Monday, July 30, 2012

The Bearded Pig: First Impressions

After shooting some interior photos at The Bearded Pig yesterday for an Eater story, I knew I wouldn't be able to stay away for long. It soft-opened today at 11 AM, and by just past noon, I had dragged Joel there. We currently each live about a mile away, but in September, we're moving in together just minutes from Union Square, so news of a new nearby barbecue spot was particularly exciting for us, especially considering that there's really no good barbecue in Somerville. (Don't get me wrong; Redbones is a fun place for a drink, but my meals there have ranged from uninspired to downright disappointing. I'd rather drive out to Blue Ribbon, Black Strap, or beyond. My reigning favorites for barbecue, though, are even farther away: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse and Rochester (can't vouch for the newer locations), Fette Sau in Brooklyn, and Franklin Barbecue in Austin.)

It's not really fair to review a place on opening day, so I'll write more once I've returned in a month or so, but I will say that there's a lot that we liked. The sides, in particular, blew Redbones and even Blue Ribbon out of the water. (We got the mac and cheese, cornbread, and collard greens.) For now, I'll just leave you with the food porn. For the less-sexy-but-still-snazzy interior shots, check out my story over on Eater.

Bearded Pig on UrbanspoonSee my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Giveaway: Sour Patch Kids Candy and T-Shirts

For the most part, I prefer to write about local brands on here, but hey, I have a soft spot for Sour Patch Kids, and I bet some of you do, too. A rep reached out to me recently with some candy and shirts to give away in promotion of their current marketing campaign, Sour Patch Justice, and because Sour Patch Kids are delicious and the campaign actually made me chuckle, I readily accepted. Apparently Sour Patch Kids have been going around wreaking havoc on honest, hard-working people (and cats!), and a sleazy lawyer has been brought onboard to defend the Kids. Users can upload their own evidence of Sour Patch Kids' wrongdoings, and the lawyer will respond through the end of the month. Here's the official video to get your creative juices flowing:

Don't care about uploading your evidence? Just want to win some tasty, tasty candy? No problem. I've got some prizes to give to (a few of) you: three Fork it over, Boston! readers will each receive a snazzy Sour Patch Kids t-shirt and a bag of candy.

The winner will be picked randomly from all eligible entries, and you can earn entries in any/all of the following ways:

  • Leave a comment on this post - tell me what you think of Sour Patch Kids. Have they wronged you? Do you eat them by the giant bagful? Have you made any weird recipes involving them? (One entry for leaving a comment. Two entries for leaving a comment that makes me giggle.)
  • Tweet about this giveaway. Please include a link to this post and my Twitter username, @blumie, so I can keep track. (One entry.)
  • Publicly post on Facebook about this giveaway. Please include a link to this post, and tag the Fork it over, Boston! Facebook page in your post so I can keep track. (One entry.)
Good luck! I'll draw a winner around 9pm on Wednesday evening, August 1, so get your entries in before then.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Recipe: Sweet 'n' Spicy Lamb Gyroti

In December of 2009, Joel and I spent a glorious week on the island of Antigua, eating Caribbean and French food, playing with lizards and baby donkeys, ziplining, and enjoying the tropical weather. While most of the food was extraordinary, one of the dishes that has really stuck with us is roti. In Indian cuisine, the word "roti" refers specifically to a round, unleavened bread frequently served with curry, but in parts of the Caribbean, it refers to a more complete dish: bread that resembles Indian roti, wrapped around a curry-coated filling, generally meat, poultry, or seafood. It's often topped with a fruit marmalade, particularly mango. As I mentioned in a previous post, we had no idea what roti was, but as we sat in a restaurant and overheard a nearby diner raving about how the roti was the best he'd ever had, we ordered it immediately. It was fantastic, indeed.

Back in Boston, we've been unable to find roti within our general Somerville/Cambridge dining radius, but there are apparently a few roti shops in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Meanwhile, we frequently make our own version. It's incredibly easy, and it's definitely a go-to dish on nights when we're not in the mood to exert much effort on dinner. In most cases, we grab a ready-to-go rotisserie chicken from Shaw's, shred it up and mix it with Kikkoman Thai Yellow Curry Sauce, and add some pan-fried potato chunks. Then we wrap it up in warm tortillas, which Joel toasts directly on the stovetop gas burner (which terrifies me a little bit), and we top it with a dollop of an orange or mango jam, whatever we have on hand.

