Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blue Ox

We recently took a trek up to Lynn because we'd be hearing so much about a small place called Blue Ox and were totally caught off guard by the cosmopolitan feel in this little neck of the woods. Honestly, Lynn would be the last place I'd think of as a fine dining destination but part of the fun in doing all of this is discovering fantastic new places and Chefs in surprising spots.

We stepped in the door to a modern, clean space with a packed house.  Across the street we'd noticed a fairly large urban garden sprouting fresh kale that stretched across the field of other vegetables.  It was easy to park.  Not a bad start.


Sipping on a glass of Prosecco, we looked over the menu.  The Spicy Tuna Tartare had come highly recommended:  cucumber, cilantro, scallion, chive cream, Ox chili sauce and house made potato chips.  Delicious.  The surprise ingredient is mascarpone cheese, which Chef Matt O'Neil (a graduate of both Bates College and the CIA) tells us was used one night as a substitute and delighted diners so much that they decided to keep it.


Lobster Tacos:  grilled flour tortillas, avocado, diced tomato, scallion, chipotle aioli and  lime.  The lobster meat was generous and the creamy avocado added to the texture.  Nice.


This Duck Breast appetizer is not on the menu but was exceptionally good.  Cured in coriander and brown sugar then followed by a cold smoke and served with a turnip puree and feta cheese, the plate drizzled with olive oil and balsamic reduction, it was a rich, layered plate of flavor.  Ask for it.


This small charcuterie plate, also not on the menu, was packed with flavor and done in a few, small bites, unique in presentation but full of salty, rich goodness.


Roasted Faroe Island Salmon, summer vegetables,fingerlings, prosciutto and grain mustard-lemon crème fraiche.  A huge fan of salmon, as readers know, this did not disappoint and it was great to see the skin left on the salmon, as it should be, the most potent source of all those heart-healthy oils.


Pan Roasted Cod, grilled corn and lime risotto, arugula and heirloom cherry tomato salad and red wine vinaigrette.  The cod was also excellently prepared and that creamy risotto with a hint of lime and corn was yet another inventive addition.


Bar Manager Charlie Gaeta was on hand to recommend several wines including an excellent JJ Prum German (2011) Riesling that we enjoyed.


For dessert it was Molten Chocolate Cake with house made cinnamon ice cream and glasses of a sweet, coffee-flavored sauce.  The only dessert on the menu it's well worth the splurge even if you split one for the table.

As we often find, it's the attention to small details that make the dining experiences special.  The maple butter served with the fresh, warm bread.  The exceptional service (and ours was beyond reproach), the different flavors and delicate preparation.  Head to Lynn.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Blue Ox
191 Oxford Street
Lynn, MA 01901
Telehone: 781.780.5722




Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wow Barbecue


Part of the fun of being a food and lifestyle writer is the opportunity to learn and being open to new ideas, cultures and, of course, foods.  When we heard that large crowds of young, Chinese nationals relocated to greater Boston to work or study were flocking to a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant just a short drive away, we were intrigued.  So, we decided to visit Wow Barbecue in Malden.


We'd seen their food truck, quite popular in Chinatown, which serves authentic Chinese street food, basically food on a stick.  Street food is hugely popular in China.  It's cheap, good, plentiful and is central to the social experience whenever friends get together.  In Chinese culture people tend to eat much smaller amounts of food but more often.  So, a quick, small bite is almost always part of getting together with friends.  The vendors are everywhere.  People stop for a little bowl of fresh noodles like we stop for coffee.  This is not anything like the Americanized versions of Chinese takeout.

We decided to visit on a warm, summer Sunday afternoon, exactly the time and place in our area when most people are not around, busily heading north or south to the beaches and clam shacks.  The place is funky and cool with bright colors and fun murals.  It appeals to the child within. After a few moments of our arrival a posse of young Asian guys fill the table next to ours.  Laughing and animated, they immediately order up a storm of platters, drinks and skewers which they are all happily sharing.  Our server smiles at us and says:  "They're regulars."  And there are a lot of regulars.  When we begin to chat we discover that this place is a taste of home for them, a comfort spot  that features the foods they just can't get anywhere else in Boston.  And popular it is, filled to capacity with a young crowd every weekend night right up until closing at 1:00 am.


We order up skewers of lamb.  It's succulent and flavorful and certainly the kind of quick,  casual treat one would enjoy when out on the streets of the city.  Next was mushrooms, grilled and sprinkled with finely diced peppers, smoky, simple, clean.


