Friday, July 30, 2010

Fork it over, Weekend! - Events for 7/31/10-8/1/10

Got plans for the weekend? Here are some ideas! For more information on any of these events - time, place, cost, etc. - check out Fork it over, Boston!'s event calendar. (Please note: reservations or advanced tickets may be required for some of these events. Contact the restaurant or venue directly with any questions.)

Special Events - Events only happening this weekend (or part of a limited series). Check them out!
Saturday: 7th Annual Hop Head Throwdown at The Publick House to benefit the MS Society...

Sunday: Tipple Trivia at UpStairs on the Square, three-course dinner at Sel de la Terre (Back Bay location) inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins (this week - Sloth)...

Weekly Happenings - You can catch these every week!
Saturday: Jazz brunch at The Beehive...bluegrass brunch at The Savant Project...fantasy tea at L'Espalier...gelato cart at BiNA osteria...Sinatra brunch at Lucky's Lounge...Viennese dessert buffet at The Bristol Lounge...Provence yoga and breakfast at Miel...

Sunday: Disco brunch at Gargoyles on the Square...jazz brunch at The Beehive...bluegrass brunch at The Savant, drugs, & rock 'n' roll trivia night at The Savant Project...Sinatra brunch at Lucky's Lounge...Spanish prix-fixe supper at Avila...

Farmers' Markets
Union Square (9am-1pm) -  Union Square Plaza in Somerville

Charles Square (11am-3pm) - Charles Hotel courtyard in Harvard Square

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fork it over, Friday! - Events for 7/30/10

Got plans for tomorrow? Here are some ideas! For more information on any of these events - time, place, cost, etc. - check out Fork it over, Boston!'s event calendar. (Please note: reservations or advanced tickets may be required for some of these events. Contact the restaurant or venue directly with any questions.)

Special Events - Events only happening tomorrow (or part of a limited series). Check them out!
Tap Wars at Post 390...Talking Taste at the ICA featuring Barbara Lynch...The Cooking Show at Rustic Kitchen...

Weekly Happenings - You can catch these every week!
$1 oysters at Turner Fisheries...Viennese dessert buffet at The Bristol Lounge...

Farmers' Markets
Copley Square (11am-6pm) -  Across from the Boston Public Library
Charles Square (12pm-6pm) - Charles Hotel Courtyard in Harvard Square

Allston (3pm-7pm) -  N. Harvard St. at Western Ave.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fork it over, Thursday! - Events for 7/29/10

Got plans for tomorrow? Here are some ideas! For more information on any of these events - time, place, cost, etc. - check out Fork it over, Boston!'s event calendar. (Please note: reservations or advanced tickets may be required for some of these events. Contact the restaurant or venue directly with any questions.)

Special Events - Events only happening tomorrow (or part of a limited series). Check them out!
"Ingredients" documentary screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre...Spanish wine dinner at UpStairs on the Square...Celebrity Chef Tour at Craigie on Main...Taste of New Zealand wine dinner at The Cafe in The Taj Boston...

Weekly Happenings - You can catch these every week!
Neighborhood Night at Turner Fisheries (discounts for those who live or work in Back Bay)...jazz and cocktails at BiNA tasting and small bites at Meritage...

Farmers' Markets
Prudential Center (11am-6pm) -  In front of 800 Boylston St.
Kendall Square (11am-2:30pm) - 500 Kendall St.
Dewey Square (11:30am-6pm) -  In front of South Station
Coolidge Corner (1:30pm-8pm) - Centre St. West Parking Lot off Beacon St.

A Honky Tonk Rib Joint

As I was thinking about restaurants to visit (and cupcakes to eat) on my trip to NYC this coming weekend, I almost forgot about Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a "genuine honky tonk rib joint." It's out in Harlem, and chances are I won't have time to get out there, but man, it's been awhile since I've had good bbq. Redbones is the best I've found around here, but it doesn't really measure up to the first two Dinosaur locations, Syracuse and Rochester. The Harlem location was passable on my last visit, but my loyalties will always remain in Western New York.

Back in 2008, I was spending my last year in Rochester working on Alzheimer's research, applying to grad school, and just starting to get into the food writing thing. I had a beautiful loft-style apartment in a less-than-beautiful area of grungy downtown Rochester, the part that was bustling in the glory days of the Erie Canal and the flour industry, but now it has a tragic broken facade. There's still potential for rejuvenation - it feels like Buffalo but with more of a chance of rebirth - but development plans always seem to fall flat or suffer years of delays. My little piece of loft heaven did have a few walkable attractions nearby, though: a delightful bagel shop called O'Bagelo's run by a rabid sox fan named John; the baseball stadium - Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings - that I could see from my roof; and best of all, perched on top of the abandoned subway tunnel that I never got around to exploring, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Although it started as a legit biker bar and you're still guaranteed to see plenty of motorcycles parked outside, Dinosaur now gives off a more touristy vibe - Epcot Biker Bar, if you will - but the food is still solid. You'll find the expected ambiance: tattooed and pierced waiters, old rusty license plates and signs covering the walls, and a heavily graffitied bathroom with messy stalls. You'll also find heavenly wings (worthy of their proximity to Buffalo), huge portions of ribs, tasty sides, and the best cornbread in the world, if you like it sweet, crumbly, and topped with honey (I do.)

