Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of 2013

          In June 2012 I rated my top ten restaurants in and around Boston. I meant it to be a New Year's post in 2011 but sometimes I procrastinate. This year I'm more on top of things, but as I was compiling the list I realized just how many amazing new places I tried this year. Rather than trying to pick and choose between new and old favorites, I decided to change it up a little and rate the top ten NEW (to me) restaurants of 2013. In no (alphabetical) order:

Asta: One of the best tasting menus I've tried, and possibly the most underrated new restaurant in Boston. All of the dishes were creative, and beautifully presented like the signature dish "After the Storm" Read the full review here

Brownyn: The only high end German restaurant in Boston with classics like pierogies, potato pancakes, spaetzle, and an amazing beer selection. Read the full review here

Giulia: I went here with the bf for Valentine's Day, and it was the perfect date spot. Some of the best authentic Italian in the city, with a fantastic wine list, and the veal sweetbread ravioli are a must try! Read the full review here

Journeyman: This high end restaurant tucked away down a side street in Somerville serves up inventive dishes like borscht and rabbit three ways. Read the full review here

Kirkland Tap and Trotter: Fans of Craigie on Main will not be disappointed by Tony Maw's more casual neighborhood joint. The menu includes familiar items like the burger, plenty of offal, and pates. Read the full review here

Ostra: The newest on the list, and where I chose to celebrate my birthday this year! This is one of the few restaurants in Boston with full caviar service and an amazing crudo selection. Read the full review here

Puritan & Company: A new restaurant in Inman Square, they had me at Bone Marrow Gratin, but the rest of the meal was just as amazing! Read the full review here

Sycamore (Newton): Finally city-quality dining in the suburbs! The lamb board for two with four preparations of lamb was amazing! Read the full review here

Taqueria el Amigo (Waltham): One of the best kept secrets in the Boston area; this hole in the wall in Waltham has the best most authentic tacos around.  Read the full review here

West Bridge: The soft poached egg in a jar with crispy skin, potatoes, and mushrooms was like a little piece of heaven. Read the full review here

Saturday, December 28, 2013


          I tried Catalyst a while back when they first opened, but recently tried them for a second time and was even more impressed!

          I started with a salad of roasted heirloom beets with manchego croutons, quince jam, and marcona almond vinaigrette. The beets were delicious, but the manchego croutons (fried cubes of manchego cheese) may have been my favorite part of the dish! I enjoyed the Spanish influence with the manchego and marcona almonds, and this felt a bit like going out for tapas.

          For a mid course, the bf and i shared the kabocha squash ravioli, with spinach, almond, brown butter, and asiago. Kabocha squash isn't common around here, but has a great rich flavor and texture. The pairing with the brown butter sauce was perfect.

          For my main course I tried the tournedos of beef, two twin filets served with  creamed kale, bacon, roasted shallot, foie gras butter, and black truffle sauce. I loved everything about this dish, with bacon, foie gras, and truffles, how can you go wrong?? I also really loved the idea of creamed kale, which is so much better than creamed spinach!

          For dessert we shared the milk chocolate custard with praline chocolate crunch, coffee caramel, and hazelnut tuile. I thought I was full, but somehow found room to eat my share and it was well worth it!

          Overall I had a great meal at Catalyst, and enjoyed the creativity and unique combinations of flavors in all of the dishes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Celebrating the Food and Culture of Japan with Ming Tsai

          I've never had dinner at Blue Ginger, but it's been on my list for years. So naturally I was thrilled to receive an invite to a special Cocktail Party in celebration of the first six episodes of Simply Ming recently shot on the road in Japan. Chef Ming attended along with Boston's Consulate-General of Japan. It was a fun evening with tons of delicious food, sake samples and more.

          We started with samples of several types of Evoluzione Sake which progressed from dry to more sweet and fruity. My favorites were the sweeter varieties, and I loved the Yuzu flavored.

          There were also passed hors d'ouvres including fois gras shumai in a sauternes-shallot broth and a smashed shrimp dumpling in a citrus-truffle vinaigrette. My favorite was the fois gras shumai, which was bursting with rich flavor.