Last year, the Tri-Lamb Group (no, not that one) reached out to me to see if I'd host a series of lamb dinner parties in order to help spread the word that lamb is a lean and delicious meat that is easy and versatile. Over the course of six months, they provided me with recipes, lamb, and other ingredients to host three different parties. Here's a video I created after the first party:

While the original plan involved just those three parties, they recently reached out again with one more challenge: this time, we'd have to create our own recipe and serve it at another dinner party. After scratching our heads for a few minutes, we decided we wanted to do a play on our beloved roti. We didn't love the idea of mango or orange with lamb, so the jam morphed into a blackberry sauce that we've used on duck and goose. We also moved away from curry, instead opting for a spicy yogurt sauce for the interior of the roti. Once we decided on yogurt, we realized we were heading in the direction of a gyro, so we decided to call our creation a "gyroti."

Sweet 'n' Spicy Lamb Gyroti
Serves 8-12

Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 2 hours minimum; overnight if time allows
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes

  • 1 boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 12 whole wheat tortillas
  • 18 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp harissa (with extra on hand for increased spiciness)
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 oz fresh blackberries
  • 3 tbsp olive oil-based butter substitute, such as Olivio
  • salt and pepper

Ingredient Notes
  • Ask your butcher to butterfly the lamb for you to save preparation time.
  • If you can't find harissa, a Tunisian chili paste, substitute any other hot red chili paste. The Asian aisle of any supermarket will have several options.
  • Suggested additions: include cucumber and/or tomato inside the wrap, or serve a tomato and cucumber side salad.

This recipe requires no special utensils, although a potato masher comes in handy when preparing the blackberry sauce.


Marinate the Lamb
Start at least three hours prior to serving but preferably a day in advance.
  1. Butterfly the lamb if it isn't already butterflied, and carefully cut some of the fat off for a leaner meal.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over all sides of the lamb, and then rub light brown sugar all over, patting it in gently. Place lamb in a container or bag for marinating.
  3. Make the marinade by combining 1/4 cup brandy, 1/4 red wine vinegar, and 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the lamb. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
Prepare the Blackberry Sauce
Begin at least two hours prior to serving so the sauce has enough time to thicken and cool. For best results, do this the day before and store in the refrigerator overnight. The sauce is best served at room temperature. 
  1. Melt 3 tbsp light brown sugar into 3 tbsp butter substitute on the stovetop at low heat. Once melted, raise to high heat.
  2. Add 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  3. Add blackberries; mash. (A potato masher is helpful here, but you can also just use a spoon or spatula.)
  4. Return heat to low, and add 2 tbsp brandy.
  5. Let reduce for 45 minutes to an hour; the final consistency will be runnier and thinner than a berry jam.
  6. Set aside to cool until serving. (Refrigerate overnight if prepared a day in advance, and allow it to warm to room temperature before serving.)
Cook the Lamb
Start cooking at least an hour before serving. After the lamb finishes cooking, you'll want to let it rest for several minutes before carving. You can prepare the yogurt sauce while the lamb rests.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Brown the lamb in an uncovered pan on the stovetop, about 6-8 minutes per side.
  3. Cook uncovered in the oven for 25-35 minutes.
  4. Let rest while you prepare the yogurt sauce.
  5. Carve the lamb into small chunks.

Prepare the Yogurt Sauce
Combine the yogurt and harissa to taste, starting with three tablespoons of harissa. Add more if desired to reach your optimal level of spiciness.

Assemble the Gyroti
  1. Warm the tortilla in the oven, toaster oven, or carefully directly on top of a gas burner on the stove. Place on plate.
  2. Put a serving of lamb on the center of the tortilla and add any other optional mix-ins, like tomato and cucumber chunks.
  3. Spoon a generous dollop of yogurt sauce over the lamb.
  4. Wrap up the tortilla burrito-style.
  5. Spoon a generous serving of blackberry sauce on top of the tortilla.

You're gonna want a knife and fork for this. Or a lot of napkins.

Disclosure: The Tri-Lamb Group provided me with enough lamb for recipe testing and for hosting a dinner party with eight guests, as well as a gift card to help cover other ingredient costs. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Dinner at Summer Winter

A few nights ago, Joel and I arrived home to find one of his roommates entertaining several quite intoxicated friends, so we broke out our surplus of 2nd Street Creamery ice cream to share the wealth. (Long story short: I was supposed to receive a sample of eight pints of ice cream. Instead, they accidentally sent eight batches of eight pints. More on our 64-pints-of-ice-cream adventure in a future post.) When we brought out a pint of strawberry rhubarb, one of our new friends was shocked. "No!" he yelled, somewhat belligerently. "I'm from Georgia. Strawberry rhubarb doesn't exist outside of the South!" He refused to believe we were truly holding a pint of strawberry rhubarb until he tasted it, and even then he was suspicious. Then, I told him about a dinner I attended back in May at Summer Winter in Burlington: every course was built around strawberry and rhubarb. "Who ARE you," he asked incredulously, "aside from my new best friend?"

