Friday, April 30, 2010

InedibleBite: Fun Food Friday - Kitchen Tools for Angry People

Do you channel your anger through cooking? Does your love of sharp cutlery frighten your dinner guests? Do you rabidly watch TV shows like Dexter? (I do.) Perhaps you might like to add some of these fun kitchen tools to your arsenal! Most of these are from a super fun website that I stumbled on called ThinkGeek, which has all sorts of toys, appliances, and other stuff for nerds.

First up: variations on the voodoo theme. The Ex Knife Block ($69.99) comes equipped with "razor sharp precision" blades, and it's available in red, chrome, or black. The Ouch! Voodoo Doll Toothpick Holder ($11.99) is suitable for those with slightly less anger.
The best kind of voodoo doll?
For those with less anger.
For those that watch too many crime shows, how about a Bloody Evidence Knife ($14.99)?
*cue Psycho violins*
For the less murderous and more piratey types who just want to duel a bit, here's a Swashbuckling BBQ sword ($14.99).
And finally, for those who just want to hit stuff with rocks, here's a Homo Sapiens Caveman Kitchen Tool ($39.99).
For grinding, meat tenderizing, knife sharpening, and whacking people on the head!
Happy Friday! Enjoy the beautiful weather, and hopefully no more T stations or Fens will catch on fire this weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Very International Evening: Tacos at La Verdad; Gogol Bordello and DeVotchKa at House of Blues

La Verdad
I first discovered Ken Oringer's La Verdad on a late March night after going to a Dropkick Murphys shows at the House of Blues. Two of my friends live nearby and said it was the best place in the world, and the rest of us couldn't say no to late night tacos. Well, my friends were right. We sat in the tiny takeout section, which seemed surprisingly empty for such a great post-show option.

Last night, we went to another show at House of Blues - more on that amazing part of the night after the food part of this post - so we opted for a sit-down meal in the restaurant part. My friends arrived a few minutes after us, and they told me via phone to order a pitcher or margarita, meaning a pitcher of beer or a margarita for each, but I heard "pitcher of margarita," so we ended up with a whole lot of margarita. It was tasty but on the weak side.

Julia and Geoff swear by the fish tacos, and Joel is obsessed with the duck tacos that he had back in March. I got a combo of three tacos: pastor traditionale (pork adobo, roast pineapple (which seemed to be missing), lime, cilantro, onion), turkey pastor (turkey with cinnamon, brown sugar and chili marinade, mole, toasted sesame seeds), and chorizo y papas (chorizo, potato, poblano, lime, cilantro, onion). All of the tacos were delicious; my favorite was the chorizo, which had just a hint of spice. The duck tacos are definitely worth trying as well. (Where else can you find duck tacos? I've never seen them anywhere.)
Pork in the foreground, chorizo in the back (left), turkey on the right.
One thing left me really irritated, though. The taco plates, which cost around $10-12 depending on what you get, come with refried beans and slaw. Each costs $3 if you order it as a side dish. Rice is also a $3 side dish. I don't like beans and slaw, so I asked if I could just get rice instead of both of those. I know substitutions can be a pain, but honestly, that seems like a substitution that would make the dish easier (and cheaper). Maybe I'm wrong. But they insisted on charging me $3 for a side of rice, even though I didn't even want the other two sides. Here is the offending rice, which was most definitely not worth $3:
$3 rice. Meh.
I would have been happy to pay a small substitution fee, but I don't think I should have had to pay for a side dish. As it turns out, they messed up and put the beans and slaw on my plate and left them off my friend's plate, but they quickly brought the missing sides once we told them what happened. On the topic of prices, I'm also a little mystified by the fact that the cocktails cost the same as most of the food.

Anyway, despite those issues, I really like La Verdad for "gourmet" tacos. If you're looking for something less than gourmet, though, I do have to throw in a plug for my other favorite taco place: Tacos Lupita near Porter Square in Somerville.

La Verdad Taqueria Mexicana on Urbanspoon

I first heard DeVotchKa's music in the trailer for Everything Is Illuminated (which, by the way, is both an amazing movie and an amazing book). I was hooked. I went to Bonnaroo 2006 but arrived just an hour too late to see them, so last night was the first time I finally got to go to a show. I won't tell you about their history because the bio on their website (warning: music autoplays) is fantastic and definitely worth the read. They play a unique type of Eastern European-style rock tinged with sousaphones, theremins, accordions, and such. When I'm not writing or eating, I'm playing whatever instrument I can get my hands on, so I'm really into the fact that each member of DeVotchKa plays at least three different instruments. From the booming bass of the sousaphone (whose player also plays upright bass) to the eerie whine of the theremin to the lead singer's haunting vocals, DeVotchKa put on an intense and impressive set. I almost forgot to mention the crazy circus act during one of the songs: two of the strongest and most flexible women I've ever seen shimmied up a couple ribbons dangling from the ceiling and did all sorts of twists, turns, and poses. It was a really cool addition to the music.