The Dinosaur bartenders make amazing mojitos (on the sweet side but deceptively strong). You'll also find great live music at the bar some nights. Some old favorites from the menu that I can still smell if I point my nose towards Rochester: mojito criollo chicken steak with tomato cucumber salad and fries, honey bbq wings, Texas beef brisket sandwich, key lime pie. A seven-hour drive in blizzard conditions? I don't care. I need to get back to my Dino.

Mojito criollo chicken with tomato cucumber salad, fries, and cornbread...I still dream of this.
A close-up of the beautiful chicken, topped with some tasty chimichurri sauce.
Boston-area Shaws locations occasionally carry Dinosaur sauces, such as the Sensuous Slathering Sauce (which is gluten-free, by the way) that I used in my recent bbq baked tofu dish. I've also spotted these packaged goods in the fridge section, and I found the pulled pork to be edible (I haven't tried the others), but honestly, the atmosphere is half the fun. Do yourself a favor and drive to Rochester, Syracuse, Harlem, or next year, Troy.

For a little bit of Dinosaur in your very own dining room, the cookbook is spectacular. Again, you're missing out on the rowdy atmosphere (well, I guess that depends on your living arrangements) but the recipes are solid, and the photos and anecdotes liven it up. I've successfully made the honey hush cornbread, drunken spicy shameless shrimp, tomato cucumber salad, and a few other dishes, and they've all been a hit at picnics and parties.

"If you leave here hungry it's your fault!" proclaims a Dinosaur motto, and it's absolutely true. Best to put your diet aside for the day and just enjoy.

I miss Dinosaur Bar-B-Que terribly, and I'm anxiously awaiting a spare weekend to return to Rochester to go there. Even Syracuse or Harlem would be acceptable, but Rochester - with all its snow and crime and decrepitude - holds a special place in my heart.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fork it over, Wednesday! - Events for 7/28/10

Got plans for tomorrow? Here are some ideas! For more information on any of these events - time, place, cost, etc. - check out Fork it over, Boston!'s event calendar. (Please note: reservations or advanced tickets may be required for some of these events. Contact the restaurant or venue directly with any questions.)

Special Events - Events only happening tomorrow (or part of a limited series). Check them out!
Three-course pasta dinner at Tavolo inspired by recipes from Molise, Italy...Thai tastings featuring lemongrass at Ronnarong...Summer Chef Series at Smolak Farms featuring Jason Bond of Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro...Tiki Luau at Kings...culinary lecture with Louisa Kasdon, Jason Santos, and Alon Munzer at BCAE...Summer Vegan Dinner Series at UpStairs on the Square...

Weekly Happenings - You can catch these every week!
Wine tasting at Gargoyles on the Square...$30 two-pound lobsters at Turner wine tasting at tasting at the MFA's Bravo Restaurant...$1 late night oysters at Sel de la Terre

Farmers' Markets
City Hall (11am-6pm) - City Hall Plaza at Government Center
Cambridge Center (11am-6pm) - On Main St. near the Kendall Square MBTA stop
Davis Square (12pm-6pm) - Day St. at Herbert St. in Somerville

Cupcake Quest: Seattle's Best Coffee (via Borders Bookstore)

This post is part of the Cupcake Quest series on Fork it over, Boston!

Well, well, well. It's been quite some time since I've posted a cupcake update, aside from the post about how the quest is making me fat. Fear not - I've still been eating my way through the cupcakes of Boston. (And now, I'm also adding in a moderate amount of exercise to balance out the buttery, creamy, sugary goodness.) I have some posts that just haven't made it up here yet, and I have plenty more places to visit! I'm going to try to power through the rest of the backlog and schedule them all to go up over the next week or so, and then we can move on to new cupcakes. I'll be in NYC this weekend, so I'm hoping to try out one or more of the legendary cupcakeries there. Kim, the artist responsible for the lovely yeti over there on the left (and all the other Fork it over, Boston! yetis), will be questing with me, possibly to Magnolia. (Any other suggestions?)

Anyway, back to the task at hand. As it turned out, when my co-workers and I were desperately searching for cupcakes within an easy walk from the office in the early days of the quest, there were cupcakes right next door, hidden in the upstairs Seattle's Best cafe at the Copley Square location of Borders, the bookstore. (Well, it doesn't matter; we weren't missing much.)

Usually I get to work before 9am, so Borders isn't open yet, but the other day, it was just after 9, so I figured I'd stop by and get an iced tea. The line at the nearby Starbucks is always out the door (almost literally), so nearby alternatives are nice. I rode the escalator up, a simple iced tea in mind, but there, in the pastry case, sat plates full of cupcakes: chocolate and raspberry and vanilla, oh my! (Sorry, I just finished watching the Tin Man miniseries.)

It was a co-worker's last day at work, so I figured we could have a little cupcake party for breakfast. I got a "raspberry sparkle" (oooh) and a chocolate. They were both packaged very neatly in sturdy cardboard boxes, held in place by another piece of cardboard.

I returned to the office, and we split the cupcakes in half so we could each try both flavors. Both were extraordinarily dry.

The raspberry frosting had a wonderfully creamy texture but tasted very artificial. Coupled with the very dry cake, it was not a winner. The only redeeming factor was the surprise raspberry filling, which tasted a bit more like real raspberries than the frosting.

