Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life Alive

          I’m not a vegetarian and most of the time I don’t even go for the healthy choice on the menu (no matter how much I say I well when I check it out online in advance)! But, after hearing so many great things about Life Alive in Central Square (from vegetarians and non) I decided to check it out.

          When you walk in there are plants everywhere, and shelves of fresh fruit and vegetables. I noticed right away the big selection of homemade juices and was disappointed that they were unavailable (the juicer was broken that day).



          There was a little bit of a line, and I was ok with that because it gave me a chance to read the menu thoroughly and decide what to try. Several of the friends I was with recommended The Adventurer, but I decided to play it a little safe and ordered the Swami with tofu because it sounded similar to some of the Thai curry dishes I know I like.


          The swami came with brown rice, miso curry sauce, broccoli, carrots, raisins, and almonds, and I added tofu. The flavors were delicious together, I loved the curry sauce, and all of the vegetables were cooked perfectly! The almonds had kind of a smoky flavor, and were sliced thin to give it just the right amount of crunch. I also tried a bite of the rebel (with avocado) and while I liked the combination of the ginger and beets, the swami was my favorite.



          I was surprised at how much I liked this place, and how many dishes sounded appealing to me. At first I thought I might just be going for the novelty and to see what all of the hype was about, but I’m excited to go back and try other dishes (and the fresh squeezed juices)!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Taco Truck

          After hearing about it on facebook and twitter for the past month or so, I spotted the taco truck in Copley Square the other day and decided to give it a try.

         At first I thought the prices were a little high, $4-$5 each, but then I realized that was the price for two tacos (about the same as the New Haven taco places and the authentic restaurants in East Boston). I was a little disappointed they wouldn’t let me order one each of chicken, barbacoa (beef), and carnitas (pork) but I went with the barbacoa and the carnitas and decided I would just have to go back for the chicken.


          While I was waiting for my tacos (they’re all cooked fresh to order) I read the takeout menu and side of the truck, and was surprised to learn that all of the meats are vegetarian fed with no antibiotics or hormones. This is impressive, given that the prices aren’t much higher than competitors who certainly don’t use the same quality ingredients or have the commitment to sustainability.


          When my tacos were ready I ate them right there while they were hot, and they were delicious. Both the carnitas and the barbacoa were cooked perfectly and very flavorful. The barbacoa, which was a little bit spicier, was my favorite.

Barbacoa

Carnitas

          This was a quick, cheap, and tasty meal and if I spot the truck again I will definitely try the chicken tacos (and possibly some of the other options). I’ve also heard they plan to open a brick and mortar location at some point, when they do I plan to check it out!

 The Taco Truck on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oishii

          Oishii is one of my favorite sushi places in Boston. I’ve been several time to both the larger restaurant in the South End and the tiny sushi bar in Chestnut Hill. The fish is always the highest quality, and they have a mix of high end gourmet style sushi (accented with truffles, caviar, and gold flakes) and basic sushi, sashimi, and rolls.

The following are some of my favorites and highlights from a couple of recent visits:

Chef’s Special Sushi and Sashimi

          The options change daily, but are always fresh, high quality, and include a variety of standard and not so standard types of fish. Our server explained they are always prepared with very few accompaniments to showcase the fresh, clean flavors of the fish. When I tried them the sushi included: Tuna, Sockeye Salmon, Striped Mackerel, and Aji with lime and the sashimi included: King Salmon, Tuna, Toro, Kampachi, and Geoduck. My favorites were the King Salmon and Toro sashimi, and the Aji sushi.



White Salmon Sashimi with Truffles

          A white Salmon sashimi special, covered with shaved truffles! This was delicious, fresh, and an extremely generous portion of truffles.


Toro Tartare

          Oishii has several preparations of Toro on the menu, and they are creative enough (and different enough from each other) that you can order them all in one meal without being bored. Although the Toro and caviar in this dish were both outstanding, the most impressive part might be the presentation – it comes out on a giant block of ice!


Otoro Sashimi

          I absolutely love this dish! This is possibly my favorite at Oishii, and one of the best sushi preparations in Boston. The shaved truffles and creamy risotto are delicious with the Toro.