          We had the opportunity to mingle with the other guests and Ming Tsai himself, before previewing a special sizzle reel of the 6 episodes of Simply Ming in Japan. This was followed by a talk from Chef Ming, with the opportunity for Q&A.

          While we watched and listened we were able to sample even more delicious dishes created on the road.

New Style Buri Sashimi with Hot Curry Oil
Miso_Sake Coq au Vin
Sake-Miso Marinated Butterfish, Soba Noodle Sushi, Wasabi Oil, Soy-Lime Syrup
Thai Style Chawan Mushi, Lobster, Mushrooms
Toasted Sesame Pear Tea Cake, Miso Caramel, Sweet Cream
          It was so much fun, and now I'm definitely going to make it a point to try Blue Ginger soon. Although they generally keep the restaurant menu separate from dishes on the show, the butter fish is a staple and should not be missed!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mei Mei

          I was craving late breakfast one Saturday in town, and decided to check out the new Mei Mei restaurant in Kenmore. I'm a huge fan of the food truck (read my post here), but haven't had my double awesome fix since moving out of Boston.

          The restaurant is fairly small with only a handful of tables, but plenty there is plenty of counter space to sit down and enjoy your meal. The menu is written on a chalkboard (similar to the truck) and includes most of the food truck standards including the double awesome, rice porridge, magical kale salad, and daily dumpling selection.

         There were some new items that sounded tempting, but I had my heart set on the double awesome: a scallion pancake sandwich, stuffed with two slow poached then fried eggs, housemade pesto, and white cheddar cheese. It was just as awesome as always, but much easier to eat sitting down. The pancake is thick, but light and flaky like a crepe. The eggs are runny and no matter how you eat it, it will be messy. I don't mind this, however, I like eating the second half of the sandwich with egg yolk from the first half all over it.

          While part of the fun of eating Asian street food can be trying to catch the truck, now that I don't live near a regular stop I prefer the convenience of the stand alone location. I will definitely be back.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wine Expo Discount Code

          If you read my 2014 Boston Wine Expo preview you know that I'll be offering special deals and discounts from now until the expo. I have a new offer just in time for the holidays! Use the code HOLIDAY13 for a $10 off the Saturday or Sunday Grand Tasting (valid until 12/24).
Several new events and features for the expo have just been announced including:
  • New chefs on the demonstration stage including Ming Tsai, Jody Adams, Barbara Lynch, Daniel Bruce and more.

  • Information on exhibitors and their products, with the ability to search for keyword, interest or country and locate them live on the show floor.

  • Additional seminars (with even more being added soon) including the "one Hour Wine Expert" with Kevin Zraly, the Terroir of Chile with Elizabeth Butler of Viña Mayu and Jake Pippin of Vine Connections, and Dave Willis, head of distilling at Boston's Bully Boy Distillers will talk about craft distilling and sample Bully Boy's award-winning spirits.

Friday, December 13, 2013


          Last weekend I was debating where to go to celebrate my birthday dinner, and was excited to learn that Ostra had opened earlier in the week. This made my decision easy! Ostra is a high end seafood restaurant occupying the former Avila space in Park Plaza. It's the newest addition to Columbus Hospitality Group (the restaurant group that owns several restaurants in Boston including Mistral, Mooo, and Sorellina). As a fan of all of their other restaurants, I couldn't wait to try Ostra.

          The menu is laid out into several sections including shellfish, rawfish, slightly cooked, hot appetizers, and main courses. You could easily do a tapas style meal with smaller plates, or a more traditional style with the larger entrees. We did a little of both, and started with several of the raw and slightly cooked options.

          Our first course was a selection of two East Coast oysters. Even if you're not familiar with oysters, the menu is progressive (briny to smooth) and easy to navigate. We chose the briniest two options, RI East Beach Blondes and Cape Cod Cotuit Bay. All selections are accompanied by house made Horseradish Cocktail, Lemon, Sparkling Mignonette, and Tabasco. I enjoyed the flavor of both, and appreciated the unique presentation.

          For the second course we shared two of the raw options: smoked salmon tartare with creme fresh and caviar and yellowfin tuna carpaccio with olives and jalepeno. Both were delicious, and tied for my favorite dishes that evening.

