Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grand Omakase Chef's Tasting at O Ya (CBS Boston)

Five hours and twenty-two courses after arriving, my dining companions and I staggered through O Ya’s heavy wooden door, already reminiscing about some of the earlier courses that seemed to have been eaten days ago. One of Boston’s most extravagant and exorbitant dining experiences, the Grand Omakase Chef Tasting at O Ya is certainly one of the most memorable as well. It is an endurance exercise of near-epic proportions. While the courses are fairly small – many consisting of a single piece of sushi – it is an intense meal that shows off a selection of O Ya’s standard menu as well as some favorites of the chef that can’t be ordered apart from the Grand Omakase.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

O Ya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Restaurant Review: Blue Inc. (CBS Boston)

After five years as Executive Chef at Somerville’s now-defunct Gargoyles on the Square, as well as a few months earning a second-place finish on Fox reality cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jason “Jay” Santos has opened up Blue Inc. in the Financial District, bringing over his signature duck dish and his recognizable bright blue hair. In its early months, Blue Inc. has already gained substantial buzz for its hints of molecular gastronomy – culinary magic tricks – and whimsical menu.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Latkes and Sufganiyot for Chanukah (Tasted Menu)

Chanukah began Tuesday. While many celebrants focus on the eight days of gift-giving, food is a meaningful part of the holiday as well. In fact, tradition dictates that fried foods are to be eaten in celebration of part of the Chanukah story in which a tiny amount of oil miraculously kept the special Temple lamp burning for eight days, much longer than expected. It’s a bit of a stretch, I suppose, but hey, it’s a good excuse to chow down on fried food! In celebration of the holiday, we’ve pulled together a list of the highest-rated, Chanukah-related, deep-fried dishes around town.

Read the rest of my blog post over on FOOD=LOVE, the blog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tasted Menu: Now I can think about food even more often.

I'm very excited to announce that I've somehow finally landed myself a day job that involves food. Now I can ponder Boston's best roast beef sandwich* on the clock, without guilt. Jackpot! I've joined the Tasted Menu team as Community Manager, a position which basically allows me to play on social media all the time and think about food all the time. Needless to say, I'm pretty thrilled.

Tasted Menu is a website that breaks down restaurant reviews to what many would consider the most important piece: the food. You can post reviews, ratings, and photos for individual dishes on current menus. This allows everyone to easily discover the best dishes at a given restaurant as well as the restaurants to get the best ____ in town. Pretty sweet, right?

Let's say, for example, that I want to find the best pizza in Boston. Currently, the top three pizzas are Brussel Sprout Pizza at Posto, Mushroom Pizza in Sonsie, and Sausage and Vidalia Onion Pizza at OTTO. (Disagree? Sign up for an account and start adding your own rankings!)

You know what? I'm actually somewhat of a pizza purist. I generally stick to cheese or a simple meat topping, like pepperoni. I wonder where the best pepperoni pizzas in Boston can be found. Looks like Emma's and OTTO make the cut:

These rankings change constantly, of course, as more people add reviews to the site. Everything is weighted by a super snazzy algorithm, the TM Rank, which takes multiple factors into consideration. I'm a nerd. I love super snazzy algorithms.

The site recently launched publicly in Boston; I actually participated in the private beta earlier this year and built up an embarrassingly large number of site contributions. (You can see in the screenshot above how my reviews of pepperoni pizzas #2 and #3 are included in the ranking.)

There are plenty of other fun features to explore; sign up and give it a try! Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or feedback about the site. Find us on Twitter (@TastedMenu) and Facebook. And you can continue to find me right here; I'll still be blogging.

*As for Boston's best roast beef sandwich, my current vote is for Jimbo's in Union Square, Somerville. Tasted Menu users currently like All-Star Sandwich Bar, Cutty's, and Roast Beast. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cafe Polonia (CBS Boston)

Snarled Saturday morning traffic on 93S caused us to abandon a plan to visit relatives for lunch in Canton, a disappointment which ended up leading to an amazing food discovery. We exited the highway somewhere in South Boston, and while we were navigating back towards Somerville, I noticed a fork-and-knife icon pop up on the Google map (Ah, the era of smartphones). We were just a street away from Café Polonia, a restaurant I’d heard friends rave about as one of the only places to get good Polish food in Boston. A minute later, we snagged a parking spot right in front of the tiny, signless restaurant and headed inside to find seven tables, most of which were filled. We were seated, but several parties that arrived right after us were turned away. Reservations are apparently a good idea at Café Polonia.

Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.

More photos:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fractal Broccoli for Miss Lima

Miss Lima taught 10th grade geometry. At least I think it was 10th grade and I think it was geometry, but to be honest, high school memories are starting to get a little hazy. I can't even remember the names of all my teachers anymore. It's strange to think I used to have my entire week's schedule memorized to the minute. In any case, I do remember vague bits of a field trip Miss Lima organized. We went to a day-long fractal conference. A day. Of fractals. It was either at BU or MIT, and my dad was one of the chaperones.

Fractals are complex shapes made up of self-similar parts, which in turn are also made up of self-similar parts, and so on, theoretically to infinitely small self-similar parts. The Koch snowflake is a common visualization. Fractals occur in nature, but not quite as neatly as the theory dictates, of course. 'Infinitely small' is hardly possible in practical application. A few natural examples: ferns, lightning, blood vessel systems...and Romanesco broccoli (also called Romanesco cauliflower), a member of the broccoli and cauliflower species Brassica oleracea.

Two years ago, I learned that Miss Lima, who had since married and had three children, had died of breast cancer at only 39 years old. This post is dedicated to her. I'm still amazed that she was able to get a whole class full of high schoolers excited about a math field trip. I've hardly encountered fractals in an academic setting since then, but the memory has stayed with me.

I first stumbled across Romanesco broccoli somewhere on the Internet last year, probably in a blog post, and I was intrigued by its approximate fractal beauty. I scoured the farmers markets, but it seemed that I had missed the season. Finally, this weekend, I spotted it at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market. I can't remember the name of the farm - too excited about the find to notice, I guess - but they recommended roasting it with some goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. (They also recounted the story of a passerby who commented that looking at Romanesco broccoli was probably much like what you'd see on acid.)

We stopped by the Foxboro Cheese Co. stand to investigate whether they had goat cheese. They didn't, but we ended up with asiago (my favorite cheese) and a lemon honey fromage blanc, which seemed like a perfect accompaniment to the broccoli (instead of goat cheese). Yes, it was perfect.

Lightly season the broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast it at 425 for about 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add cheese (fromage blanc, goat, or your choice) and balsamic. We used a store-bought balsamic glaze rather than straight balsamic vinegar. Put it back in the oven for another three or four minutes, and then broil for a minute or two. Voila: cheesy roasted Romanesco broccoli with balsamic glaze. The flavor was a perfect mix of broccoli and cauliflower, fairly mild. Delicious, beautiful, and fleeting.

And then it was gone.
Even nature's not infinite, but it does a good job of convincing us otherwise.
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