Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips and Taps by Brian Poe:)

 I first met Chef Brian Poe at Rattlesnake Bar and Grill, where I experienced a delicious tasting of his tex-mex inspired menu.  Never before had the Rattlesnake been seen as a culinary spot and now, thanks to Chef Poe's brilliance, it has been put on Boston's food map.  
When I heard of Chef Poe's newest venture, The Tip Tap Room, I knew it would be special. 
My friend and I went to check it out exactly one month to the day it opened and once again, I was blown away not only by Chef Poe's culinary expertise, but his innovation and passion, which characterize his every move:)

 Located at 138 Cambridge street in the Beacon Hill area, Tip Tap Room offers a selection beers on tap as well as a list of inspired and creative cuts of meat, fish and vegetarian options served 'tip' style.  Most are accompanied by really fun mashed potato infusions.  
The space is great, with a large bar area that opens up to welcome the lovely summer weather and give guests a view of Cambridge street. Daily specials are posted on a chalkboard above the bar.

 Of course, tips and taps are not all that you will find here.  The appetizer offerings are numerous and tantalizing as well. We tried their rock shrimp which was so good that my companion managed to eat all the shrimp before I managed to get my fork in...not to worry, Chef Poe had another order sent out asap:)  Just as well too, you do not want to miss out on these juicy, succulent shrimp with their sweet, spicy and slightly tangy sauce.
 Another delicious option in the appetizers is the roasted whole fig with pancetta, stuffed with blue cheese and drizzled with a burnt balsamic butter...I mean..how could you possibly resist!? Even the presentation was superb!
 For out tip, we decided on the 'Duelling option' as displayed on their chalkboard.  It consisted of a tip of Wild Boar and a tip of Pork Belly, braised in Coors and duck fat and atop a puree of sweet potatoes, also infused with beer.  
It was a delicious tasting of two special types of meat, both cooked to a pleasant tenderness.
 Although we did not plan on ordering more, a plate of their Swordfish tips somehow materialized right in front of us.  The funny thing about this dish is that I remember when Chef Poe was trying it out on his menu at Rattlesnake.  What was good then, has been mastered now.  The grilled chunks of swordfish are served with a smooth and creamy mashed potato, this time infused with a robust tapenade..  String beans and a bell pepper, artichoke and olive salsa lightened the load perfectly.
This is a signature, again, not to be missed!
Just to round things out, we tried their house-made blackberry and white chocolate bread pudding. I am not usually the biggest fan of bread pudding, but then again, that is probably because it is never done right.  This concoction was a doughy pudding with plump blackberries and drizzled in white chocolate. I especially liked the chunks of crusty bread you would find here and there.
Suffice it to say that this did not last long either.
It looks like Chef Poe has gone and done it again, this time venturing out to another area, with an entirely different menu and atmosphere. Rumour has it we will not have to way long before he launches his next concept. With his track record, we can be sure it will be interesting, different and tasty!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fusion on the Greenway

After a day of extremely temperamental weather, Wednesday evening boasted clear blue skies and a slowly sinking sun.  It was perfect weather for the first ever Picnic Popup on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
For those of you who are not aware of what this means exactly, it is simply and ingeniously, a project kicked off by the combined minds and talents of Chef Ali Fong from BonMe Food Truck and Chef Phillip Tang from East by Northeast restaurant in Cambridge.
From 6 to 9, you could purchase a Picnic dinner to enjoy outside on the beautiful Greenway by the Rings Fountain.  I went to enjoy the event and enjoy it I did, in fact, I could not think of a better way to take advantage of a wonderful evening of food and friends - the Greenway even provided blankets to lay out on the grass:)

