Thursday, June 28, 2012

Angela's Cafe

          Angela’s Café is a tiny authentic Mexican restaurant in East Boston with a mix of casual and higher end menu options. I recently had the chance to try it with some foodie friends, and we had a great experience sampling a good portion of the menu! We were impressed by both the food and service, and almost as impressed by the fact that Guy Fieri had visited recently (and signed his name on the wall)!

          We started with several appetizers including an order of guacamole and the Favoritos de Angela, a sampler including several types of tacos, tostadas, and gorditas. The guacamole was some of the best in Boston. I've eaten a lot of guacamole lately that seems to be overwhelmed by the non-essential ingredients like onions or lime juice. This had the perfect balance of flavors to complement rather than overwhelm the taste of fresh avocado.

         Next, I tried both the chicken and the sausage gorditas. Although the sausage was my favorite I loved the mole sauce on the chicken so much that I decided to order the chicken mole as my entree!


Chicken Mole

          Next, I tasted each of the three tostadas. The shrimp ceviche was my favorite; the shrimp was incredibly fresh and had a light citrus flavor. The tinga was also very good, I loved the combination of the marinated steak and the cotija (as an aside, I've seen many places charge extra for cotija. Angela's included generous servings on several dishes). I enjoyed trying the nopales (cactus), which I'd never had before, but it just wasn't my thing. It was an interesting texture, the outside similar to a pepper or green bean and the inside more like a cucumber.

Shrimp Ceviche

Nopales (Cactus)

Tinga (Beef)

            The two tacos (arabe and al pastor) were the last of the appetizers and probably my two favorites. The arabe was more like a fajita than taco, it was stuffed full of roast pork, onions, and chipotle sauce. It had a great flavor, and wasn’t too spicy. The tacos al pastor were some of the best I’ve had (and as one of my favorite dishes, I try this any place I see it). The pork was tender, juicy, and had just the enough pineapple so that it wasn't overly sweet. It was served traditionally in two corn tortillas, and topped with onion and cilantro.

Al Pastor


          Just as I was finishing the apps, thinking I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, our server arrived with the entrees! I’m not sure how, but I rallied and managed to eat almost my entire plate of chicken mole. It was delicious and the mole sauce was unlike any I’ve had before. It included a mix of dried chiles, nuts, seeds, and sweet chocolate, and according to the menu was cooked over several days. The chocolate gave it a milder flavor so that it wasn't quite as bitter as other moles I’ve tried.

          Despite feeling full before my entrée arrived, I tasted three desserts: traditional flan, mango crepes with chocolate and caramel, and chocolate bread pudding. The flan was by far the group favorite, and some of us agreed the best flan we’ve ever had. The custard was the perfect texture, silky and creamy, and the caramel sauce went perfectly! The crepes were good, although the mango was a bit sweet for my taste. The chocolate, caramel, and coffee ice cream that came with it were less sweet and gave the dish some balance. The chocolate bread pudding was the least favorite, it was much too dense for bread pudding and although the texture was similar to a brownie or flourless cake it lacked the rich chocolaty flavor.



Bread Pudding

          Overall the meal at Angela's was excellent. While there were a couple of dishes I probably wouldn't order again, I enjoyed almost everything I tried. The big winner for the night was definitely the flan, but I would go back for the tacos, chicken mole, and to try a number of entrees that looked great on the menu!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday Tasting At Avila

          I recently attended a Tuesday Tasting event for young professionals at Avila with a couple of friends. We had the chance to try several of their appetizers and wines, and chat with some interesting people. The event was $20, which included three drinks, unlimited passed hors d’oeuvres, and a coupon for a free goat cheese croquette appetizer at a future visit.

          There were two wines to choose from, a red and a white. The white was a chardonnay (Franciscan Estate, Napa Valley) and the red a pinot noir (Estancia, Monterey). I tried and enjoyed both, but the pinot noir was my favorite. It was deep red, medium bodied, had flavors of berries and cherries, and a smooth finish. The chardonnay was on the lighter side, did not have a lot of oak, and tasted of citrus and honey.

          I sampled a good portion of the appetizer menu including shrimp spring rolls, steak spring rolls, falafel with beet yogurt sauce, goat cheese croquettes, and Kobe beef meatballs. The goat cheese croquettes were by far the crowd favorite (and mine)! These were delicious and seemed to go the second they came out of the kitchen. I’m excited to go back and use my coupon for a full order.

