Monday, June 25, 2012

Celebrating the Chefs of Tomorrow, with the Chefs of Today!

 After three days of impressive humidity, baking heat and record high temperatures, the clouds decided to break just as eager foodies were gathering at Boston's Seaport Hotel for the 15th annual Chefs in Shorts event.  Bringing together around 40 of Boston's best chefs, this event is built to celebrate food while raising funds for Future Chefs, an organization which supports early employment and field opportunities in the culinary fields.  
Right off the bat, I ran into William, aka, The Boston Foodie who introduced me to some of the Future Chefs team.  It was wonderful to meet them and chat a bit about the great initiatives they are working towards...all while promoting some of our current chefs:)

 After our chat, I went straight to the booths where, despite the rain and wind, chefs were producing delicious sample-sized dishes....oh and a larger-than-life pot of hand-made guacamole, as pictured above, by Rosa Mexicano.
 It is always intersting to note the trends of the year.  This time around, it was definitely a tie between tacos (the The Taco Truck even made an appearance..and their food was nice and dry:) ), and sliders. 
 Through the array of burgers offered, my favorite was, without a hint of a doubt, the duck burger with blueberry jam/ketchup and foie gras aioli from Top of the Hub..sound glutinous? Somehow, the savory with the blueberry worked perfectly together...and I was not the only person to think so:)
 A close second in terms of favorite was the shrimp roll from Market at the W. So simple...but so delicious! 

Lucky for me, the desserts had been placed under the archways, so they were saved from the rain and I could not have been happier. Isabelle's Curly Cakes and Kickass Cupcakes both made appearances and it was tough to decide which were better...different would be the more suitable answer.

Funnily enough, it was not the food that blew me away, certainly there were many delicious dishes to have, but it was actually everybody's dedication that most impressed me. The fact that on a miserable, windy and rainy Friday evening, such a crowd both of fantastic chefs and food lovers, would stick out the weather in the highest of spirits is truly heart warming. I saw no surly faces, only happy and enthused exchanges, even during the worst of the weather.  Of course, once the rain cleared and everyone had this view of Boston's skyline to take in...the fight was even more worth it. 
Events like this show chefs at their finest; able to present renditions of their classic dishes under pressure and sometimes, extreme weather conditions.  Events like this are more than just about the food, they are about bringing people together to enjoy what food has to offer, a sense of community, friendship and an overall appreciation of the future of Boston's food scene.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seaport by noon

 It's summer 2012.  Sure, the weather does not always reflect expected norms...but on a day like today (95 degrees!?), you want to make sure you get yourself over to the Seaport District where beautiful views and optimal dining options are available.
 My friend and I were lucky to catch a break in the cloudy weather last week and enjoyed the sun at a window table overlooking Boston's harbour at Del Frisco's.
They had just rolled out a few new and exciting items on their lunch menu - and we went for them:)
 I don't usually order salads at restaurants, but when one boasts a size-able portion of deliciously pink Ahi Tuna, seared just right with a nice mix of greens, avocado and sliced, toasted almonds, it is hard to resist.  This salad is fresh and light, the dressing is tangy and compliments without overloading. In fact, it is so subtle, it simply infuses the greens with a more complex and intriguing flavor.

 For our entree, we ordered their steak sandwich with gravy and horseradish for dipping.  This was my least favorite dish, but whatever shortcomings were far outweighed by the success of their Sole Francese (pictured above).
A lightly egg-battered fillet of sole topped with the most succulent and meaty lump crab is a delight right until the last bite.
 Even though it was lunch, my friend and I could not resist a slice of their signature Lemon Layer Cake - six layers of moist lemon cake separated by lemon curd and finished with a thick and creamy lemon may think this would be too much lemon, but when it is a house made dessert, it goes down an absolute treat:)

 Another great spot to enjoy the summer weather and view is Sam's at Louis, a neat concept, joining clothing store, salon and restaurant in one building.
Salads were also the favorite option here, I got their lettuce salad with daily vegetables and my friend got their quinoa and grapefruit salad with grilled chicken. Both were great chocies for a nice summer day.  We also tried their BLT, but it simply does not live up to my favorite rendition made at Flour:)

