Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Besito Mexican

          Besito Mexican, the authentic Mexican restaurant venture from highly-acclaimed restaurateur John Tunney III, recently opened the first of its two MA locations in the Burlington Mall. Translated as “little kiss,” Besito Mexican’s cuisine is prepared carefully and with great affection for Mexican tradition and served to guests in a vibrant, intimate atmosphere. Prior to opening his first Besito Mexican location in 2006, Tunney traveled extensively throughout Mexico establishing a connection with its people and cuisine. Tunney knew then that he was embarking on something special: a chance to celebrate not just Mexican food but the Mexican culture.

          With a focus on fresh, authentic and house made ingredients, Besito Mexican offers a diverse menu that showcases an intimate knowledge of traditional cuisine. The menu was developed by Executive Chef Carlos Arellano, whose culinary journey began at the age of 12 while working at his family’s Mexico City cevicheria, and Executive Chef Scott Wojcik, who helms the original store in New York. The kitchen brings to life Mexican classics that are sure to satisfy the taste buds of connoisseurs and selective eaters, alike.

          I recently had the opportunity to try the newly opened Burlington location, and had a fantastic meal.  The space felt upscale, yet warm and inviting.

          The drink menu includes 75 tequilas alongside a well-rounded selection of cervezas, sangria and creative cocktails. The tequila menu includes a wide range of tequilas from the unaged Blancos, to the more refined Reposados all the way to Anejos and Extra Anejos which can be aged over five years. Several flights of three Tequilas (all different styles) were also available. In addition to the extensive tequila collection, the restaurant also offers smoky Mezcals, traditional Mexican beers, such as Corona and Nedro Modelo, as well as a selection of their favorite red, white and sparkling wines from the United States, Spain and South America. I went with the Partida Natural Margarita with agave nectar and quite enjoyed it.

           The bf and I started with some apps to share including tableside guacamole and taquitos de camarones: soft tacos with crispy shrimp, chipotle cream salsa, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and cilantro. Both were delicious, and I appreciated the guacamole preparation with plenty of fresh tomato and red onion and not too much lime juice. The warm chips and fresh salsa were also delicious.

          I ordered one of my usual favorites, tacos al pastor as my entree. The pork was delicious, charred on the outside but still tender and flavorful. This was a huge portion, but somehow I managed to eat every bite.

          I stole a few bites of the bf's carnitas with black bean jalepeno salsa, salsa molcajete, bacon, queso fresco, onions, and cilantro. I enjoyed this dish even though I'm not usually crazy about mole. 

          Although our entrees came with unlimited rice and beans we had to try the tamale de elote (corn tamale) and elotes de la calle (grilled corn topped lime, chile, and cheese). I couldn't pick a favorite and would order both of these again.

          We were too full for dessert, but when our server brought over two churros to go we immediately dived into and finished them at the table. 

          At the end of each meal they also give you a tiny doll to place under your pillow to make all of your bad dreams go away.

          I loved my meal at Besito and definitely plan to go back - next time I'll take the advice of a fellow blogger and order dessert first!

Besito on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Red Bird

          Last night I headed to the old neighborhood in Waltham to check out Red Bird, which just opened a couple of weeks ago by Chef Daniel Stokes, an alum of the Franklin Café and protegee of Franklin Chef / Owner Dave DuBois. I'm a big fan of The Franklin in Southie, so I was excited to try it! We started with a couple of apps, which were both delicious.

Grilled Peaches
Marcona Almonds, Goat Cheese,
Greens, Brown Butter

Fried Ipswich Clam Strips
Coriander Aioli, Flash
Fried Herbs, Lemon

          I ordered the chicken confit as an entree, which was a bone in chicken thigh served over gnocchi with a delicious savory sauce. I loved the torn potatoes (almost like potato skins), especially dipped in the broth from the chicken. The bf enjoyed his sticky pork ribs and watermelon.

Chicken Confit
Escarole, Potato Gnocchi, Apricot
& Cherry Mostarda

Torn and Fried Potatoes

Sticky Pork Ribs
Chili-Garlic Sauce, Watermelon

          For dessert we shared the vanilla mousse with marinated peaches and peach sorbet. It was a nice light dessert, and a perfect way to end the meal.