          The steak and cheese spring rolls were a close second. These tasted like mini steak sandwiches with a crunch, and the house made ketchup was the perfect accompaniment. I preferred the steak to the shrimp spring rolls, and judging by how quickly they disappeared from the trays (and how we joked about stalking the servers to get them) this seemed to be the general consensus!

          The Kobe meatballs were also very good, and although a meatball isn’t particularly healthy, it was a nice to have one option that wasn’t deep fried. The falafel wasn’t bad, but was less memorable and my least favorite of the night.

          This was my first Tuesday Tasting event, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would be more about the food, but the focus seemed to be the wine and networking. I wished there was a little bit more food, but at $20 it was a good value and I would do it again (but maybe have a light dinner before or after).

Saturday, June 23, 2012


         Catalyst in Cambridge is a new American restaurant in the same neighborhood as MIT, and the atmosphere seems to fit right in. The room has a very modern, NY feel with metallic tones and decorations, and a wide-open kitchen. I was excited to try it and when I sat down and looked at the menu had trouble deciding because everything looked so good.

          Despite being a hundred degrees outside, I ordered the parsnip soup, which is always one of my favorites. I love the flavor of parsnip; it always reminds me of potato but lighter and healthier. This came topped with fresh Jonah crab and swirls of olive oil; it was delicious and a perfect appetizer even in a heat wave.

          I also tried the tortilla crusted soft shell crab. The tortilla batter was a little crunchier than the typical tempura batter soft-shell crab is so often fried in. I like the twist and the flavor of the avocado puree, which was light and airy, and brought some balance to the dish.

          I chose the roasted blue cod as my entrée. The fish was cooked perfectly, crisp on top, and tender and flaky inside. It was served in a bowl over clam chowder, with plenty of clams, potatoes, and bacon. The components of this dish worked really well together, almost like a deconstructed fish chowder. It was a hearty portion, and although I really enjoyed it I had trouble finishing.

          I also sampled the spit-roasted chicken. The meat was tender and juicy; the skin nice and crisp, and the pan drippings gave it a great flavor. The chicken on its own tasted like it could have used a little salt, but was perfect in combination with the mushrooms and onions.

         The dessert menu was tempting but I just couldn’t do it. I would definitely try this place again, and maybe share an app or entrée to leave room for dessert!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sapporo Ramen

          Sapporo ramen is located in the Japanese food court in the porter exchange building at Lesley College. I tried it once about a year ago, and have since tried to go back a few times but they’ve always been closed (they seem to close earlier than the rest of the food court). I recently tried again, walking in around 8:30 on a Friday and not only were they open but there was a small line. It wasn’t so bad, and we ended up being seated in about ten minutes.

          I ordered the spicy miso ramen, which I had been craving since my first visit. It was just as good as I remembered, it had a great flavor and really wasn’t spicy at all. It came loaded with ground pork, noodles, corn, and green vegetables. I tried a few bites of the hot and sour ramen, which was surprisingly spicier than mine. It had more of a peppery flavor than the typical Asian spice, and came with noodles, pork, and tofu. It was also very good but I preferred the spicy miso.


          We also shared an order of pork gyoza and pork buns (we intended them to be an appetizer, but they ended up coming out after the soup). The gyoza was good, but I would've liked them a little crispier. The pork buns were like little sandwiches, the pork was delicious, very tender and topped with some cucumber and hoisin sauce.

          The meal was just as good as I remembered and so far my favorite in the food court, although I have made it my goal to try all of them.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Trina's Starlite Lounge

          Trina's Starlite Lounge is a bar and restaurant in Inman square, with a very small non-descript sign, and seems like the kind of place you might walk right by without noticing if you didn't know it was there. Don't be fooled, they have some of the best drinks and comfort food in the neighborhood and I’m very grateful to my friend who introduced me to this place! I've gone several times for drinks, and the violette hour (a cocktail made from cucumber vodka, lavender, and crème de violette) is addicting. It's light, refreshing, and the perfect summer drink. I tried them recently for dinner for the first time and was equally impressed with the food.

          I ordered the chicken and waffles, one of my favorite southern style dishes. The chicken was perfectly crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The waffle was nice and fluffy, but so big I could only eat half. The side of spicy syrup, was a nice twist, and really brought the whole thing together.