Eating in the Seaport district has many perks other than the obvious treat of Boston's Harbor and sky line on a sunny day.  You are also steps away from the ICA, where many exciting exhibits can be seen throughout the summer...not to mention they have a breathtaking observation deck from which unparalleled views are there for the taking.
If you can manage to sneak away for a lunch time slot, you will likely get to enjoy all that this area has to offer, without dealing with wait times and lunch menus are also often much more affordable:)
Don't miss the roof deck at Legal Harborside many options!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Swizzle Sundays

Nobody ever really looks forward to Sunday evenings...the inevitable dread that comes with a Monday morning becomes heavier as the day rolls by...
Luckily, The Hawthorne, located on Commonwealth right by Kenmore Station has come up with a summer series called 'Swizzle Sundays' that will have you thinking differently.
Every Sunday (weather permitting), mixologist and drink guru, Scott Marshall, will be posted outside on Hawthorne's corner patio with a drink menu dressed to impress.  Based on the diverse concept of the term 'swizzle', Scott is ready with his swizzle stick (pictured above) and a couple of blenders to help you enjoy every last moment of your weekend.

It was a beautiful day last Sunday when I went to check out the space and the menu and I ordered their 'Miami Vice'.  Wittingly so called for its combination of two delicious though potentially sinful drinks - Pina Colada and Strawberry Daquiri.  To maximize the effect, Scott simultaneously pours each drink in side by side.
The final effect is visually appealing...and as far as consumption goes, it is a perfect drink to be enjoyed after a day in the sun, on a patio overlooking busy Commonwealth. 

Tiki drinks like the one pictured above (swizzle stick in action!), are also a crowd favorite out on the patio.
Of course, if you would prefer a personal favorite or any other of the Hawthorne's signature drinks, they are available at the full bar inside.
Either way, any of Scott's drinks in hand, a few of Chef Jeremy Sewall's snacks and good company? Sounds like a pretty solid Sunday to me..may become my favorite time of the week:)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blending great espresso and art at Voltage

I have said it before and I will say it again, exciting things are brewing in Cambridge! The past couple of years has seen the opening of many new eateries, from restaurant/coffee bars like Area IV, to novelty stores like Follow The Honey and vegetarian diners like Veggie Galaxy.  
What makes each of these new openings so great, is that they are all different and unique.  Each one has managed to find a niche within the Cambridge community that was unfulfilled before.  Take Voltage Coffee and Art, open for about a year and a half. It is a solid espresso bar with beautiful espresso (art) drinks and tasty looking pastries. 
But many places have great espresso and espresso art...Voltage sets itself apart in its devotion to local artists who have the opportunity to showcase their work in a studio-like space.  Visitors to Voltage can set themselves up in a visually stimulating environment and with the strong caffeine, it makes for a very inspiring setting:)
 On the day I visited with a friend, Aimee Belanger had her work displayed all over the coffee shop.  It was a pleasure to take a stroll around while I waited for my latte to be brewed and served.
Voltage also offers some interesting sounding bites, like their 'slightly caffeinated' granola, (baked in yerba mate syrup) or their handfuls of snacks: for 1 dollar, get a handful of banana chips, yogurt covered raisins, animal crackers or chocolate covered pretzels.  
With such brain food at your finger tips, who knows what kind of inspiration will flow?
Check out their website for art shows and special events!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Food Truck Festival Brings in the Crowds