The chocolate frosting was actually delicious, and it extended into the cupcake a bit as filling, but it just couldn't save the cake. Several glasses of water were necessary to neutralize the resulting dry mouth.

The Verdict: Skip the cupcakes, but try something else. Seattle's Best has great cookies - and they'll even warm them up for you! - and most of the drinks are solid as well. My red iced tea was actually the best iced tea I've ever had from a chain coffee shop. I returned a few days later to get it again, and it was just as good.

Seattle's Best Coffee on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fork it over, Tuesday! - Events for 7/27/10

Got plans for tomorrow? Here are some ideas! For more information on any of these events - time, place, cost, etc. - check out Fork it over, Boston!'s event calendar. (Please note: reservations or advanced tickets may be required for some of these events. Contact the restaurant or venue directly with any questions.)

Special Events - Events only happening tomorrow (or part of a limited series). Check them out!
A five-course dinner with tequila pairings at Church...a four-course wine dinner highlighting the wines of Northeast Italy at T.W. Food...a three-course supper club dinner inspired by Marseilles at No. 9 Park...a champagne class at the BCAE taught by the sommelier from The Beehive...a summer drink and dessert tasting at the Coolidge Corner Finale...

Weekly Happenings - You can catch these every week!
Taco Tuesdays at The Met Bar...Tokyo Tuesdays at Gargoyles on the Square (plus, watch Hell's Kitchen with Chef Jason Santos!)...$2 Taco Tuesdays at Tremont 647...Sake Bomb Tuesdays at Uni Sashimi Bar...Hell's Kitchen viewing with Chef Benjamin Knack at Sel de la Terre (Long Wharf location)...

Farmers' Markets
Copley Square (11am-6pm) - I'll be there around 4pm. Say hello if you see me!
Dewey Square (11:30am-6pm) - Right in front of South Station
Harvard University (12:30pm-6pm) - Oxford St. at Kirkland St.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Steakcation" Blogger Feast at KO Prime

When you get an email inviting you to a five-course "Steakcation," it's impossible to refuse. Nicole Kanner from All Heart PR asked a group of food bloggers to come downtown to KO Prime to try out Executive Chef Josh Buehler's menu. Although Buehler has been there for a couple years, most people associate KO Prime with Chef/Co-Owner Ken Oringer, but it's Buehler who is mainly responsible for the day-to-day workings of the restaurant.

I met up with Michelle (Fun and Fearless in Beantown) and Megan (Delicious Dishings) at Marliave for a pre-steak cocktail in the awkward time between work and dinner. Stay late at the office? Go home and come right back out? Cocktail? Cocktail! I plan on writing more about Marliave in the future as it's one of my Boston favorites, but here's a quick tip: the cocktails are ridiculously good. And ridiculously strong. All of them.

Perhaps a bit tipsy, we wobbled around the corner, skirts billowing in the eerie dusky pre-storm winds. KO Prime, which is in the Nine Zero Hotel, is located up a flight of glowing stairs (are we at a club?) with an elaborate antler chandelier at the top.

Slowly, our group filtered in: Michele (Foodie Mommy), Fiona (A Boston Food Diary), Aaron (Eat Boston), Robin (Doves and Figs), Will (The Boston Foodie), One Food Guy, who prefers to remain anonymous, and one other guy at the far end of the table whose name/blog I unfortunately didn't get. We had assumed "Steakcation" meant a vacation of steak, but it turned out to be a vacation from steak: since KO Prime is widely known as a steakhouse, Buehler wanted to show us what else he could do. Fair enough...I don't think I'd feel too well after five steak-based courses! As it turned out, it was actually ten courses. Hello food coma.

Due to the sheer number of courses, the rest of this post is just going to be food porn with very minimal discussion.

One ~ Creamy (but not cream cheesy) crab in a lightly battered and fried squash blossom. The accompanying duck sauce had a surprising bit of a kick.
Squash Blossom Crab Rangoon | Duck Sauce
Two ~ Local tomatoes. Nothing better in the world.
Heirloom Tomato Salad | Crispy Manouri Cheese, Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette, Peach and Apricot Aioli
Three ~ Ah, here's the beef.
Roasted Jalapeno Beef Tartare | Smoked Poblano Jam, Crispy Quail Egg
Four ~ I tried, I really did, but snails just aren't my thing. Delicious carrot puree, however.
Fricassee of Escargot | Thumbelina Carrots, Mushrooms, Salsify, Lardons, Brioche
Five ~ Many found this to be their favorite course. I wasn't really into the vegetables or cockles, but the fish was enjoyable and the chorizo was excellent.
Seared Striped Bass | Summer Succotash, Cockles, Homemade Chorizo
Six ~ A unique and tasty palate cleanser.
Apricot Soda | Yuzu-Mint Creme Fraiche Foam
Seven ~ Wait, now we're getting steak knives? But I'm already full!
Pork and Beef Duet | Dry Rubbed Pork Loin, Stewed Olives and Tomatoes, Chanterelle Polenta Cake, Grilled Flat Iron Steak, Pickled Ramps, Harissa
Eight ~ With little pieces of pineapple in it! Yum!
Pineapple Sorbet
Nine ~ Yes, yes, yes.
Dark Chocolate Marquise | Buttery Popcorn Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce
Ten ~ Oops, almost missed the last little assortment of goodies!
These weren't on the menu, but I believe the waitress said that it was raspberry gelatin, chocolate sandwiches with raspberry cream, and coconut cookies. We weren't really into the gelatin, but the others were a nice way to end the evening!
I can't vouch for the service on a normal evening, but our servers were friendly and informative. The presentation, as you can hopefully tell from the above photos, was colorful, clean, and creative, and there were plenty of strong flavors.