Even though this was the first try, it was a success from all levels.  Turnout was great and even better was the way the team managed the crowds.  As you waited for your picnic bag, you were given a cold, cucumber gazpacho to enjoy, courtesy of Chef Phillip Tang's imaginative approach to a soup shooter.  
In little time at all you were handed a brown paper bag the contents of which you were soon to enjoy:)
The vegetable side for the evening was another of Chef Tang's ideas; a chilled sweet corn served with a creamy condiment that had a slightly garlicky taste, fresh field greens were served on the side of the side:) It reminded me of Mexican Street corn, with cojita cheese, but with a few interesting twists!
The piece de resistance was of course BonMe's claim to fame - their traditional Vietnamese Bahn Mi, only this evening it was filled with Chef Tang's delicious pork confit and secret sauce.  The combination of the sweet and succulent meat with the crunchy BonMe pickled vegetables all came together to celebrate a true fushion of both chefs' strengths.
As I sat enjoying my picnic, a little friend alighted beside me...seems that I was not the only one enjoying the weather and food on the Greenway:)
For dessert, BonMe brought back one of their original Blondie brownie recipes, only this time they added black sesame for a surprise crunch and depth of flavor.  It was moist and light - a perfect way to end the meal.
During a break in the crowds, I was able to chat with both chefs as well as Chef Ali's husband and co-owner of BonMe, Patrick.  They were all three of them flushed and exhilarated from the evening's success and although they were happy to speak with me and answer my questions, I could tell they were ithcing to get back to the thick of what they love best - sharing food and quality ingredients with eager guests.
The best piece of information I got out of the evening? This was a first in a series of upcoming picnic popups, so fear not, if you missed out on this one, stay tuned for the next installment, same food truck, different restaurant!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Picnic Popup on the Greenway:)

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a mile-long stretch of greenery and pathways running between Boston's Financial District and the Seaport.  Part of the city's urban development project, many new food ventures have popped up along the Greenway from fun new restaurants to food trucks.  It makes for a great way to escape the bustle of everyday city life, without having to leave the city:)
Food trucks and farmer's markets especially have capitalized on the crowds that step out of work for a brief repose to enjoy the summer weather with a snack or treat and the Boston Foodie Tours has a fantastically paced Greenway Food Tour every week.
Adding to the excitement, every now and then, a special festival or event will be held.  This coming Wednesday is a prime example, with Bon Me's pop up picnic.
From 5 to 9 pm, Bon Me and East by Northeast will be partnering up in a picnic extravaganza. For 15 dollars, you will be offered a prix fix menu including a homemade chilled soup shooter, the classic Bon Me Sandwich with a surprise twist added by East by Northeast, a seasonal vegetable side and a sweet ending.

The food in itself would be well worth the ticket, but getting outside on a Wednesday evening to enjoy  what we hope will be a beautiful night right in the city is priceless! (rain date scheduled for the 26th)
I get excited just at the thought of visiting the Bon Me team, so this event has been on my list since I first heard about it. Put it on yours and get your ticket here:
You do not want to miss this, especially since summer days are only getting shorter;)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ready, Sake, Sushi!

 Summer really brings out people's creative juices.  Outdoor music festivals, food festivals and festivals celebrating different cultures are happening all over the city, restaurants roll out inspired summer menus and outdoor cocktail programs.  
This Tuesday, I had the occasion to try out a fantastic summer series, Sushi and Sake 101 at Haru. Held once a month, this interactive dinning experience brings together two fantastic treats...and all the secrets that go along with them:)

 This particular evening was specifically for Boston Food Bloggers, a network that consists of some of Boston's most enthusiastic food writers. I was lucky enough to be invited and it was so great to catch up with my foodie friends...while doing what we like best...eating!
The evening is run as a partnership between Richard, the passionate foodie and Haru's team of sushi making specialists. It was so nice to be on the receiving end of such passion and knowledge! I learned so much about Sake from Robert, who started the event with a mini presentation about the distinctive beverage.  Before this event, I knew little about sake, thanks to Robert and the tasting of three different and delicious sakes, I feel much more confident in navigating a Sake menu:)
 The series is very hands on, each couple is presented with all the necessary sushi-making tools and ingredients; a platter of sushi grade fish, a HUGE bowl of sticky rice and seaweed paper.
 Guided by Haru Chef Masa-san, we are taken on a step by step journey in the art of sushi making. Step one: a handful of sushi is rolled and placed on top of the seaweed, smooth/shiny side down:)
 After spreading the rice out, you flip the whole thing over (so as to have a sushi roll with the rice on the outside, although you can also do the opposite...like Lindsey, my sushi neighbor did with hers:) )
You then place whatever filling you want in the middle...careful not to overload it or it won't close!
 A little squeeze of the bamboo sheet around the roll and voila! A beautiful looking roll of sushi, ready to be cut and enjoyed.
 Luckily, the expert Haru team did the cutting...which is just as well, because I would have ended up with a sushi salad if I had tried to cut my own:)
My first roll was a spicy tuna and cucumber...not bad eh?
Not wanting to leave us with just one technique, the team then went on to show us how to make nigiri, fish atop a bed of rice, as well as what I like to call a 'sushi basket', which is perfect for things like spicy tuna, any kind of tartar or roe.
After two hours of sushi making and sake drinking (we had three different kinds of sake, my favorite of which was the sparkling sake at the end),I felt that I had accomplished much more than I usualy do at dinner.
Sushi and Sake 101 is a perfect evening to have fun, to learn and to create, not to mention, it makes for a nice gift, an interesting date or a perfect tool to set yourself up for a sushi making party of your own!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sojourn in Montreal:)