Sunday, June 10th, marked the first Food Truck Festival  of 2012.  I, along with what seemed to be about half of Greater Boston's population, had been highly anticipating this event.
Held at UMass Boston, over 30 different trucks were there and prepped to serve a limited menu to some very hungry people.
The set up is quite smart, everyone gets a little, red booklet with a number corresponding to each Food Truck stop - only one portion is allowed at each stop.
Although this helped reduce the number of repeat customers, by about 1 o'clock, the lines were so long leading to each truck, that they all came and met in the middle of the field.  They were also not moving - it seemed that Truck staff could not get their items out fast enough to keep the lines moving. 
The immobile lines combined with the baking hot sun made it impossible for my friends and I to get to more than three trucks.  This being said, what we did have was truly delicious.  Jerk chicken and fried plantains from Irie Bites was authentic, smoky and sweet - it had all the complexities of the traditional Jamaican dish.  
It was so disappointing to have to admit defeat...and to leave hungry!
Luckily however, we were not far from Local 149, one of my personal favorite restaurants.  It is quirky, local and fun - all three things that helped make us feel better about bailing on the Food Trucks.  With chalk available at all the tables, our youngest companion took the opportunity to visually represent his feelings...mind you, there is no better way to arrive at Local 149 than 1000 percent hungry:)
  We ordered a round of milkshakes right away.  I got their ginger milkshake, it was DELICIOUS: fresh ginger root infused in a creamy frappe so thick you almost wanted to ask for a bigger straw...except then it would disappear faster...
We ordered a few other things including their Hog wings, mini pork shanks smothered in Hoisin BBQ sauce and their charcuterie platter, a daily spread of house-cured meats, local cheeses and house pickled veggies.  
It was just what we needed to reboot after battling the sun and the lines at UMass.
Although our trek ended with great success, I am still sorry I missed out on all the great things coming out of those Food trucks.  Hopefully, the trucks will figure out a better way to expedite items for upcoming festivals - either that or I would highly recommend the VIP tickets which get you in 1 hr early.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Explore Boston through food this summer!

Boston is an interesting city anytime of the year.  In the summer however, it really livens up as farmer's markets, festivals and outdoor concerts celebrate the easy access and eager audiences that make up Boston's community.
When it comes to food-related events, there is no shortage of opportunities to explore what the city has to offer.  
 For one thing, many restaurants have the option of dining 'al fresco'...aka outdoors.  Stroll along Newbury street and stop by Joe's American Bar and Grill.  Their patio is covered, but on a warm day, everything (roof included) opens up:)
A suggestion: their deliciously simple, Black Skillet Mussels, part of their new lunch menu.

 As the weather warms, Food Trucks really add color and taste.  This Sunday, we kick off the much anticipated Food Truck Festival at UMass in Boston.
 With appearances from around 30 different food trucks all at is an opportunity you do not want to miss! Tickets are still available at Foodies of New England, find a location nearest you...the festivals pop up all summer long:)

  On the 22nd of June, come meet and chat with Boston's most adored chefs at the Chefs in Shorts 2012, held at the Seaport Hotel and Trade Center.  Looking to support early employment in the culinary fields, a ticket to this event gets you a happy stomach and a step closer towards supporting this mission:)

On a different note, many restaurants are organizing special summer series.  Chef Micheal Leviton of Area IV and Lumiere will begin his family-style dinners at Lumiere in Newton, on the 27th of June with a New England Lobster Bake.  Events will run once a month until the end of now to make you reservation!
So these are of course just a couple examples of the great things our city has in store for us this summer.  Be sure to check them out...and to stay tuned for more;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The art of cocktail making - Union Square

A recent trend has been blossoming in Boston - the art of the cocktail.  More and more now, restaurants have put in place bar programs that either hold up to, compliment or, in some cases, outshine the food menu.  One of my favorite examples, is JM Curley, in Downtown Boston.  Bar manager Kevin, is like a liquid guru and has come up with a beautiful list of cocktails that my friends and I frequent when we need a good post-performance libation... I have yet to find a better Dark and Stormy:)
With this trend growing, there are many bars/restaurants that have opened with a purpose dedicated to craft cocktails.  Of course, Barbara Lynch's Drink located in the Fort Point has been around for a while now and is known for its crafty mixologists that can whip up something from the Prohibition era or something entirely new and unique, Todd Maul has been mixing up a storm at Clio for years now as well.  More recently, The Hawthorne Bar opened its doors in the Kenmore area and is a phenomenal place to sit and enjoy an excellent beverage.
Just the other night, I got myself to the newest watering hole, Backbar, an incognito bar down Sanborn street in Union Square.