Based on this experience, I would definitely return to KO Prime. Even taking into account that we were a large table of food bloggers receiving an elaborate free meal, I assume that what we ate is still a fair representation of KO Prime's usual standards. I'd love to go back and actually get steak next time. (By the time course seven rolled around, I was too full to really enjoy the flat iron steak, but what I had was excellent.) As always, it was very nice to spend time with some other food bloggers from the area.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a nice long nap. I'm still in full-on food coma mode.

KO Prime on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clover Food Lab

Another day, another food truck! I had so much fun acquiring lunch from the Fillbelly's comfort food truck on Tuesday that on Wednesday I decided to venture farther to try out another truck I've had my eye on: Clover Food Lab.

After over a year of success near MIT, the Clover folks decided to add a second location at Dewey Square, right outside of South Station, which is just a twenty minute walk from my office near Copley. (This was a surprise for me - I never realized it was so close!)

Clover offers gourmet vegetarian breakfast, lunch, and dinner options every day: some seasonally changing staple sandwiches and salads as well as specials announced on Twitter.

When I arrived at 12:30 on Wednesday, the line was 23 people deep, but it moved fairly quickly. Five workers danced around each other surprisingly efficiently inside the tiny truck, building BBQ seitan sandwiches, pouring blueberry lemonade, frying rosemary fries. Two others, adorned with green Clover trucker hats, stood outside the truck: one took orders, one called out names to deliver the goods to the waiting hoards.

The Financial District worker bees line up, staring at their smartphones until it's time to eat.
I ordered a ginger lemonade ($2), carrot citrus salad ($3), and rosemary fries ($3). In case you don't carry lunch money, both trucks now have credit card machines.

I sat down on the comfy-looking grassy part of Dewey Square for a few minutes before realizing that the grass was leaving embarrassing wet spots on the back of my jeans. While I was there, I started sipping my ginger lemonade: very refreshing, but not as gingery as I had hoped. It tasted like high quality plain lemonade with the subtlest hint of something that almost tasted like ginger. I wish I had tried the day's special, blueberry lemonade ($3).

I moved to a bench and spent the rest of the meal fending off pigeons and gusts of wind. Despite its negative aspects, though, eating outside is really a wonderful thing, especially in the middle of a workday. The carrot salad was, well, quite carroty - in a good way! There were some sliced almonds in there, big squishy yellow things that I think were giant raisins, and a few other assorted ingredients, but this was pretty much a container of shredded carrots in vinaigrette. I could feel my eyesight improving as I ate it. (Just kidding about the eyes, but my skin does look faintly orange today.)

Rosemary fries, how I wish you weren't a mile away from my office. On second thought, it's a good thing you're far away. You're just too delicious for my own good. At the bottom of the stack, I found a ton of fresh rosemary, so these things are the real deal. Get them.

It was worth the mile there and the more-than-a-mile-because-I-took-a-wrong-turn back. It's great to find fast, healthy food coming from a truck. Don't get me wrong - I love a good late night street meat impulse buy, but it's nice that other options are starting to exist.

On Clover Food Lab's website, they mention a plan to open fast food restaurants eventually; the trucks are just a way to get things moving for now. I think a Clover fast food restaurant would be a welcome addition to Boston!

Gratuitous shots of the Dewey Square area using cheesy "toy camera" filter on new cell phone:

Clover Food Lab is a wonderful pick-me-up on a hectic day. As their motto says, "Everything will be different tomorrow," definitely something to keep in mind on that painful Monday morning or the endless Friday afternoon!

Follow Clover Food Lab on Twitter (@CloverDwy for South Station and @CloverFoodTruck for MIT) to find out about daily specials, like 3pm plantains!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reservoir Running Report: Week 1

Last week I told you about how my epic quest to try every cupcake in and around Boston is having quite negative effects on my health. (Daily cupcakes aren't a staple of a healthy diet? Shocking!) I challenged myself to some fitness goals in order to help counteract my continued questing. (I'm eating all these cupcakes so you don't have to...I hope you appreciate it!) Also, I mentioned that there would be a prize for a commenter if I didn't meet my goals for the week. So, without further ado, here's my report from week 1 of the anti-cupcake, pro-running-around-the-beautiful-reservoir challenge.

Week 1: The Goals
Run 5 times by next Wednesday, at least once around the Reservoir without stopping (about 1.5 miles) each time. In the event of torrential downpours, a seemingly likely occurrence, I'll substitute one hour of Exercise TV workouts in my living room with at least 30 minutes aerobic, such as Jillian Michaels' evil workouts. The other 30 minutes can be pilates and/or yoga.

Week 1: The Reality
Workout 1
On Wednesday I went home after work totally motivated to start the challenge, but a thunderstorm was looming, so I decided to do the indoor substitute workout. (As it turned out, the storm never actually occurred.) I turned on my TV, and the screen was green. No ExerciseTV, no other channels, nothing. Thanks Comcast. I called the 800 number and requested the auto signal refresh, which takes about 45 minutes to take effect. My motivation was quickly wearing out, and I didn't want this to take the whole night, so I pulled out an old workout DVD. I got through about 20 minutes of the most boring aerobics workout ever and gave up on it. Finally, the TV was working again, so I completed the rest of the goal requirements with a combination of aerobics and pilates workout videos.

