Saturday, April 19, 2014

Brunch at Mistral

          Mistral is one of my favorite places for brunch in Boston, and has been consistently for years. Since I go fairly often (and have been for so long) I hadn't thought to take pictures or blog about it until recently. 

          The space is bright and sunny, and the booths include comfy benches and cushions - perfect for a relaxing Sunday brunch. Once you're seated, someone comes by in a matter of minutes to deliver coffee, water, and one of these:

Warm apple cinnamon muffin with butter and apple butter
          The muffins have been one of my favorite things about Mistral since I've started going, and as far as I can tell they've never changed. The pastry selection however does change, but generally includes homemade sticky buns and some type of doughnut (my favorites were always the Boston Creme, which I haven't seen on the menu the last couple of times I've been, but I'm hoping they make a reappearance!)

          I've tried several of the dishes on the menu, but haven't ordered something new since discovering my favorite - the crab omelet. I order this with egg whites, and still can't finish the lightened up version because it's so big! I love pairing this with a glass of Veuve Clicquot, which is indulgent but totally worth it!

Jumbo lump crab omelet with chive, tomato, and Vermont butter
          My bf loves the eggs benedict which always come out perfectly cooked, with an amazing hollandaise. 


          All breakfast entrees come with lyonnaise potatoes, but they'll always substitute something healthy like fresh berries. I enjoy either, depending on how good I'm trying to be.



          But no matter how healthy I'm trying to be, I can never resist sharing a side of bacon. Mistral's is always perfectly crisp, and like the entrees a large portion.


          I love trying new places and have been to tons of great brunch spots over the years. I've never returned to any place as many times as I have to Mistral.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zume's in Charlestown

          Although I haven't taken any pictures, I wanted to give a quick shout out to one of my new favorite local (to my office in Charlestown) spots. Zume's is a coffee shop located on Main Street in Charlestown with a great atmosphere and tons of healthy food and drink options (and some delicious but not so healthy options!) 
 
          The coffee menu includes the standards you see at most coffee shops: a variety of brews, espresso drinks, flavored syrups, etc. Some of the things they do differently that I love are the creative combinations like honey almond coffee, and that they offer almond milk in addition to soy as a non-dairy alternative.
 
          Breakfast is served until noon every day including breakfast sandwiches, lox, bakery items, fruit, and granola. The non-breakfast baked goods like the GIANT cookies and fresh made biscuits are also amazing. Lunch options include salads and sandwiches, but my favorite are the smoothies (especially the health nut with almond milk, hemp seed, banana, and spinach).
 
         If you're in the neighborhood, Zume's is definitely worth checking out for the coffee or a quick meal or snack!

Zume's Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Row 34

          After much anticipation, I finally made it into Row 35 this weekend! It was everything I hoped it would be. The place was packed shortly after opening at 5PM, but the level of service was above and beyond from the moment we sat down. The manager stopped by our table to greet us while we were still looking over the menu. At our request she went through the entire list of the day's oyster selections including a detailed description of each varietal. She was clearly knowledgeable about the wine, so we asked for the geekiest bottle on the list. She recommended an orange wine (yay, my current obsession), and we were off to an amazing start!


          We tried three kinds of oysters, Island Creek, Moonstone (RI) and third I can't remember but they were described as the most briny on the menu. These came served with a traditional mignonette, house mignonette with cilantro and jalapenos, and cocktail sauce with horse radish. I loved the house mignonette, it was perfect with the oysters and didn't over power the delicate flavor at all.


          We also tried two of the crudo selections, fluke with jalapenos, lime, and pickled peppers and tuna with avocado, black garlic, and lemon. These were my favorite (other than dessert)
 


          The smoked seafood board was a perfect way to try most of the dishes on the smoked menu. It included: trout pate, smoked scallops, shrimp, and mussel salad. The pate spread over crostini was my favorite. We skipped the other accompaniments and enjoyed the simpler, clean flavors of the seafood on its own.


          Row 34 has two lobster rolls on the menu, and the manager told us a bit of an internal debate over which is the best. I tried the hot buttered version and the bf tried the more traditional creamy version (with mayo and crème fraiche). We both enjoyed ours and came no to closer to helping them solve the debate!


          Before we ordered desserts, the in house beer expert came over with a pairing for us. Since we were so into wine, she wanted us to experience a beer that would pair really well with any of the three desserts on the menu. The foret noir was like a cherry infused stout, and went perfectly with the candy bar.



          The candy bar...by far my favorite, and one of the best desserts in Boston. If you don't eat seafood, I would still suggested going to Row 34 for this dish alone! It's their interpretation of a snickers with layers of homemade chocolate, nougat, and caramel topped with peanut brittle. We cleaned our plate in about two seconds.


          I would definitely go back to Row for a full multi course meal, or to just sit at the bar and have some oysters and wine. And of course the candy bar!
 
Row 34 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tico

          I tried Tico the other night on a whim; it's been open for awhile and is one of Michael Schlow's newer restaurants (I used to love Radius). I'm not sure why I didn't make it in sooner.
 
          The atmosphere was not at all what I expected and at first I was disappointed. It felt more like a bar where you'd go out for drinks, and I was worried the food wouldn't be as good.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and ended up really enjoying my meal.

          The menu is a mix of tapas, tacos (two per order), and large plates. We ordered several of the tapas and tacos to share:

Fried Manchego Cheese with spicy pomegranate honey sauce
Sweet corn with smoked bacon, jalepenos, and thai basil

Serrano ham with guava jam and warm bread

Lobster taco with avocado
Spanish octopus with tangerines and pickled leeks

Shredded Cabbage Salad with Spicy Salsa Verde Vinaigrette and Crushed Almonds

Two Texture Beef taco with Morita Chiles
          I enjoyed all of the dishes but my favorites were the two texture beef taco and the octopus. I wasn't sure what both cuts of beef were, but one was definitely tongue which is my favorite kind of taco. Octopus is hard to get just right, and this was grilled perfectly with a great smokey flavor. I was surprised by the fried manchego (the menu didn't specify fried) but how can you go wrong with fried cheese??