Seared Otoro Sashimi

          Searing Toro makes it even better if it's done right, and Oishii does it perfectly. They sear the fish just a little on the outside to give it that charred smoky flavor, but it is still raw / rare on the inside. The caviar and gold flakes are just the right finishing touch.


         I could go on and on! There are plenty of other great options on the menu, and there is quite a bit of variety. I tend to stick with my favorites (where you can’t really go wrong): salmon, tuna, truffles and caviar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Food Court at Super 88

          The food court at the super 88 is a bit of a hidden jewel and a mini Chinatown located within an Asian grocery store in Allston. I discovered it on yelp when searching for new dim sum places, and found a restaurant that serves dim sum all day (Dim Sum Chef) plus several others including Asian BBQ, Korean, and Indian. I recently went with another foodie, tried a sampling of several different places, and had a great meal.

 

          We started with Kantin (the BBQ place) and tried a roast quarter duck and full rack of ribs. Although they weren’t hot, they were both very good. The duck was falling-off-the-bone tender and the ribs were sweet and flavorful.



          Next, we tried Dim Sum Chef and agreed this was our favorite. The food was standard dim sum fare, but hotter and fresher than some of our regular dim sum restaurants where the food has often been sitting out on a cart. The taro shrimp was my favorite, although the short rib rice rolls with fork tender beef and roasted carrots were also very good and reminded me of my mom’s beef stew.

 


          We ordered some vegetable noodles from the Korean place, but were so full we barely took a bite each and didn’t even get a picture. We left satisfied at trying half of the places on our first visit and a plan to try the other half next time!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wine Review: Da Vinci Chianti


          Chianti is a Tuscan red wine, made primarily from the Sangiovese grape. It is typically medium in body, acidity and tannins, tends to have aromas of berry, leather, and tobacco, and pairs well with meats and pasta.

          I discovered Da Vinci Chianti at my local Shaw’s, when I was looking for a bottle of red to have with my steak. The Da Vinci caught my eye, and after reading the description I decided to try it. I ended up really liking it, and it’s become one of my go to reds when I want something good and reasonably priced (it’s $14 a bottle at Shaw’s and often marked down to $11-$12). I’ve brought it to several dinner parties, and it’s always been a hit.

         The Da Vinci Chianti is a little bit lighter and smoother than some Chiantis I’ve had, but still has the typical flavors of berries (I get cherries) and the peppery finish. I’ve enjoyed it with steak, roast beef, and pasta, and have heard that it’s also great with salmon. It’s consistently ranked in the high eighties by wine spectator, and I’ve heard they make a great reserve Chianti as well!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Common Ground

          I recently had the opportunity to attend my first event with the Boston Brunchers at Common Ground in Allston (in the interest of full disclosure, this event was free to us but that in no way influenced this review). I'd heard of Common Ground but had never been and until brunch, I always thought it was more of a bar. After reading the description of the food on the brunchers invite, I was excited to try it!

          When I walked in, I was greeted by several staff members who were all extremely friendly and nice. Once we were seated, the owner came out and welcomed us personally, explaining what was included (the full buffet plus house made bacon, bananas foster French toast, and one cocktail). The Chef even came out toward the end to talk to us about some of the food. We learned that the only item not homemade was the turkey bacon, and that everything else (including condiments and granola) is made in house.


          The buffet included a ton of food: eggs, bacon, sausage, roast beef, muffins, fruit, and much more. I loaded my plate, and tried to get at least a small bite of everything. My favorite items from the buffet were the corned beef hash, sausage, and chocolate chip muffin.



          The corned beef hash was some of the best I've ever had. It was delicious, and this is something I normally like. Unlike the hash I’m used to, with ground corned beef and tiny potatoes, this one had large slices of fresh corned beef mixed with chunks of roasted potatoes, onions, and peppers.


          The house made sausage was also very good. It tasted fresh, had just the right amount of seasoning, and was the thickest sausage patty I've had. These were more like mini pork burgers without a bun.