(Jazz Festival)
Although I am from Toronto, when asked which Canadian city is my favorite, my heart always goes out to Montreal.  There are a few reasons for this, notably that I spent many of my formative, high school years in this city, met some of my dearest friends and love the french language.  Most of all though, I love the city in the summer.  It really comes alive with festivals, culture and great weather.  Of course, the fantastic food scene certainly helps:) 
Last year, I was able to frequent quite a few special restaurants, this year however, I went with less frills and enjoyed tastes of Montreal, in between outdoor festivals and other random wanderings.

Staying away from restaurants mostly, my friend could not help but to introduce me to one of her favorite vegetarian bistros.  I am no vegetarian myself, but can appreciate the work that goes into a fully vegetarian-friendly meal. Chuchai, a Thai-vegetarian restaurant on St. Denis, specializes in traditional Thai flavors and dishes without any meat or fish!
We tried their famous peanut soy Crispy Duck on a bed of wilted spinach, it both looked and tasted quite like duck, but was made with a vegetarian protein, seitan.  We also had some crunchy seaweed sprinkled with sesame and their rendition of Pad Thai. Everything was tasty and fresh, however what really blew me away was their 'Five flavor finger food', pictured above. These little bites held explosive flavors, from the bitter leaf to the citrus kick from the lime, a nutty cashew, crunch from some strange twiggy things and tang from a bright pepper.  It is difficult to describe, but it was a major kamikaze of flavor in your mouth!

People who have never been to Eastern Canada or Montreal may be surprised to hear just how hot and humid it can get in the summer. With average daily temperatures of 85 and higher, ice cream is a daily requirement. Luckily, Montreal has a fantastic ice cream selection, my favorite being Bilboquet, an artisanal ice cream purveyor with the best Mango Sorbet I have yet encountered. I also branched out and tried their 'Brou ha ha', a concoction of vanilla ice cream with brownies, praline coated nuts and caramel swirl. Another favorite is their 'Cacophonie', a rich, dark chocolate base with white chocolate chunks and cashews. I could go on reciting every one of their flavors...but I won't:)
Another tenet of Montreal's food scene are their bagels.  At various spots around the city, you can find a bagel shop that has huge, brick ovens that turn out the most delicious bagels.  I would suggest going for one of their regular, sesame bagels.  Always fresh out of the oven, these babies are crispy on the outside, and a doughy, cloud of heaven on the inside...oh and did I mention? They are open 24 hours...

Being a city with a European flair, espresso bars are in no shortage.  Another one of my friend's favorite spots is Pikolo, located on Sherbrooke and Parc Avenue. Buzzing with students from any one of the amazing schools near the downtown area, Pikolo is home to delicious coffee, robust espresso and really friendly people.

On my final visit here, it was their one year anniversary and along with half priced coffee beverages, they were serving slices of delicious dark chocolate, raspberry cake. Need I say that I had never felt more at home in a coffee shop? I should also mention that I have dubbed their latte, the 'Best in North America'. No joke!
My trip to Montreal would not have been complete without a visit to the year round, outdoor Marche Jean Talon.  The bright, colorful produce on display at the numerous markets was such a tease considering I went on my very last day in the city!
Luckily, I was able to enjoy a freshly baked Almond Croissant and a date and orange muffin from Premiere Moisson conveniently located at the Market...all was not lost:)
These are just a few tid bites of what I picked up here and there in Montreal throughout my visit. There was so much more and I could have stayed a while longer, but sometimes, you have to leave wanting more.
As I left it this time, I already cannot wait to revisit my favorite city!