          Tico is a fun spot to go out for a drink or for some tapas, the space is huge and wide open so it would also be great for a party or large group.

Tico on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 11, 2014

Product Review: Train Gum

          Train Gum is an all natural chewing gum founded by Sam Singer, of Watertown MA. Sam started the company while in college, when he realized he couldn't pronounce any of the ingredients in the gum he was chewing. Since I love supporting local companies and try to eat whole natural foods whenever possible, I was excited when they reached out and offered me a sample.

          Train Gum contains only five ingredients: chicle, sugar, natural oils, stevia and rice flour. Individually wrapped pieces come in a biodegradable drawstring muslin bag, which I love. It has the old time look and feel you'd find at an old school candy shoppe.


           I tried the peppermint, which had great flavor and texture and didn't taste sugary at all (the amount of sugar used is minimal). Though the flavor didn't last as long as some of the artificially sweetened gums out there, I realized that's probably a good thing! I'd choose a natural product over artificial any day!

          Train Gum is $2.50 for a bag of eight pieces, and is available online as well as several local specialty shops:
  • Fit to Eat, Portland ME
  • HWS College Store, Geneva NY
  • Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge MA
  • Spirited Gourmet, Belmont MA
  • Gordon’s Fine Wine and Liquors, Waltham MA
  • Volante Farms, Needham MAY

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Whisk at Wink and Nod

          I've been wanting to try Whisk since I heard about the concept while they were in the North End. I was finally able to make it in this week, shortly after they reopened in collaboration with Wink and Nod a new speakeasy style restaurant and bar in the South End. They've been open a couple of weeks serving a small bar menu, and later this month plan to offer an additional tasting menu for dinner.

          My first impression upon walking in was that I loved the atmosphere... it felt old school and swanky. The bf and I were seated at the perfect table in the lounge area just overlooking the bar. We ordered a couple of drinks and shared several of the dishes on the menu.

          We started with the oysters, which were amazing and set the tone for the rest of the meal. The variety that night were Island Creek and had a bit of a sweet flavor, which was contrasted beautifully by the addition of the smoky orange and the green onion.


          The venison tartare was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I planned to try just one bite. I ended up really enjoying this dish and definitely ate my share!


          Next were the duck fois gras meatballs, in a rich sauce served with a bits of duck rind and pickled blueberry. Our server suggested we try to get a little bit of each for the perfect bite, and she was spot on.


          The yakotori was next and by far the most impressive presentation of the meal. This dish included skewers of chicken, quail, beef, and pork, served in a jar with smoke coming out once opened. The meat was so tender, and I loved the smokey flavor.


           The next dish was one of my favorites, duck confit pancake with apple meringue and sliced apples. This felt like a creative twist on the classic potato pancake with applesauce, and you can never go wrong with duck confit!


          Both the General Manager Curtis and the Chef Jeremy stopped by our table at this point, and both were so friendly and excited about the food (and drinks). Though we were starting to get full, we asked Jeremy to recommend a dish we HAD to try if we were going to order one more thing. I was glad we asked because he suggested the black pasta, which I probably wouldn't have ordered on my own. This ended up being another favorite; the pasta was cooked perfectly and I loved the combination of the baby octopus, cauliflower puree, and toasted garlic.


          By now we were completely full, but I needed to try the house made twinkie. I was glad to see they were fairly small when they came out, it was the perfect dessert after such a big, rich meal.


          I had an amazing first experience at Whisk at Wink and Nod, and can't wait to check out the new tasting menu when it comes out!

 Wink and Nod on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Alden and Harlow

          Tucked away in the bottom level of the 40 Brattle Street building in Harvard Square, Alden and Harlow could be easy to miss but with it's quickly building reputation for amazing new American style tapas, it's definitely no secret. The bf and I went in for dinner this past weekend and tried a good portion of the menu.

          The cocktail list is as creative as the food, and though I wanted to try a couple of drinks my first (McGregor's Garde) I didn't want to try anything else.


McGregor's Garden with bourbon, spiced parsnop puree, benedectine, and lemon
           We ordered several dishes to share including:

Charred broccoli, squash hummus, montasio and cashew crumble


Smoked cashews, currants, and rosemary


Pickled Verril Farm Corn pancakes, buttermilk, maple, shishito



Nantucket Bay Scallop Crudo, cauliflower kimchee, chilli oil, and uni aioli

Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly, Anson Mills grits, kumquat, bergamot cure



Chicken fried local rabbit, celery, apple, blue cheese, and chili oil


House made rye pasta, confit chicken thigh, crispy skin, fig and liver butter

          I truly enjoyed all of the dishes, but my favorites were the broccoli, corn pancakes, and pork belly. The broccoli was the best I've ever had, I loved the char paired with the sweet flavor of the squash hummus. The corn pancakes were so creative, and I appreciated the addition of popcorn as a garnish. The pork belly was done just right, and had that perfectly cooked fat cap with crispy skin and the melt in your mouth layer just below the skin. The most creative dish of the night had to be the chicken fried rabbit which seemed to me a take on a buffalo chicken wing.

          My only regret about my meal at Alden and Harlow was that I didn't go with enough people to try even more dishes. There was not one thing on the menu that didn't sound good. I'll definitely be back!

Alden & Harlow on Urbanspoon