          The chocolate chip muffin was a group favorite. I didn't take one at first because my plate was so full, but after hearing the other bloggers rave about it I had to try one! It was crisp and sugary on the top and incredibly light and moist on the inside, with the perfect chocolate to muffin ratio.


          The bananas foster french toast and home made bacon were two dishes not on the buffet, and were also group favorites. The french toast was a cinnamon raisin bread, topped with caramelized bananas and fresh fruit. The bacon was a plate of chopped slab bacon, similar to pork belly with a crispy top and tender layer of meat (and fat) on the bottom.




          Although I only tried one drink (the mimosa), it looked like they had a great selection. One of the bloggers tried the shake of the day, which included peach ice cream and vodka. This is something I would definitely like to try when I go back.


         Overall the meal at Common Ground was excellent and a really fun way to spend a Sunday morning. I got to meet some great new people, chat with other bloggers, learn about a great new restaurant, and for once not be the only one at the table taking pictures of my food!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Neptune Oyster

          Neptune Oyster is a tiny restaurant in the North End, known for its hot buttered lobster roll and the notoriously long wait to get in. I’d been once a few years ago, after trying my luck walking in at 5pm on a Monday night. I had a great experience and since tried to go several times, but found that every time I went there seemed to be a 2-3 hour wait.

          Recently, some friends from out of town were visiting and wanted to try Neptune after reading several reviews. There were four of us, so we planned to go at 4:30pm on a Wednesday and hope the wait wouldn’t be too long. When we arrived, four spots (together) at the bar had just opened up. This was incredibly lucky; we watched a line form shortly after we were seated.

          We started with some oysters and prosecco while looking at the menu. We tried two each of the Wellfleet, kumomoto, Island Creek, and Barnstable and then each ordered a couple more of our favorites. My favorites are always kumomoto, but I enjoyed everything we tried. The Wellfleet were small and a very smooth, the Barnstable were much larger and brinier, and the Island Creek fell somewhere in between.


          Next, we shared several appetizers. They were all delicious, but my favorite was the buttermilk johnny cake. I’d tried this during my first visit to Neptune and have had cravings for it ever since! It’s essentially a giant pancake topped with honey butter, smoked trout tartare, and caviar. The flavors all work really well together, and I love the creative twist on the traditional caviar and blini.


          The Neptunes on Piggyback were another favorite and close second. These were fried oysters paired with pulled pork, golden raisins, mixed greens, and pistachio aioli all served on top of a grilled crostini.


          We also enjoyed the Hamachi Ceviche: fresh sliced Hamachi marinated with jalapeƱo, tomatillo, and cilantro, and steamed littlenecks in a white wine broth with grilled crostini.



          After the apps, we were almost too full for dinner but decided to share an entree: the seared Georges Bank scallops. This dish consisted of four large scallops seared perfectly on the outside and rare on the inside, served with duck confit, Brussels sprouts, greens, and Maytag blue cheese. This was outstanding, and a perfect ending to a great meal!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Belle Isle

          Over the weekend, I had a chance to try Belle Isle seafood in East Boston: a clam shack with some of the best seafood in the city. Until trying Belle Isle, I didn’t realize spots like this existed in Boston and had always traveled to the Cape to for this type of thing.


          We arrived around 1pm on a Sunday, and the line was almost out the door. It was shorter than it sounds since the place is so tiny, and I didn’t mind because it gave me some time to decide on my order. I finally decided on the clam chowder and lobster pie, and we shared a side of fried clams.

          The clam chowder was the perfect consistency, not too thick or thin. It was so full of clams, I only ate half for fear of not being able to enjoy the rest of my food.


          The fried clams were possibly the most impressive of the dishes that day. They were the biggest I’ve ever seen, and incredibly fresh and tasty.



          The lobster pie rivaled the clams, and was essentially a pound of cooked lobster baked with breadcrumbs, and served with a side of drawn butter. I had originally decided on the baked stuffed lobster, but the guy at the counter talked me into the pie and I was glad he did!


          I left Belle Isle completely stuffed, with a mental list of additional items to try when I go back. They also sell fresh fish, stuffed clams, and seafood casseroles to go and if I hadn't been on my way out for the afternoon I would've brought some home for dinner.