Workout 2
On Thursday, I was meeting up with an old friend who was in from out of town, so there was no time. On Friday, it was 1000000 degrees. On Saturday, I finally got out for a run. It wasn't around the reservoir, but it was 1.8 miles non-stop, so it counts. (I ran in Somerville: down Summer St. from Porter St. to Davis Square and back to Porter St. via Highland Ave.) It was my first time out for a run in a month or maybe two, and it was rough, although I managed to drag myself up the steep Porter St. hill (the Highland Ave. side) near the end of the run. I was pretty sore the next two days.

Workout 3, 4, 5
...non-existent :(

Week 1: What happened?
Stupidly I picked the heat wave - not to mention a very busy week with events and out-of-town friends - to start this challenge, and my goal was too ambitious. There just wasn't time for five workouts.

One of you gets a prize!
Here's the deal: I failed, so you win. You may have heard of the recent devastating flood damage suffered by the local and delicious chocolate company, Taza Chocolate, which had just finished shiny new renovations before the floods hit. Due to some social media outreach, they've been selling chocolate like crazy, but their production has been interrupted by the damage. In order to continue raising money to fix everything up, they're now selling gift certificates that will be usable in the future only at the factory store (561 Windsor St, Somerville) - not valid for online orders. So here's the prize: I'll buy you a $10 gift certificate to Taza. You won't be able to use it until the store opens back up (they're aiming for August or September), but the wait will make it extra delicious. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering one or more of the following questions:
  1. How do you fit in workouts when your schedule is just too busy? Do you find it worthwhile to sneak in short workouts when possible, or do you just spend extra time working out when you have a free day?
  2. What's your favorite way to exercise on unbearably hot summer days? How do you keep cool?
  3. How should I go about training for a 10k that I'd like to run in early October? Is less than three months enough time to go from lazy cupcake-eating blob to a successful 10k finisher? 
Comment by 7pm tonight (July 21, 2010), and I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner. Please keep in mind that this gift certificate will only be usable at the factory store in Somerville, not online.

Week 2: The Challenge
This time, I'm not going to set a specific number of workouts; I'm just going to make two goals to meet in any number of workouts before next Wednesday.
  1. Run a three-mile route without stopping, preferably two laps around the reservoir (but any other route is acceptable too, as long as it's at least three miles.) No time limit, but no walking.
  2. Three cumulative hours of yoga and/or pilates workouts (acceptable methods: ExerciseTV, DVDs, or a class.) 
Same deal next week: if I fail, one of you wins! As much as I love chocolate, I don't want to keep buying you chocolate, so hopefully this week will be better than last!

Comment away! You have until 7pm tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fillbelly's Food Truck

Sure, I've eaten "street meat" and hot dogs and roasted nuts from food trucks before, but those were the type of trucks that pick a spot and stay there reliably for weeks, months, years. In college, we all knew that Uncle Dicky would be serving up late night drunk food on the edge of the frat quad every weekend night from midnight until the early hours of the morning. You can find the "Here's Frosty" ice cream and hot dog truck on the corner of the Public Garden all the time. Today, though, was the first time I experienced the thrill of the modern version of the food truck: more mobile, broadcasting its moves via Twitter.

I was about to head out to the Copley Farmers Market to find some lunch when I noticed a tweet from Fillbelly's, a new comfort food truck that can be found all around the metro Boston area, including Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Hyde Park, South Boston, and the Fenway, according to the website. The truck was across the street from my office! Sorry, healthy farmers' market veggies. It's a comfort food kind of day.

I played Frogger crossing the street and eventually made it to the truck. No line at 1pm: Fillbelly's doesn't seem to have enough of a following on Twitter yet to generate a quick response to location updates. (Go ahead, follow them; you know you want to...) It's not a very flashy truck, and on the interior metal, you can see the remains of sticky letters asking whether you need chopsticks and such, but the reincarnation of what apparently was an Asian food truck doesn't need to rely on looks. The food - at least the bosilitos, which is all I've tried so far - is solid.

The bosilitos are empanadas: deliciously doughy dumplings stuffed with beef, tomato sauce, spices, and curry. I grabbed two for $3, an insane lunch deal considering the typical Copley/Back Bay offerings (think $8 sandwiches, $15 pastas, etc.) I doused them in hot sauce and devoured them. (One minor complaint: the hot sauce could definitely be amped up a notch or two. It had a very nice flavor, but I was hoping for blazing fire. If I can feel my lips, it's just not hot enough.)

I will certainly be keeping a close eye on Fillbelly's Twitter feed around lunchtime from now on, and I'm hoping they find that this area is a profitable place to park. I'd love to try more items on the menu (chicken and waffles, mac and cheese)...but I'm afraid I won't be able to resist these tasty little empanadas.