Vanilla Mousse
Macerated Peaches, Peach Sorbet,
Pistachio Macarons

          Overall the meal at Red Bird was excellent, and exactly what I would have expected based on my experiences at The Franklin. It's well worth the short drive to Waltham, and I will definitley be back.

 Red Bird on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Intro to Seafood Sustainability

          If you read my announcement recently, you know that I’ve teamed up with some other amazing local bloggers to form the SSBA, a forum to spread the word about sustainable seafood. Through weekly blog posts we'll educate and provide consumers with information and tools to shop for and consume seafood responsibly.

Check out some of our first posts:

Why Am I Doing This?

         I’ve blogged for the Boston Local Food Festival for several years and covered sustainability in my articles on their site. I’ve touched on some of these issues here in this blog and I'm excited to focus on them in more detail (in addition of course to my normal restaurant reviews and other food and wine posts!) Starting this week I'll post at least one in depth article a week and my regular day will be Friday. I've included an excerpt from the SSBA page below so you can see what I mean by sustainability.

About Seafood Sustainability

          “By 2050, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion people, requiring the production of twice as much food as we currently consume.  Assuring food security will require improvements in farming methods, new technologies and superior stewardship of finite natural resources.  Seafood will play a vital role in a healthier future if wild fisheries can be managed well and best practices prevail in the aquaculture industry, a goal shared by many stakeholders in conservation and the food industry.  Today, aquaculture provides roughly 50% of seafood, expected to rise to 67% by 2050.  When consumers know the facts, we are convinced that they will embrace the ideas and spirit behind “Sustainable Seafood” and begin actively to search out producers of authentic, quality, responsible seafood products”

          While most industry experts agree that sustainability means consuming both farm raised and wild caught seafood responsibly, much of the information available in the mass media tells a different story. Many health advocates still decry the dangers of eating farm-raised fish like salmon. But, if we don’t eat farm-raised fish we’ll quickly deplete our natural supply and add to the ever-growing list of endangered species. The answer is not ignoring the farm raised fish altogether but rather finding farms that use good practices and raise fish as close to their natural environment as possible. We read about farms that produce only organic, natural, grass fed beef all the time, so why is there so little attention around seafood farms with similar practices? There are organizations that certify seafood farms that adhere to these high standards, and shops and restaurants committed to using them. So why does there seem to be so little information readily available (and easy to find) for consumers? Additionally, not all wild fish are endangered and not all sourcing methods are harmful. How can the average person make informed decisions while at the grocery store or out to dinner?

          I plan to cover topics such as healthy and sustainable farming methods, where to shop for sustainable seafood, key words to look for, questions to ask, recipe ideas, restaurant reviews, book reviews, and more. Check back here and my fellow SSBA members' pages for our weekly posts on all of these topics and more!

Up Next Week: A Review of Good Fish by Becky Selengut

What do you want to know about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brunch at Boston Chops

          Last weekend I headed to the South End for brunch with the Boston Brunchers at Boston Chops. I'd been for dinner before and was excited to check out the brunch menu. In true brunchers fashion we started out with several apps to share including oysters, donuts, and sticky buns.

          When these came out, I was glad to see the portions weren't huge. There are so many places with brunch appetizers so big you can't eat your entree. I usually want to try several things but don't because I know the portions will be so large. These were perfect to share, and I absolutely loved both the donuts (more like churros) with chocolate sauce and sticky buns with caramel and pecans. Another personal favorite is when brunch menus include a raw bar. Boston Chops had a nice selection including Island Creek Oysters with a house made mignonette.

          Our server (a gastronomy student at BU) was extremely excited and knowledgeable about the menu. When she said the maple bourbon cocktail was a must try, I knew I had to get it. She was spot on, and it paired perfectly wih some of the entrees that came out later in the meal.

          I ordered the fried chicken, which came with two boneless tenderloins (all white meat) battered and deep fried. There were tiny buttermilk biscuits on the side, and the whole thing was topped with sawmill gravy, with some red pepper jam on the plate. The bourbon and maple was perfect with the fried chicken, as well as the bite of French toast I tried from another blogger (not pictured).