 Located right beside Journeyman, Backbar is not the kind of place you stumble need to know where to go and yes, this is the front door.  Look ominous? Wait until you open it to find yourself in a long, sketchy hall way with unmarked silver doors.  

 Straight ahead, a door with a tiny sign 'BackBar' will lead you into a setting that befits New York's  underground scene.  The walls are decked with pieces from local artists, furniture is sparse and simple, the feel is a cross between industrial and rustic - I immediately felt at home:)
 We snagged two great seats at the bar, which is what I would recommend - you want to see these guys at work. My friend and I ordered two drinks to start, I got their 'drink of the day': Gin, house-made Ginger beer, a splash of orange juice and a bit of Sambucca-like liqueur.  My friend got their 'Union Mule' from their menu: Beefeater Gin, apple brandy, St. Germaine, citrus, ginger and spice.
Although this is a drink place, the food menu intrigues as well, we settled for some spiced caramel popcorn with bacon(duh!).  It was a delicious pairing for our drinks.
As per my most recent quest, I could not leave Backbar without sizing their Dark and Stormy up against JM Curley's. 
Verdict: JM Curley's is still my favorite for its great kick and spice with its sugary rim...however, Backbar's house-made ginger beer adds complexity and was certainly enjoyable, taking a strong second:)
Union Square is not on my usual list of destinations, but with the team behind Backbar stirring up solid drinks, I may just have to come up with a recurring visit:)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Treats at Tatte - Cambridge

Fresh out of my rigorous season with the Boston Ballet, I am still getting used to days which I can fill with whatever activities spark my interest.  On nice days, I find it is enough to just sit outside with a book and soak it all in.
Lunch dates, which are never possible while I am working are all of a sudden the best way to break up my day of lounging in the sun.
Although I realize that not everyone has the ability to skip out of work for an hour or two to amuse me, I was lucky this week to meet up with a good friend of mine who works in the Kendall Square area.
First of all, Kendall is really growing as a destination in this city.  I particularly enjoy all the new eateries that have been sprouting up of late and my friend graciously took me to the newly opened, Cambridge location of Tatte bakery.
I have of course heard of this bakery, originally stationed in Brookline, but I had not had the opportunity to try it out. Here was a perfect opportunity:)
 Tatte is most famous for its 'nut boxes' (of which there is a picture below).  They are also known for their individually wrapped treats, from the large, deluxe boxes above, homemade preserves and other fine cookies and cakes that make for delicious gifts.
 It was excessively difficult to make a decision, but we managed to narrow our choice down to three items.  The first was a Pistachio Crush, which at first glance appears to be some sort of cheesecake, but one bite confirms that this is in no way a cream cheese matter.  As Tzurit Or, the owner and chef behind Tatte, puts it, we are dealing with a pistachio meringue crust, whipped cream mixed with whole pistachios and handmade caramel mix...with more pistachios on top:)  Biting into this was like biting into a creamy cloud, it was sweet and subtle but rich and decadent at the same time. Suffice it to say that we could only manage a few bites...

 Both of our favorites was the Blueberry Clafoutis, a traditional, French dessert with juicy blueberries baked into a custard-esque filling and topped with delicious, crunchy hazelnuts.
I love the added element of fruit, it made the dessert seem less heavy, more summer oriented.  This one we polished off with no trouble:)
Of course, we could not come to Tatte and not order one of their nut boxes.  Simply, it is a box made out of a buttery crust and filled with caramel and your choice of nuts.  We went for their mixed nut assortment as we wanted a bit of everything (as always!).
These treats are beautifully prepared and just as appealing to the taste buds.  By the time we reached this guy however, we were pretty much maxed out and got in a good taste...but no worries...all the more for me to take home and enjoy later...which I did!
I don't think you can really go wrong at this bakery, even their savory items looked and smelled heavenly. 
The interior is rustic and clean and they have some nice details like serving cutlery in big, clay flowering pots.
I am always jealous of people who work or live near Kendall and with the addition of Tatte, I am even more so!