Gogol Bordello
If you've never heard gypsy punk music, you're in for a treat. Gogol Bordello is one of the earlier bands to popularize the genre, and I think they actually coined the term "gypsy punk," but I might be wrong. I first started listening to them within the last year after hearing my boyfriend's band, Somerville Symphony Orkestar, cover one of their songs. Like DeVotchKa, Gogol Bordello features quite a mix of instruments that may seem randomly thrown together: accordion, brass, violin, and more. And here's another connection: Eugene Hutz, the lead singer of Gogol Bordello, had a starring roll in Everything Is Illuminated. Hutz, a lanky but muscular powerhouse of a guy with the creepiest/greatest mustache ever, ended up shirtless by the end of the show, pouring water and wine on the fans lucky enough to be near the stage. The violin player, who looked to be in his 60s, was equally energetic and ridiculously talented. The whole set - which was long, sweaty, and exhilarating - was full of primal beats, crazy energy, and very tight instrumentation. Even if you don't think gypsy punk sounds like a genre you'd be into, I highly recommend seeing Gogol Bordello - you'll leave with the feeling that you're part of a raucous, rowdy rebellion against something, but you'll have no idea quite what it is you're rebelling against.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

MiniBite: New Restaurant Opening Soon in Back Bay

I was walking by the closed Boylston St. Vinny T's location today when I spotted a sign in the door announcing a spring opening of something called Back Bay Social Club.  A bit of googling revealed that it's owned by the Lyons Group, and they're not saying much about it yet, although they have Twitter and Facebook pages set up, as well as a basic website showcasing the logo and linking to the social accounts.  A Herald article quotes an unnamed "close source" as saying it'll be like "Italian-American and other social clubs of yore - a friendly neighborhood place where people come to eat, drink and commune, make friends and perhaps find romance and do business." 

According to the Globe, the opening is planned for late May, and it'll be a "New York-style bistro." 

The Facebook page mentions breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks.  I'm excited for any new lunch options near my office, so I'm curious to see what the menu will be like.

I'm still a bit disappointed that Vinny T's closed - it was always a great place for big groups, and the last time I went there, they were very accommodating and gave us family-style entrees even though they were no longer on the menu.  There are still some other locations out in the suburbs, though.

Well, I'm going to keep an eye on this place, and I'll post an update if I get anymore details!

Update 6/16/10
According to a job listing on, the menu will consist of "American Tavern food with an emphasis on native New England ingredients. Presented simply and executed consistently."  No new updates have been posted on Back Bay Social Club's Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Open calls for multiple positions are being held at Kings (50 Dalton St) today (6/16) from 11am to 4pm and on 6/18, 6/23, and 6/24 from 11am to 5pm. They are seeking people with "no attitude" and "no ego" according to postings on Boston Chefs and CraigsList. The postings also specify that it'll be open seven days a week, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner served every day.

Update 7/2/10
According to the Back Bay Social Club Facebook page, several hires have been made:
Executive Chef - Tim Raines
Sous Chef - Ray Olejniczak
General Manager - Johna Willis 

According to a bit of Googling, it appears that Tim Raines has worked as Sous Chef at Sonsie, and Johna Willis is a manager from the Lyons Group.

Update 8/3/10
Back Bay Social Club is now open! Sneak a peek at the menu on Grubstreet.

Update 8/4/10
Here's the menu! Looks good! I'm excited to try out a French dip when they start serving lunch next week. Click on any page to see it full-sized.

Monday, April 26, 2010

MiniBite: Fiddleheads > Asparagus

Hello early spring! It's time for fiddleheads, but they won't be around long!

I picked up some fiddlehead ferns at Whole Foods last week for the first time, and now I just can't get enough of them.  Imagine the best asparagus you've ever had, and then take away the bitter taste - that's what a fiddlehead tastes like.  Plus, they're absolutely beautiful: they look like curled end of a stringed instrument (hence the name 'fiddlehead').