You probably already guessed this, but yes, Fillbelly's is definitely named appropriately. Although I devoured these in a matter of minutes (maybe seconds), I'm feeling very satisfied.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thee Red Fez and Firehouse XIII: A Night Out in Providence

A constellation of red Christmas lights dot the ceiling above the bar, giving the room a vivid crimson cast. The walls are covered with an odd assortment of old ads, abstract art, an animal head or two, and of course, a selection of red fez-adorned creepy/whimsical monkeys with cymbals. Darker than a cave and much more cozy, Thee Red Fez feels welcoming from the moment you step through the door.

We were in Providence for the evening because Joel's band, the Somerville Symphony Orkestar, had a gig closing for Humanwine at a performance space in town on the outskirts of town, Firehouse XIII. We had eaten at Red Fez about a year before and really liked it, and we tried to return a few weeks ago but sadly found it closed for vacation, so we were excited to finally return.

A booth was almost ready, so we waited at the bar for a bit, let our eyes adjust, and ordered drinks: a gin rickey for Joel and a mojito for me (of course.) The mojito had cacha├ža, making it more caipirinha than mojito, a welcome touch of bitterness. A welcome touch of oblivion. Mojito tipsy is the best kind of tipsy. The menu proclaimed that their mojitos are amazing (or awesome or great; I don't remember the adjective) and I was not disappointed. The bartender had really put effort into the muddling of the mint, sending ice flying everywhere, and it paid off. Joel's drink was great as well.
hello mo(ji)to
We scanned the menu while waiting at the bar, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were offering a three-course prix fixe Restaurant Week menu. There were three choices each for appetizers and entrees and two shared dessert options.

First Course
For our appetizers, we nixed the salad, the boring third choice, and went for the Rhode Island corn fritters with sweet chile sauce and the mussels in Portuguese-style broth with charred tomatoes, garlic, wine, and chourico (served with grilled bread).
Local corn fritters with tasty dipping sauce
The fritters were fried little nuggets of deliciousness with actual pieces of corn in them. The sweet chile dipping sauce added a bit of Thai flair.

Mussels...but where's the chourico?
Sadly the expected chourico seemed to be absent from this dish, but the tomato broth was still hearty and flavorful. Grilled bread is so simple and so wonderful (for a Boston grilled bread fix, try East Coast Grill, and be sure to get it with the roasted garlic!) While I enjoyed this dish very much, my mussel loyalties will always be with Publick House's moules frites.

Second Course
We decided against the "famous" macaroni and cheese, which I had tried last year, because although it's good, mac and cheese is just ridiculously heavy. We were in the mood for something lighter so Joel could dance around on stage later and I could dance around in the crowd. (Ok, that's a lie. I just stood there with a camcorder when I wasn't playing with Humanwine's adorable dog.) We got the pulled pork plate (slow cooked pulled pork shoulder with bbq beans and garlicky kale) and local bluefish and chips (cornmeal-coated, pan-fried bluefish with Tabasco remoulade, slaw, and Old Bay fries). Joel is obsessed with the idea of Old Bay fries, so it was a given that we'd order that. (I'm using "we" because we pretty much shared everything. Restaurant Week menus are awesome for sharing!)
A bowl of pork 'n' beans. And slaw and kale.
In the dark, it was hard to tell what I was eating. (This photo is illuminated with Joel's iPhone, but in real life, it was impossible to differentiate between pork and beans.) The pork was perfectly tender, the kale was refreshing, and the slaw was even decent; typically I avoid slaw because I hate mayonnaise more than anything in the world, but this one wasn't mayo-y. Joel said the beans were prepared perfectly; I liked the flavor but I just don't like beans no matter how hard I try. The texture bothers me. Overall, definitely a solid dish.
RI bluefish and magical Old Bay fries
A lighter option than a typical fish 'n' chips, the cornmeal-coated bluefish was very satisfying, and the fries were wonderful, as expected. Old Bay is sort of like fairy dust: a little sprinkle, and magical things happen.

Third Course
The choices were a strawberry shortcake or a brownie with bourbon-roasted peaches. Strawberry shortcake is easy to find, and I was intrigued by the chocolate/peach pairing, so we chose the latter. Unfortunately, right before ours was made, they ran out of peaches. The substitute was Chambord-soaked strawberries - still good, but man, I really wanted to try those peaches. I was a little irritated by this because when we ordered the first two courses, we also ordered this one, but our waitress must have forgotten and asked us for the dessert order again after we finished the meal, so theoretically, we might have been able to get the peaches had the order gone in the first time. Oh well, still good! (Plus, the service was otherwise flawless and extremely friendly, so I hate to dwell on a fruit substitution, especially when it still tasted great.)
Brownie with bourbon-roasted peaches Chambord-soaked strawberries and a whole lot of whipped cream
Joel wasn't into the brownie's texture, but I enjoyed it.

Providence Restaurant Week > Boston Restaurant Week
The bill came; it was surprisingly low. Turns out our entrees - two courses each, plus a shared dessert! - were just $15 each. (The price hadn't been listed on the menu, so this was a very nice surprise.) Our drinks made up nearly half the bill (Boston prices, but larger portions). Providence Restaurant Week's official prices are $12.95 for a three-course lunch and $29.95 for a three-course dinner, but Thee Red Fez decided to be extra awesome and offer the dinner as a 2-for-1. Compare this to Boston's official Restaurant Week prices: two-course lunch for $15.10, three-course lunch for $20.10, three-course dinner for $33.10. I'll take a $13 three-course lunch over a $20 three course-lunch any day. (Actually, no, I wouldn't take either - that's a lot of food for mid-day! - but you can see the huge difference in price.)