Tucked inside a rather unattractive Marriott hotel in a suburban industrial complex, Summer Winter is truly a hidden gem. The crowning feature is the on-site greenhouse, which is tended by gardener Rachel Kaplan. A greenhouse hidden on a roof deck of a hotel that's part of a huge chain? Practically unheard of, right? Chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (also of Arrows Restaurant and MC Perkins Cove) sprinkle fresh herbs and vegetables liberally throughout the menu, and on a drizzly evening back in May, they shared their bounty of strawberries and rhubarb with us in a creative multi-course meal with fantastic beer pairings.

We began with a tour of the greenhouse, where plenty of herbs were starting to peek out from the soil. While the chefs and the gardener walked us through their process and philosophy, we sipped strawberry rhubarb margaritas and snacked on strawberries wrapped in Arrows vintage 2010 house-cured prosciutto and fresh mint.

Then, we headed back into the restaurant for the rest of the meal, starting with a strawberry and rhubarb gazpacho with Vietnamese coriander and red onion. It was paired with Allagash White, already one of my preferred light ales. The beer itself is spiced with coriander, so it paired seamlessly with the chilled soup.

In terms of presentation, the next course was quite impressive: cured rhubarb-glazed salmon cooked on a rock with strawberry tea and a rhubarb, daikon, and carrot salad. The salmon was cured but uncooked before touching the hot rock, which was "cooked" in the oven. When the dish was served, the waiters poured hot strawberry tea over the salmon from tiny teapots. While the presentation was beautiful, the taste was also exceptional - plenty of sweetness from the strawberry tea, cut by the tartness of the rhubarb glaze and the coolness of the salad. This course was paired with Cape Ann Sunrise Saison from Gloucester.

The third course had a lot of different things going on, all delicious and all centered around duck (and strawberry and rhubarb, of course): (1) smoked duck breast with duck cracklings, rhubarb chips, and a miners' lettuce salad; (2) duck confit "cube" with strawberry rhubarb gelee and port wine sauce; and (3) saucisson of duck with pickled rhubarb with a strawberry-tarragon mustard and potato pancake. In addition to the beer pairing (Clown Shoes Miracle IPA), this course also came with a small glass of a sparkling sake and strawberry mimosa.

We ended with rhubarb and strawberry gratin with champagne sabayon and a snicker doodle crumble, along with some assorted strawberry and rhubarb treats, paired with Allagash Black, a deliciously dessert-y Belgian-style stout.

I was really pleased with all of the courses, and I wasn't surprised to hear that chefs Mark and Clark have been chosen to compete on the upcoming season of Bravo's Top Chef Masters, which begins later this month. If I find myself in Ogunquit, I plan on trying out one of their other restaurants, Arrows, which has a large garden that influences much of the menu. My dad, who is an extremely picky eater, accompanied me to this dinner and ate every bite of every course, which shows that the chefs' dishes were still accessible despite the creativity, sometimes a difficult balance to strike when picky eaters are concerned. They succeed, though, and it ends up feeling like the right balance for a restaurant that's in a hotel. The menu at Arrows looks a little bit more daring, and I hope I have a chance to try it at some point.

Summer Winter on Urbanspoon

This dinner was complimentary and presented to a group of food writers, bloggers, and their guests. As such, it may not be representative of a normal experience at this restaurant. That said, all opinions expressed are my own, and I was under no obligation to write about the experience.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Amsterdam Falafelshop: First Impressions

About three weeks ago, I met a friend for dinner at Diva in Davis Square, and I noticed that Diva's former lounge space was under construction. Signs on the window indicated that a Washington, DC-based restaurant called Amsterdam Falafelshop would be opening soon, and a posted menu confirmed that the shop would (obviously) specialize in falafel. I had just begun contributing to Eater Boston and figured the opening would make a good first story, so I went back the next day to shoot a photo of the exterior and see if I could find anything out. Conveniently enough, the door was wide open and the friendly-looking owner was inside, perfectly willing to answer questions and allow me to shoot some photos of the near-complete construction. (Check out the photos and my initial Eater post here.)