Fiddlehead isn't a specific type of fern; it refers to any young fern before the fronds have unfurled.  Some types that are most commonly picked harvested for food are bracken, ostrich fern, and cinnamon fern.  They've been known to cause food poisoning, so don't eat them raw!  Try rinsing them with cold water and boiling or steaming them at least once for 12-15 minutes.

After rinsing and boiling my fiddleheads, I shocked them in cold water and sauteed them quickly (less than a minute) in olive oil, garlic salt, crushed red pepper, and a little lemon juice.  I garnished them with grated asiago cheese...and devoured them all.  (Oops...I meant to save half for the next day's lunch.)  I was immediately addicted.
Sauteed Fiddleheads (before adding asiago)
Sadly, I seem to make my best meals when no one else is around to eat them, so no one believes me when I actually have a kitchen success!  A few days later, I dragged my boyfriend to Whole Foods and hungrily attacked the fiddleheads, shoveling most of them into a bag, so that I could prove to him that (1) I can cook and (2) fiddleheads are amazing.  Apologies to anyone else planning on buying fiddleheads that day; I don't think I left many.

I prepared them the same way as before, but this time I served them over some fresh pasta that I found at Whole Foods that was shaped just like fiddleheads!  (I told you I was addicted.)  I tossed the pasta with some basil pesto, and it all tasted great together.
Sorry for the terrible cell phone photo, but I'm really excited about the pasta shape!
Well, what are you waiting for?  Fiddlehead season ends soon!  Get out there and try them!

Friday, April 23, 2010

InedibleBite: Fun Food Friday - Jewelry Edition

Food-themed jewelry never really occurred to me until I was browsing around my friend Casey's awesome Etsy shop and found the Foodie Necklace:
Foodie Necklace from Cosmic Girl on Etsy

Of course, I had to get one. Now I wear it to food events all the time :)  Anyway, for today's Fun Food Friday, I thought I'd share with you some other fun food-related jewelry finds from Etsy.  There are tons of adorable cookie earrings, cupcake necklaces, etc., but for today, aside from the foodie necklace and bacon necklace, I'm going to stick with the vintage/recycled/antique silverware theme.  Enjoy!

This next necklace is just amazing (if you're into eating pigs, which I am.)  The one currently for sale is actually gold, not silver.  Be sure to browse around the rest of the store, too - there are other adorable necklaces with dinosaurs, goldfish, and more.
I Heart Bacon Necklace from Crumpet Cake on Etsy
This bracelet is part of a collection of fork bracelets and spoon rings. Pretty cool stuff!
Country Lane 1954 Handmade Fork Bracelet from Go or Send Jewelry on Etsy
I'm obsessed with this necklace (and all the rest in the store as well!)
Vintage Fork Pendant from Woods Edge Jewelry Studio on Etsy
And on a similar note:
A Fork of Course from DKShattuck Recycled Art on Etsy
Well, I guess this is turning out to just be a bunch of awesome forks.  But this is Fork it over, Boston, so I guess that's appropriate :)  This one has a nice addition of carnelian glass and looks very squid-like:
Silver Vintage Fork Pendant with Carnelian Glass Cabochon from LT Creates Jewelry on Etsy
Happy Friday!  I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of some of my attempts at cooking this week, including fiddlehead ferns, which are in season now (but not for long!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EventBite: Bloggers Go Loco at Boloco

I went to the Boloco in Cleveland Circle once, probably about a year ago. I had ignored it for awhile because I don't like burritos, but when I actually took a look at the menu one day, I realized that it had a bunch of burrito-style wraps, not all of them Tex-Mex. I tried out one of the Asian-style ones and found it to be on the bland side, so I never went back.

A couple weeks ago, though, I received an invite to a blogger event at the newest Boloco location, which is right near Berklee. I figured I might as well give it another try, as I'm a fan of small local chains in general. (Since there are multiple locations, it probably means they're doing something right, but they're not yet obnoxiously big so there's probably a level of quality control and enthusiasm that larger national chains tend to lack.)

Boloco's CEO, John Pepper, talked to us about recent menu changes, plans for expansion, new beer pairings coming soon at some non-Massachusetts locations (liquor licenses are unfortunately very expensive here), and the general philosophy of Boloco: for one thing, "putting great food into a very portable product," said Pepper. Meanwhile, we tried out the new mini sizes ("disturbingly small," says the menu) of burritos and smoothies.  I had a Bangkok Thai tofu burrito (Thai-style peanut sauce, Asian slaw, cucumbers, and brown rice in a flour tortilla).  I enjoyed it, but like my previous experience, I thought it could have a bit more flavor.  I'd order it again, but I'd request some hot sauce on it. The smoothie - a Jimmy Carter with peanut butter, banana, milk, and frozen yogurt - was perfect, but I doubt I could have more than a mini size; it's just so rich. (For those of you in my age group that don't understand why it's called the Jimmy Carter, Pepper enlightened us: Carter grew up on a peanut farm.)  We also sampled new gluten-free brownies, and I think we were all pretty impressed that they tasted good - and like normal brownies!