          The third course was the bf's favorite, a joanh crab salad with Dijonnaise, Cucumber-Jalapeño Sorbet. The combination of flavors and beautiful presentation were equally impressive.

          We Shared the salt crusted branzino for two as our main course. This was filleted tableside and served with lemon, olive oil, and roasted vegetables. The fish simply melted in your mouth.

          Dessert is the one thing we don't share well, since I always go for chocolate and he goes for fruit. Sometimes we compromise, but tonight we each got our own. I loved the chocolate hazelnut creameux with popcorn ice cream, salted caramel, and pop rocks chocolate. The bf equally enjoyed his baked apple with crumble, cider caramel, brown butter ice cream.

          The meal at Ostra was fantastic, and I would definitely go back. It's a great addition to the neighborhood and city, since there are so few restaurants that focus on high end seafood and offer traditional caviar service.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


          I used to work next door to the former Nebo, and it was a regular spot for pizza and wine. I recently went in to check out the new location with some friends, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the menu had expanded in addition to the space.

          We started with the arancini stuffed with mozzarella and porcini mushrooms. I always love arancini and the contrast of the crisp coating coupled with the warm gooey risotto inside. The addition of honey drizzled on the outside made them even better.

          Since I'd tried many of the pizzas at the old location, I decided to do something different and went with one of the pasta dishes (Spaghettini alle vongole) as my main course. Both the clams and pasta were extremely fresh, and the dish was surprisingly light.

          My friends also enjoyed their entrees the Branzino (whole grilled sea bass) and zucchini lasagna. 

          We all enjoyed our meal, and I thought both the space and menu were nicely upgraded from the old location. It's definitely worth checking out!

Nebo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New China Pearl in Woburn

          I recently tried New China Pearl in Woburn for dim sum, and had the true Chinatown experience without having to deal with the Chinatown parking and crowds. The place was huge and they served all of the standard dishes including several types of dumplings, chicken feet, sticky rice, etc. Here's a sampling of my picks:

Roast Duck
Beef Rice Noodles
Roast Pork Buns
Taro Stuffed with Pork
Steamed Shrimp Dumpling
Shu Mai
          New China Pearl was as good as most of my regular spots in Chinatown, and they served all of my favorites including, clams and black bean sauce, roasted duck and taro shrimp. Dim sum for four was around $70 and definitely ordered more than we could eat. If you live outside the city, this is more convenient than Chinatown and I would definitely go back.

New China Pearl Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cooking Classes at Rialto

          Love Rialto? You can learn how to make your favorite dishes at home, with cooking classes led by Chef Jody Adams on Sunday mornings! I recently attended the class on non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and got some great ideas and recipes just in time the holidays. Here's a recap of the class, and what you can expect.

          The morning begins with coffee and fresh baked scones in Rialto's Lounge lounge. These were the perfect treat to wet your appetite for the rest of Jody's delicious dishes!

          Next we headed into the main dining room to watch Jody's demonstration. We were all given recipe packets to follow along and take notes. Jody was great! So funny and personable, and she makes complicated recipes seem simple by breaking them down into smaller more manageable steps. She had some great tips, including the proper way to cut a pomegranate without making a mess and where to buy pasta sheets if you don't want to make your own from scratch (Dave's in Somerville)!

          Class also includes a three course lunch complete with wine pairings. The first course, Scallop Crudo with pumpkin seed oil, pomegranate and apple cider vinegar was served during the demo. It was just a taste of a single scallop, but it was so good I could have easily eaten a whole plate of them!

          We sat down in a private dining room for the final two courses, and while we ate Jody came around and chatted with everyone.
Squash Tortelloni Pizzocheri with Bacon

Quail with fried bread stuffing, peppers and eggplant
          I really enjoyed the class and would love to take another! It's a fun thing to do on a Sunday with girlfriends, or would make a great date!

          Classes are $125 - $150 with a 20% discount for students. A portion of the proceeds go toward the Rialto Restaurant Scholarship offered yearly at the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School. To request any information on upcoming classes or to make a reservation email jacki@rialto or call 617-234-8025.