The Spicy Pot is filled with stir-fried veggies and shrimp.  It doesn't sear the palate, as I expected, but fills the mouth with crunchy, healthy tastes and a bit of heat.  In fact, this place is a veggie-lovers dream.


We try a bowl of noodles in a salty/sweet broth thicker than we've experienced.  We see a guy with this can of Chinese tea and ask what it is, smitten by the bright lettering.  He asks us if we want to try some of his.  It's not like a restaurant.  It's like a group of new friends just hanging out, watching a soccer game but not really keeping track of the score, enjoying laughs and having some great food.  

We've been in a lot of restaurants.  The fine dining, the great service, the artistic presentation is all part of the experience but rarely have we been to a place where everyone seems so genuinely happy to be there. Perhaps it is the experience of displaced people finding the foods that remind them of home but, still, it's infectious.  And fun.  Really fun.

184 Salem Street
Malden,  MA 02148
Telephone:  508.826.3192
Twitter: @ilovewowbbq



Tricks Of The Trade


It's a great table of impressive food: salmon, spinach, maple butter on that freshly-baked bread, multiple glasses of rosé, the lemon risotto.  Yet, here is something that you probably would never notice if I didn't tell you.  In my discreet left hand is an led flash illuminating my face so that the digital, automated camera can focus in low-light restaurant conditions.  And underneath my feet is a bag with a notebook and pen that scribe every detail of the menu and memory of the experience that I have to keep reaching down for.  And between my legs is an iPhone, covered with a napkin, that I don't want to crush. The very nice people at the next table are looking at us like we are crazy.  My ankles have mosquito bites that are itchy beyond belief and I'm just hoping that I don't have arugula draping my teeth.  So, that's the glamorous life of a food-writer.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Newport Mansions Wine And Food Festival 2014


The beautiful Fall weather, impressive architecture, a slew of well-known Chefs, leading wine experts and sommeliers (including Michael Meager of Cafe Escadrille, Todd Lipman of Bistro du Midi and David Singer of L'Espalier), plenty of food and wine and, if that's not enough, Sara Moulton and Martha Stewart!  What is it?  It's the ninth annual Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival.  We'll be there and we hope to see you there, too.  It's a great reason to escape the city for the weekend, stroll the lush lawns of The Elms, Rosecliff and Marble House, amble along the Cliff Walk and meet all kinds of new friends enjoying some excellent food and spectacular wines.

There are brunches, loads of tastings and even some special after dark events to keep you busy in the style of high society all weekend long.  Go to Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival 2014 for detailed information on all the festivities and events and ... don't forget to leave your white shoes at home!  We'll see you there September 19-21, 2014.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Glenville Stops


Allston is filled with bars and pubs there for the college crowds, serving up suds in neglected environs that cater to quantity not quality.  Yet there, tucked behind one of the busiest, loudest areas is a quiet hideaway called The Glenville Stops.  This place is different.

Under the dexterous hands of owner Michael Chapman, son Fred and Chef Juan Pedrosa, formerly of Trade (and Future Chefs) the spot was gutted, then entirely built out in painstaking, loving detail by the trio as they labored over arduous months.  The result is an oasis of a modern gastropub nestled into a residential side street.

Pedrosa's hand is also in every dish, taking a solid foundation of comfort food and then adding layers of international flavor that run the gamut:  Asian, Mediterranean and Latin.  The diner starts with fresh bread and the delightful Eggplant Puree laced with the slightest hint of sweetness from raisins.  This is not a pub crawl.


Yet, it is a haven for true wine and beer aficionados.  An impressive selection of wines by-the-glass and bottled (Greg Norman Cab-Merlot 2010, Yering Station Pinot Noir, and even Ports and Sherries) is to be found.  Beer-lovers, we opted for the German drafts.  This Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss, a German wheat beer with a hint of banana-clove, was a welcome summer refresher. As was the Vitus.  There's a draft for everyone and bottled Abbey, Lager and Porter, too.


Mushroom Baguette:  Seared Oyster Mushrooms, Lemon Aioli and Micro Basil.  Rich, textured flavor. 


Mexican Street Corn:  Aioli, Poblano Pepper and Queso.  A great way to start with the stronger tastes played off against the subtle corn, grilled to perfection.


Quick-Seared Shrimp With Sofrito and Chorizo Aioli.  Again, the flavor influences dress what would normally be a very good shrimp plate up into an unexpected finish.


The Lamb Meatballs With Tzatziki And Harissa Oil.  Smooth, dense bites of flavorful meat contrast the cooling sauce for a classic, unbeatable combination.