On to the show!
As we left the restaurant, we saw this fantastic vehicle in the parking lot:
Later, I'll update this post to include some photos and video from the show, which was awesome. Due to some minor technical difficulties (read: 10 hours of blood, sweat, and tears yesterday upon realizing that my four-year-old laptop can't handle the beautiful 1080p footage I shot with my new camcorder), the videos aren't ready to go yet, but I think I found a reasonable solution involving converting the files to MPEG-4, reattaching the audio (it doesn't come through with the conversion), and then editing and posting. Some quality might be lost, but I'm not buying a new computer for a very long time. (Any suggestions for a better solution? In short, I have a standard Toshiba Satellite without any extra bells, whistles, or fancy graphics cards, and I'm using a free open source video editing program. The footage was shot at 1080p on an Insignia HDcam.)

To be continued... (dun dun dunnn)

Red Fez on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fork it over, weekend!

It's going to be a partly sunny, low 90s sort of weekend. Got plans? Stuff your face with these (mostly) food-related ideas:

Friday 7/16 (Today!)
Barry Maiden (of Hungry Mother) will be speaking at the ICA as part of the Talking Taste series, which begins at 6:30pm. Tickets are $10 for members and students and $15 for general admission. Unfortunately, the event is currently sold out, but weather permitting, more tickets will be released today. Call the box office at 617-478-3103 if you want to try to get tickets.

From the ICA:
"Our series featuring Boston's best chefs is back and more delicious than ever! Sample the creations that have made them culinary stars outdoors on our stunning waterfront.
Virginia native Barry Maiden’s French-inspired Southern comfort cooking has made Cambridge’s Hungry Mother one of the hottest tables in town. Formerly of L’Espalier and Lumiere, Maiden was named a Best New Chef of 2009 by Food and Wine magazine."

Saturday 7/17
Hmmm, there's nothing on my event calendar for tomorrow, so instead, I'm going shamelessly promote Joel's gypsy punk band, the Somerville Symphony Orkestar, and suggest that you take a trip out to Providence to see them close a Humanwine show at Firehouse XIII. $7, all ages, 9pm. By 9pm tomorrow, Providence will have cooled to a comfortable 76 degrees, but Boston will still be up around 80. Make an evening of it and check out Waterfire before the show. And before that, I'd recommend grabbing dinner at Red Fez, a fabulous little spot with great drinks and gastropub fare, or Sakura, a BYOB Japanese restaurant with attitude where you'll most likely be in and out in 45 minutes or less. Food, music, fire...what could be a better way to spend a Saturday?

Sunday 7/18
You've got a couple options for Sunday: cocktails at Clio or tequila at Gargoyles on the Square. Clio's Midsummer Cocktail Party runs from 5pm to 9pm, and it'll cost you $35. More information from Daily Candy:
"Imbibe a hat trick of intoxicants from Todd Maul’s brill drink menu, such as the bracing Cherry Rum Fizz (Matusalem rum, cherry Heering, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water)...Passed bites from the resto’s seasonal bar menu, including grilled fish tacos with avocado cream and charred tomato salsa, and salt cod croquettes with black garlic aioli."
The annual Mexican Fiesta at Gargoyles features a $15 Latin buffet, music by Los Sugar Kings, and tequila flights to drink (not included in the $15). The festivities start at 7:30pm.

Well, get out there and enjoy your weekend! Wear sunscreen!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Mysterious Dinner at Three Ten Tables

By Tuesday, I had been sweating constantly for at least three days straight. The heat finally broke last night with a couple quick rainstorms. On Tuesday, though, we were still in the thick of the 90 degree days with no end in sight. It was a long day: I rushed from work to band rehearsal with a heavy backpack containing my giant camera, my flute, and other assorted useless weight. I left band practice early, still lugging around the giant bag, and I walked quickly towards my next destination as an incoming rain storm began dribbling lightly. The destination? The inaugural Mystery Meet, a foodie prix fixe dinner with a location that remains a secret until a few days before the event. In the prior weeks, three clues hinted at the restaurant, which was eventually revealed to be the Cambridge location of Ten Tables. Even knowing the restaurant didn’t eliminate all the mystery: the location is well-hidden, extraordinarily tucked away on residential Craigie Street in the basement of an apartment complex. More mystery: who would be there? Would I end up alone in a corner awkwardly talking to no one? (Answer: Yes, for a little while as we waited for a table. Later on, no.)  What are we eating? (I knew it would be a four-course tasting menu featuring local ingredients, and I knew it’d cost me $40, but everything else was a surprise.)

As I desperately searched Craigie Street for street numbers, Michelle (Fun and Fearless in Beantown) and her fiance, Bret, exited a cab nearby, and we headed in together to find Megan (Delicious Dishings, Meghan (Travel Eat Love), and Kristen (Indulge Inspire Imbibe). While the name “Ten Tables” is a slight underestimate of the Cambridge location, it’s really not far off. This place is absolutely tiny and rather claustrophobic on a hot summer’s night when I’ve already been sweating for three days straight. After 15 minutes or so, 17 or 18 Mystery Meeters were crowding the minuscule waiting area, and we were all wondering where we’d fit. The acoustics lead to a loud, echoing chaos when the restaurant is full, and I quickly grew restless. Finally, a table cleared out, and seven of us sat down. I dined with Michelle, Bret, Megan, Meghan, Kristen, and Justin. (Two more tables were seated much later. For future events like this, it’d be great if we could all sit down together, but in a place the size of Ten Tables, I can see how that’d be a logistic nightmare. The three tables didn’t get to interact very much.) I’m not sure whether problems were on the restaurant’s end or Mystery Meet’s end, or both, but we did have to wait for awhile after our reservation time.

