was big and stuffed. The veggies were fresh and the slightly crisp edges of the eggs had an amazing flavor as if they had put a little extra butter in the pan. Definitely one of the best simple omelettes I've had at a restaurant. Their homefries were ok. Nothing fantastic. The omelette was also served with Scali toast, which was fabulous. Scali bread is a type of braided Italian bread made primarily in Boston (I just learned this on the world wide web).
     Then as breakfast dessert, we split a stack of 3 HUGE pancakes. I loved them. I don't know what was so different about them, but the batter seemed different. They felt like something more than just white flour, egg, and milk. More rich. Maybe it was the butter.
     As far as breakfast joints go, Tresca's was pretty impressive. I loved the atmosphere and the food was great and super filling. Very pleased. Plus the Irish lady was the cutest.


Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Blondies - My Kitchen, Allston, MA
I wish I had a prettier picture of just how amazing these chocolate chunk almond butter blondies were. 
     THESE BLONDIES. THESE BLONDIES ARE THE BEST BLONDIES I'VE EVER HAD. This is a recipe from Oh Lady Cakes. I love her. I made them for Jimmy, Karl, Kevin and I for our road trip to Philly back in May, but I'm sure I ate 90% of them. They were delicious. They were dense, they were fluffy, they were rich in almond flavor, and they were moist. The chocolate chips I used, Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet, were key too. Definitely one of the best things I've made myself in a while.

Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Blondies
Oh Lady Cakes

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon potato starch
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons almond milk or milk
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unbleached flour
Dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips)
Raw almonds, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 5×8″ baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and potato starch, followed by the coconut oil and vanilla extract; mix for about 30 seconds to ensure the starch absorbs any excess oil. Whisk in the milk, until completely combined, then whisk in the almond butter and mix until smooth.

3. Add the baking powder, sea salt, and flour, and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula, just until combined.

4. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan then level with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks and chopped almonds. Bake at 350˚F for 34-38 minutes. For chewy blondies, bake for 28-30 minutes. For blondies that are completely baked through, bake for the full 38 minutes. Once baked, transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. After 10 minutes, lift bars out of the pan by the parchment paper and cool completely. Cut into 8 squares and store in an air tight container.


Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake - My Kitchen, Allston, MA
Looks a little rough around the edges. 
     I am awful at frosting cakes. Simply awful. Look at that thing. However, based on the outcome of this cake, I guess I'm not so awful at making it taste good. It was the bomb. I wonder though if it was the perfect texture and consistency because I used cake flour from King Arthur Flour up in Vermont. That place makes exceptional products. The cake was beautifully moist and rich. The peppermint flavor throughout the cake itself and the frosting was subtle. I wished the peppermint candies on top stayed crunchy a few days later, but if you're serving most of the cake the same day you make it, you won't have that problem. 
     I found this recipe on Crepes of Wrath and saved it for a special occasion. This special occasion was really just a thank you to David for trying to figure out what was wrong with my car while I had to work. I was really appreciative. 

Marbled Peppermint Crunch Cake
Crepes of Wrath

Chocolate Cake:
     1½ cups all-purpose flour
     1½ cups granulated sugar
     ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
     2 tablespoons espresso powder (optional)
     1½ teaspoons baking soda
     1 teaspoon baking powder
     1 teaspoon kosher salt
     ¾ cup whole milk
     ¾ cup room-temperature water
     2 eggs
     3 tablespoons vegetable oil
     1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Peppermint Frosting:
     2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
     5 cups powdered sugar
     ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
Chocolate Ganache:
     1½ cups bittersweet chocolate
     2 teaspoons heavy cream

     1½ cups crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add in your milk and water, beat to combine, then add in your eggs and beat to combine. Add in your vegetable oil and peppermint extract, then beat to combine, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3. Cut out 3 pieces of parchment to fit into 3 8-inch cake pans. Pour the batter evenly among the 3 pans, then bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Set aside to cool.
4. While the cake cools, make the frosting. Beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. Set aside.
5. Place a dollop of frosting on your work surface, be it a cake board or a plate. Place your first layer of cake on the surface and level it off with a serrated knife. Place a large dollop of frosting on the first layer, smooth it out, and sprinkle with ⅓ of your crushed candy canes. Repeat with the second layer, then with the third layer, level it off and use the rest of the frosting to coat the cake. Let the cake chill in the fridge for 15 minutes, then scrape off any excess with a cake scraper or crumb scraper for a "naked cake" look. Place the cake back in the fridge.
6. While the cake chills, melt your chocolate in a medium pot over medium heat, stirring often so that it doesn't burn. Add in the heavy cream very slowly and stir to combine. Spread the frosting over the cake again, and use the cake scraper to scrape off any excess for a marbled, "naked" cake look. Sprinkle with additional crushed peppermint candy, if you'd like, then chill for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


Paparazzi - Boston, MA
Tomato Mozzarella sandwich

     We had a three day move with a great guy in Boston who treated us to lunch three times at Paparazzi, a fancy Italian restaurant over on Newbury St. Day one I had their Pollo sandwich which had grilled chicken breast, basil pesto, tomato, fontina, toasted ciabatta, mixed greens and lemon vinaigrette. This was probably my favorite of the three days. The chicken was super juicy, the pesto was fabulous and I loved the fontina cheese. The greens and lemon vinaigrette added a nice freshness to the savory side of the sandwich. It was a beautiful balance. Day two I got their Polpetta Panini sandwich which had beef meatballs, mozzarella, pecorino romano, pomodoro, mixed greens, and lemon vinaigrette. Now this one was rich. The beef meatballs had a great salty and herb rich flavor and were great with the melted mozzarella and nutty pecorino romano. This sandwich was a little heavier than the chicken though so I needed to save half if I wanted to continue moving furniture all day. Plus I had also gotten their hand cut herbed french fries. So savory. So good. Day three I got their Tomato Mozzarella sandwich with fresh mozzarella, beefsteak tomato, basil pesto, balsamic reduction, toasted ciabatta, mixed greens, and lemon vinaigrette. This sandwich was also great, but I wanted it to be bigger. I loved the freshness, and you can't beat the mozzarella, tomato, balsamic combination. The first two days our customer also ordered some Margherita pizzas. They were very simple. Super thin crust, crushed tomatoes, light cheese, basil and oregano leaves. A great little side snack to pair with the sandwiches. 
Margherita pizza
     Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the inside / atmosphere of Paparazzi, but the food was delicious. 

No comments :

Post a Comment