Roasted Beet Salad.  With Pedrosa's choice of a whipped feta (as opposed to the more traditional pats of goat cheese), a light Dill Dressing and the tiniest bits of fried potato, the dish is transformed into a different, superior version.  This was a standout and, as readers know, I am a huge fan of Beet Salads.  I have enjoyed hundreds of these in restaurants all over the world always subconsciously knowing that something was missing in  the texture until that first crunch hit my mouth.  Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?  As Pedrosa explains, the dish was first served with shoestring potatoes but it just wasn't right.  As the dish evolved the potato bits became smaller and smaller until it was just a crunchy topping.  And perfect.


It is the same with this Roasted Jumbo Asparagus.  Romesco, Burnt Orange and Manchego Migas. It's the thoughtful addition of Manchego that turns it from ordinary into great.


The Stops Burger, Asian Style.  Hoison, Crispy Onions and Asian Pickle add to the depth in a twist on the Stops Burger, featured on the menu with several others.  Great burger.  Great flavor.  Great hand-cut fries.

The attention to detail.  The light, airy, clean comfort of the place.  The inventive menu.  It all made us walk away, back into the noise and crowd, with a similar sentiment:  we wished we had a place like this in our neighborhood.

87 Glenville Ave, Allston, MA 02134
Telephone: 617.903.3638






Saturday, August 9, 2014

Drinks At Hard Rock


We stopped in at Hard Rock Cafe Boston recently for some snacks and refreshing cocktails in the heart of the city.  The summer crowds near Faneuil Hall are huge this year with people from all over the world.  While it's certainly touristy it's still a fun warm-weather place to visit if just for the people-watching and street entertainment.

Pictured above is the Jumbo Combo, a great selection of appetizers to keep you going.  The wings and artichoke dip were especially good.


But we were there to check out the Pressed Fruit Drinks, a new twist on seasonal refreshment and to meet Joe Spano, Beverage Manager.  Mostly vodka-based, the juices and fresh fruit are put in a French coffee press to extract the optimal amount of fresh fruit flavor.  They were all delicious and well worth a stop by.

22-24 Clinton Street
Boston, MA 02109
Telephone: 617.424.7625


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Wahlburgers


Yes, we had our first Whalburger recently!  A&E was swinging through town to promote season two of the popular series featuring the Wahlberg family and invited us along for a taste.  Paul was there, along with hundreds of people waiting for a taste. The burger is actually really good.  

Season two of the popular series begins Wednesday, August 13th and rumor has it that family friend Rob Gronkowski will make an appearance helping Paul with his fantasy football league picks.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey


What do foodies do on a summer night?  We head out to a great restaurant for food and drink then off to a movie about food with a bunch of other foodies.  That's what.  So, we began last night at Catalyst in Cambridge, where Chef and Owner William Kovell had prepared a buffet of cuisine with French and Indian twists, fresh Naan with summer vegetables, bites of duck and sips of wine.























Then we we walked about a hundred feet, or so, over to the Kendall Square Cinema for the premiere of THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY.  Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri (who steals the show), Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon, and set in the visually lush French countryside, it is a story of two cultures melding through a joint love for food.

Needless to say, the preamble of cocktails and bites was Hollywood premiere worthy but the film is a gem for anyone who loves travel, cuisine and the joy of Michelin stars.  The movie opens August 8th!  Bon Appétit!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dining At Pier 6


It was a bright and slightly breezy night when we headed over to Pier 6 in the Navy Yard for dinner recently, located on 8th Street just two streets over from Old Ironsides.  Perched right on the harbor, with sweeping views of the city, we had reserved the Captain's Table.  The table is set off into a small alcove just off the main dining room, open air with a roof overhang and has a door one can close to minimize the dining room clatter, perfect for a special occasion.


We began with a refreshing 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat, very light and not overly fruity, perfect for a summer night such as the one we were enjoying.


With the Zakim Bridge off to one side and the boats sailing the harbor on the other, the view was part of the experience and great from either seat.


I started with the Fried Oysters, served with a house made tartar sauce and very fresh.  I liked the fact that these were not overly breaded or too deeply fried.


My dining companion for the evening went with the Lobster Chowder.  Filled with lobster meat, leeks, sweet potato and bacon, the base is made with a manzanilla sherry and the flavor profiles are both rich and subtle. Very good.


Bacon-Wrapped Monkfish was the special of the night and we were very glad we chose to sample it.  Firm and flavorful with a taste of the sea, we savored every morsel.


The Sea Scallops.  What is better than fresh scallops on a beautiful summer night?  A carrot-cumin puree, fresh peas and pea greens with a golden raisin brown butter also dressed the plate.  I absolutely loved that the peas were raw, taking me back to to the days of my youth in Maine spent picking peas in the early summer and eating them shucked and raw right from the basket on the way home.