Service started out a bit shakily. (One of my fellow diners described our waiter as “surly” on a post-meal Twitter update. I’d agree, although he livened up a bit later on in the evening.) There were very long waits between courses and we were often left with empty water glasses and empty plates for a bit too long. As the restaurant emptied out, though, timing and moods improved.

While some diners got tasty-looking cocktails like the KK (passionfruit and ginger topped with champagne) and the artfully presented Gaston 76 (white lillet with cucumber and tarragon on the rocks), I stuck with water. We started out with some very tasty bread, although we never received bread plates, an odd omission for a nice restaurant. Fortunately (?) the white tablecloths were covered with brown paper - another odd feature for a nice restaurant - so we didn’t hesitate to use the paper as our bread plate. Some crayons would have been a nice addition...but seriously, there’s no excuse for nice restaurants to put brown paper on tables. It brings the whole atmosphere down a giant notch.

Course One: The Appetizer
Prosciutto Americano with asparagus, fava beans, shaved pecorino, toasted walnuts, breakfast radishes, and black truffle vinaigrette

For a dish that could easily have been too salty, the Prosciutto Americano restrained itself. The subtle sweetness of the walnuts and the bland beans balanced the sodium. (I’m just not a fan of fava beans; the texture weirds me out in the same way that chickpeas do.) While I initially found the combination of ingredients to be random, everything actually came together well, and each component (aside from the beans) tasted very nice, especially - surprisingly - the radishes. (I’m surprised because radishes usually don’t have much of an effect on me, good or bad.) I could eat a whole plate of shaved pecorino and toasted walnuts. We all cleaned our plates entirely on this course.

Course Two: The Fish
Pan-roasted cod with cucumber gazpacho, cherry tomatoes, and a zucchini-stuffed squash blossom

That last bit of the description might be off, but I think that’s how it was described. In any case, it was a flower stuffed with something. I was a bit disappointed when this course arrived as half the table got a different dish: Cape Cod bluefish with yellow Indian woman beans, sugar snaps, pea tendrils, and spicy Spanish chorizo sauce. I would have loved to try the spicy sauce. My dish surprised me, though, and I was satisfied after all: the cucumber gazpacho was light and fresh, the tomatoes were among the best I’ve had - exploding with flavor, and the fish was cooked perfectly - crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside.

The service began warming up somewhere around here, but maybe to a fault. All of a sudden three or four different people were checking on us constantly, asking how everything tasted. There must be a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m being overly picky, though. As a whole, the service was pleasant, so don’t let my minor grumblings turn you away from Ten Tables. (I get grumpy when I’m sweaty.)

Course Three: The Meat
Berkshire pork chops with chipotle and saffron over creamed corn

I’m fairly certain the server said the corn was from Ward’s Farm in my hometown of Sharon. Hooray! (Turns out Bret is also from Sharon, as is the boyfriend of someone else at the table, but I can’t remember who.) This course led to an interesting discussion of pork-eating and Jewish guilt (or rebellion). I grew up in a non-Kosher home where we wouldn’t cook pig products, but we’d eat them outside of the home, particularly bacon and sausage. None of us would ever order pork or ham as a main dish in a restaurant, though; it just seemed weird. (Now I’ll order anything.) Joel and I actually met on JDate, and for our second date - on Shabbat! - he cooked pork chops, which was a good indicator that we were on the same very-non-Kosher page. Ten Tables’ pork dish was worth any residual feelings of guilt: smoky, tender, and filling. The creamed corn was happily more corn than cream; it was too late at night to handle rich foods.

As we were finishing up the third course, Chef David Punch came over, drinking a can of PBR and checking up on things. “Welcome to my basement,” he declared, arms outstretched. He spoke to us about how he tries to focus on local ingredients, especially Allandale Farm (Brookline).

Course Three and a Half: The Palate Cleanser
Strawberry coulis with house-made buttermilk sorbet

“It’s like a frozen strawberry cheesecake,” said Justin. Cool, creamy, and fitting nicely in a shot glass, this was the perfect transition to dessert.

Course Four: Heaven
Chocolate terrine with sea salt and house-made Thai basil ice cream

There’s nothing to say about this dessert. It’s amazing; end of story. Chef Punch came back over while I was photographing this course to make sure I was getting a good angle. I appreciated that because it shows that he really cares about the presentation of his work, not only at the table but as it lives on in memories and reviews.

Despite getting off to a rough start, and despite the lengthy waits that persisted throughout, I really enjoyed my meal at Ten Tables. I can imagine feeling very cozy there on a cold winter night, watching through the small garden level windows as the snow falls delicately outside. I would never return with such a large group, though. When the restaurant name even reflects its small size, it’s a good idea to put it on the romantic date-night list rather than the big party list.

It was a pleasure spending time with some fellow food bloggers, most of whom I had never met in real life, and I look forward to the next Mystery Meet.

Ten Tables on Urbanspoon
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