Over the next couple weeks, I wrote updates as the opening grew closer, got delayed, and grew closer again. It wasn't until recently that I realized I even liked falafel, and even then, I wouldn't consider it a dish I'd regularly crave, yet I found myself growing increasingly excited at the prospect of devouring falafel and fries at Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Finally, according to posts on the Amsterdam Falafelshop Facebook page, they soft-opened this weekend, allowing in people who had tried the original location in DC. Today, they opened to the public, and I knew I had to go.

We got there just in time to beat the rush; as we ate, the line grew until it was more than 30 people deep and quite literally out the door. Everything is dropped in the fryer when you order it, which is great for taste but maybe not so great for moving through such a long line quickly. People ended up waiting quite awhile, but since this was the first day, I assume they'll figure out a good way to speed up the flow. In any case, it was worth the wait.

There are two choices to make when you get in line: how many falafel do you want (three or five)? And do you want your falafel in a pita (whole wheat or white) or on a salad? At this stage of the process, you can also place an order for fries (two size orders available, small or regular). Joel and I both opted for a wheat pita with three falafel balls (plenty for lunch), and we split a regular order of fries. After a few minutes, we were each handed our falafel-filled pita, and then we were free to move through the DIY toppings bar, which features more than 20 toppings, most made in-house. I opted for a yogurt sauce, tomatoes, parsley, and a few other things. At the start of this section, you can get garlic cream sauce and tahini; if you want more of these two later, they're also located beyond the line, by the fountain drinks and fry sauces.

I'll admit my falafel experience is limited since I've only just recently begun to eat it, but this was definitely the best I've had so far. While some falafel tends towards dryness, not at Amsterdam Falafelshop. No, these balls were moist and flavorful, the toppings were fresh, and the pita was soft and pillowy. Two big thumbs up.

The fries were decent on their own; they're twice-fried in the Dutch style, the owner told me when I barged onto the construction site a few weeks ago, so they're pretty crispy. It's the sauces that really elevate them to the next level, though. I was particularly fond of the peanut sauce (ever so slightly spicy) and the curried ketchup.

Overall, I was ridiculously pleased with my meal. The place is small, but it was still navigable even with the out-the-door line. There are a few tables, and the decor is quite nice (large photographs of Amsterdam scenes), but this is perfect on-the-go food if you don't want to stay. Amsterdam Falafelshop is open seven days a week, from 11am until midnight, although if they were ever to stay open even later, I have no doubt the bar crowds would be all over this on the way home. Fries and falafel are perfect late night foods.

I do hope they figure out a way to speed up service during peak times, and I'd love to see signs next to all the toppings so I know what I'm eating, but otherwise, everything was outstanding for the first day in business. I think this will become a very popular spot, and I will definitely return. Probably embarrassingly soon.

Amsterdam Falafelshop on UrbanspoonSee my favorite dishes at this restaurant on Tasted Menu

Monday, July 2, 2012

Preview: Cafe Burrito in Belmont

A few days ago, Joel and I had Dan from The Food in My Beard over for dinner to discuss a top secret event we're planning for the fall (more info soon!) and to force him to taste-test a recipe we're working on for a lamb contest (more on that soon too!) He told us about his latest gig, developing the menu for an upcoming burrito and coffee shop in Belmont in the space of a gelato store at which he worked until its recent closure. He encouraged us to swing by and check it out, which we promptly did the next day. I shot some interior photos and did a little write-up for Eater Boston, which you can read here. Since Eater's not really into food porn photos, I'll share those with you here.

Dan shows off his magical chili powder spice blend. It'll be available for sale in jars.
Carnitas taco with salsa, cheese, and pickled carrots and radishes (yum) 
Barbecue chicken taco with peach salsa and lettuce (more yum)
Joel tried a burrito. This is all you'll see of it because there's nothing attractive about the interior of a burrito, no matter how delicious it tastes.
I contemplated eating this entire bowl of peach salsa. Amazing. 
This is one of Cafe Burrito's "quesos a la plancha," hybrids between quesadillas and grilled cheese. This particular one is modeled after a Cuban sandwich, featuring ham, mustard, and whatever else goes into a Cuban. (Cuban sandwiches are clearly not my area of expertise.)
Just a bird's-eye view of the aforementioned sandwich
While Belmont isn't really in my usual territory, I definitely plan on going back once Cafe Burrito opens up. (The goal is August 11, currently.) Dan's ridiculously good at developing recipes, and I need to eat more of that peach salsa, or whatever other fruit he's using by then. There will always be five salsas available, all made in-house, and one will be a seasonal fruit that rotates monthly. Plus, I'm always up for awesome tacos, and these were quite good.

By the way, Cafe Burrito will also feature a wide range of tea, coffee, and smoothies, as you might have guessed from the "cafe" part of the name.

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