For dessert: this Cheesecake Brownie.  The vanilla sauce with ground coffee nibs slathered the plate.  We spooned out every drop.


My Butterscotch Pudding was just as good, elevating me past those horrible things served in school lunches that almost made me swear it off forever.  If you can relate, get this dessert.  It's a palate-changer.


One of the best parts f the Captain's Table is the amazing light show over the Boston skyline as you dine.  As the sun sets the whole look of the city changes every five minutes or so, the sky going from blue to pink, the puffy clouds drifting by, the little sailboats and big yachts both sailing by and when the lights begin to twinkle after the sun goes down it reminds me of why I could never live anywhere else but here.

As I tweeted (@TheBostonFoodie) and Instagrammed (@TBFWilliam) the ever-changing views from my catbird seat I began to get messages from friends asking me exactly where I was and it is, indeed, a hidden secret I almost hate to give up, a vantage point that most Bostonians don't even know about.  Yet, I have and I would strongly recommend you try it out this summer, even if just for a relaxing cocktail and appetizer as the sun disappears from the sky.

The Captain's Table is not advertised by Pier 6, unseen with online reservations and solely available upon request, an exclusive enclave and precisely the kind of spot we love to share with our readers and followers.  When you go, do call ahead and request the table.  It is, without doubt, the best seat in the house.

Pier 6
Thompson Square
Navy Yard, Boston, MA 02129
Telephone:  617.337.0054

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mia Wines: Lunch With Gloria Collell


Spanish winemaker Gloria Collell was in town recently and invited us to lunch at Tapeo to introduce us to her new line of wines called Mia produced in conjunction with Freixenet.  And what a glorious lunch it was.  We laughed a lot, sipped her wines, talked wine and international foods and I enjoyed an afternoon in the company of accomplished women and wine-lovers.


Paella was on the menu, in addition to a slew of tapas at the popular Newbury Street spot with an authentic Spanish feel.




We sipped the Mia White, Red and Rosé, along with her Moscato and Pink Moscato.  The wines are light, refreshing and less dry, aimed at a female market and absolutely sure to be a hit, fruity and unpretentious.  I especially liked the white.  The Moscato was also excellent.  Moscato has been a hot wine over the past few years but some find most labels to be exceedingly, almost soda pop sweet.  Not here.  It's a far less sweet Moscato and a Gold Medal winner of the Berliner Wein Trophy 2014.


All of the Mia wines will be on the market here soon and we are sure you will not be disappointed in any of them, especially when sharing something new with friends from a lady who is a passionate wine maker and enthusiast.  


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Earl's Kitchen Coming To Assembly Row


Earl's Kitchen And Bar is coming to Assembly Row in Somerville in September and Mixologist Cameron Bogue will be helming the drinks program.  We had the chance to meet him and sample some of his most interesting drinks recently and we were, of course, not disappointed.


We met up with Jenny Johnson, co-host of NESN's Dining Playbook and enjoyed a cocktail called "Bee's Knees".


The crafty concoction is served in these cute, little honey jars.  The ingredients?  Simple:

CLASSIC COCKTAIL - BEES KNEES
 A citrusy gin drink sweetened with honey

TECHNIQUE: Shake
GLASSWARE: Honey Bear Jar
GARNISH: Lemon Zest, Wooden Honey Dipper

0.75 fl oz                                                              House Made Honey Syrup
1 fl oz                                                                   Fresh Lemon Juice
0.75 fl oz                                                              Aviation Gin
0.75 fl oz                                                              Cointreau
3 dashes                                                              Angostura Bitters

RECIPE:
1. In a Mixing glass; measure 0.75 fl oz Honey Syrup, 1 fl oz Fresh Lemon Juice, 0.75 fl Aviation Gin, 0.75 Cointreau and 3 dashes Angostura Bitters.
2. Pack Mixing glass full of ice. Top with a stainless steel shaking tin.
3. Shake vigorously 12 times to mix ingredients.
4. Strain over fresh ice into a Honey Bear Jar.
5. Garnish with a Lemon Zest and a Wooden Honey Dipper.


Eric Twardzik, Boston Editor of UrbanDaddy was there.  They are always on the forefront of new openings and happenings.


The place will be a casual upscale design and focus on contemporary American comfort food.  This is Earl's, which operates 65 locations throughout the USA and Canada will make it's first entry into the area at Assembly Row, which is shaping up quite nicely as the area's newest shopping, dining and entertainment destination.