Even though I'm still not completely won over by the burritos in terms of flavor, I'm really enthusiastic about the introduction of the mini sizes. You could realistically get a mini burrito ($3.95) and mini smoothie ($2.95) without using up all your recommended calories for the day and feeling overwhelmingly full.  Also, there's a "goloco" option on the menu where you can design your own burrito, so before I give up entirely on the burritos and just go for the smoothies, I'll try out a few different combinations to see if I can find something I like.

I was impressed by the ambiance of the restaurant as well.  I was expecting just a take-out joint with some boring tables, but the space was airy and clean with a bunch of people sitting around comfortably, using their laptops.  It seemed more like a coffee shop than a fast food place.

And, in addition to the food, it was great to see some other Boston food bloggers: Pam (Cave Cibum), Katie (Small Boston Kitchen), Will (Boston Foodie), Fiona (Boston Food Diary), Natalie (a vegetarian blog on her campus), Lingbo (Lingbo Li), Lena (The Chicktionary), and Athena (Forays of a Finance Foodie).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MiniBite: Hot Dogs in the Public Garden

There's really no better way of spending a beautiful spring lunch hour than sitting by the water in the Public Garden and watching the swan boats paddle by...oh yeah, and eating HOT DOGS.  My co-workers and I stopped by the frosty truck on the corner of Boylston and Arlington to grab a hot dog ($3 for a regular size.)  Even my usually-pescetarian-except-for-occasional-chicken-wing-binges co-worker couldn't resist.  The "Here's Frosty" painted on the side of the truck kind of makes me want to see Jack Nicholson come bursting out of the window holding an ice cream cone.
Joy, Julia, and some random dude raid the frostymobile.
We found a nice spot right by the water - most of the benches were already occupied.  1pm on a day like today is a pretty busy time in the Garden.  Aside from a creepy guy staring at us for awhile and some low-flying birds, lunch was very pleasant.
Super excited about my hot dog. Yes, it's plain. Ketchup, mustard, and relish are nasty.
We thought about riding the Swan Boats, but alas, the lines were long, and we have a textbook to finish.  Maybe next time!
Swan boat! It's really spring now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

MiniBite: Free Scoops of Ben & Jerry's New Flavor, Boston Cream Pie

Quick! You have less than an hour to get to one of Boston proper's three Ben & Jerry's locations to try out a new flavor, Boston Cream Pie. There's no line at the Newbury St. location; I'm not sure about the other two. Here's the official description of the flavor, which contains yellow cake, fudge flakes, and pastry cream. My co-workers and I thought there could be a bit more cake, but overall, a nice flavor. And there's nothing better than grabbing some free ice cream while thousands of other people are running a marathon nearby.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

EventBite: Mumbai Chopstix Preview Party

Tomorrow, Newbury Street is getting a brand new restaurant: Mumbai Chopstix, featuring Chinese/Indian fusion cuisine.  I attended a preview party last week and got to try out a few appetizers, shown in the slideshow below.

The restaurant covers two floors of 254 Newbury St., plus a very nice outdoor patio.  I explored the bottom floor, which was designed with the help of a Feng Shui specialist.  There's a bar down there (which features a large TV that was strangely playing Kitchen Nightmares during the party...interesting juxtaposition.)  It's a small space, but it doesn't seem cramped.  I guess the Feng Shui design works!  The decor is simple and nice, with Buddhas aplenty.

It's hard to judge the food on three simple appetizers that I tried (pork dumplings, vegetable spring rolls, and chicken wings) but they were all enjoyable. The full menu is posted on MenuPages.  Some interesting sounding dishes include Meatball Manchurian (meatballs sauteed in soy-cilantro Manchurian sauce) and Crispy Fried Duck (an "Indian Chinese delicacy" marinated in a blend of indochinese spices.)

It was a fun evening drinking, eating, and chatting with fellow food bloggers Richard (A Passionate Foodie) and Will (The Boston Foodie), and I'm looking forward to trying out the restaurant again soon.

Mumbai Chopstix on Urbanspoon
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