          My friends I ordered several sides to share including the corn bread, cheese fries, and sweet potato bacon hash. The corn bread was my favorite; it was lightly browned on the outside and had pieces of whole corn kernels in it. The cheese fries were good, perfectly crispy and cheesy, but pretty standard. The hash could have been crispier, and I didn't taste much bacon.

          Having tried them for dinner, I would definitely go back for food and drinks! I’d be tempted to order the fried chicken again, but there were so many other things on the menu that looked great. I’m not a hot dog fan, but for those who are - I've heard great things about their hot dog and that they serve some really creative hot dog specials (dog of the day).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Taste of Cambridge 2012

         My friend and I decided to try Taste of Cambridge last minute when we found a deal on VIP tickets, they were $62 marked down from $75. There was a ridiculously long line, but the VIP got us into a separate entrance where we didn’t have to wait (bonus points already). When we walked in, our first impression was SO MUCH FOOD! We’ve both been to plenty of food and wine events, and agreed these were the largest portions we’d ever seen. After the first couple of spots, we decided to start splitting plates so we wouldn’t get too full. Then we realized even that was not enough, and we just wouldn’t be able to try everything. We changed our strategy, and decided to scope out what was there and try the things that interested us most.

          We checked out the places in the main section, and then headed over to the VIP area. We realized a lot of the same restaurants and vendors were in both, but VIP just didn’t have the lines. We noticed that in both areas, the wine pours were just tastes and the beers were full glasses. The VIP area had more craft beers; my favorite was the Jack D’Or from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project an American Saison made from Belgian yeasts. It was light, refreshing, and a perfect summer beer.

          There were also more cocktails with premium liquor like Stoli, but still smaller portions like the ones in the main area. Additional perks of the VIP section included more seating, a live band, a whole pig roast (from Savenor’s Butcher Shop), a deconstructed clam bake from Summer Shack, nearly full sized burgers from Four Burgers (I’m a big fan, but just couldn’t do it), popcorn with caramel drizzled on top, and a few other treats not available in the main area. We decided it was well worth the extra $20 (and would have been worth the extra $25 if we bought our tickets full price).

          The biggest trends of the night seemed to be tacos and sliders. I tried countless versions of these and skipped a few, since I was getting full and wanted to try a variety of things. The two that stood out the most were the Pork Belly sausage and pepper sliders from Grafton Street and the pulled pork tacos from Abigail’s.

          Some of my favorites in the main area that I got to try were:

          Koreana: This place intrigued me for a few reasons. I’ve never really tried Korean food, I’ve heard great things about this place, and it was the only one in the main section with a line up the street. They were serving Kimchi, white rice, scallion pancakes, noodles with vegetables, and beef short ribs in a soy marinade.

          Tommy Doyle’s: They had chicken wings and alligator. The pieces of alligator looked like little chicken wings; I tried one just because I’d never had alligator before. It was grilled with a curry rub, and tasted very similar to chicken but a little bit meatier.

          Bukowski’s: They were serving mini steak sandwiches (and by mini I mean half a full size sub) with their white trash cheese dip. I love Bukowski’s, it’s my favorite place to go for a good beer, and I have always wanted to try the white trash cheese dip. But it sounds really unhealthy, and I’ve always felt guilty or been embarrassed to order it in front of anyone. This gave me the chance, to try it in a smaller portion, and is just as good as I thought it would be!

          Cinderella’s: This is a place I used to go late night in Central Square, but hadn’t been in years. I used to always order the cheese tortellini alfredo, and last night they were serving a variation on this with prosciutto in it. It was just as good as I rememberred, and I got to try some of their other dishes like chicken broccoli alfredo. I was excited they participated, it reminded me of how much I like the food and to go back more.

          Legal Seafood: Ok, this wasn’t actually trying something new since I’ve had the clam chowder about a hundred times. But, it’s my favorite chowder in Boston, and they were giving out full size servings.

          About fifteen minutes before it ended, we left, admitting defeat. We were stuffed, to the point that sixteen hours later I’m still not hungry! For the past several years we’ve been mourning the end of our former favorite food and wine event, Tour De Champagne. We decided this might be the one to finally take its place, and will definitely be back next year!