          Some of my fellow brunchers ordered the heuvos rancheros and the turkey sandwhich with bacon, mornay sauce, and a fried egg. Our server had described the sandwhich as the best turkey sandwhich she'd ever had, and the two who tried it said it was delicious and incredibly rich. They had trouble finishing. 

          Overall this was one of the best brunches I've had in awhile, from the food to the service and creative cocktails. I would definitely go back and try something new like the croque Monsieur or hash with beef tongue. Thanks to the Boston Brunchers and chops for hosting!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Martin Codax Wine Dinner at Row 34

          Last week I had the chance to attend a dinner at Row 34 hosted by the Spanish Wine Maker Bodegas Martin Codax. Bodegas Martín Códax was founded in 1986 and named after a Galician troubadour and poet. The winery was originally set up by 270 members, and relies on the collaboration of 300 families to supply grapes. As a big family, they work together to ensure their wines have the highest possible quality while also focusing the environment and reducing its carbon footprint. Promoting sustainability is an objective for all of the winery staff, making this a priority of all the members of the enterprise. 

          At the wine dinner, we sampled the 2012 Albariño which the tasting notes describe as

          "...delicate and medium bodied with a crisp, dry finish. Flavors of ripe apple, peach, pear and lemon zest are framed by bright minerality and hints of spice. This Albariño displays intense floral aromas and an attractive acidity, making it a versatile, food friendly wine.

          Albariño is generally intended to be enjoyed young within a year or two after harvest. For the perfect food pairing, try a glass of Martín Códax Albariño with seasonal shellfish. Due to its bright minerality and lively acidity, the wine lends itself perfectly to seafood fare and cuisine that is a mainstay of the Rías Baixas region where Albariño is grown."

           The description was spot on, and the Albariño was a perfect pairing with all of the dishes we tried including oysters on the half shell, ceviche, bass crudo, and butter poached lobster. It even went well with the pound cake for dessert!

          Row 34 is one of my favorite seafood restaurants, and while I've asked for wine recommendations in the past the Albariño could definitely be my new go to. At an average of $15 suggested retail it would be affordable even with the standard markup, and pair with just about everything on the menu!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chopps American Bar and Grill

          Last weekend Blog and Tweet Boston headed to Chopps American Bar and Grill, a recently opened high end restaurant in the Marriot Hotel. Chopps is a modern Chophouse serving inspired American cooking including a variety of succulent cuts of all natural beef, fresh local seafood, and regional dishes created jointly by nationally acclaimed Consulting Chef Daniel Bruce and Chef de Cuisine David Verdo.

          We started in the lounge sipping champagne while we waited for everyone to arrive, and then moved to a table with a perfect view of the kitchen. The decorations were quite impressive.

          Several of the Managers and Chefs came over to welcome us, and they brought a sampling of appetizers and small plates. I would order any of the dishes again, but I think the tuna tartare and fried scallops and shrimp were my two favorites.

Maine Lobster Salad, Tarragon Aioli

Melon and Prosciutto, Arugula, Chili Oil, Hazelnuts, Balsamic

Flash Fried Scallops and Shrimp, Lime Tartar Sauce

Lamb Lollichopps, Yogurt, Cucumber, Lemon Tzatziki

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, White Soy, Ginger, Crispy Wontons

          The next round of dishes included a mix of seafood and vegetarian options. I normally tend to order steak in a steakhouse, but Chopps might be the exception. I couldn't stop eating the Cod and Sesame Soba Noodles, despite all of the food I knew we had coming.

East Coast Halibut, Shimiji Mushroom, Carrot, Pea Shoots, Lemongrass Broth

Sesame Soba Noodles, Thai Basil, Heirloom Tomatos, Ginger Soy

Line Caught Cod, Fingerlings, Corn Puree
          Next were several of the steaks and Chopps from the menu along with some of the a la carte side dishes. The flatiron steak was perfectly seared and tender and the bone in delmonico was incredibly flavorful. I loved the fried artichoke side dish, but the group favorite was the housemade tots (insert Napoleon Dynamite joke).

Crispy Artichoke

14 Ounce Delmonico, Pineland Farms ME

10 Ounce Flat Iron Steak, Pineland Farms ME

Roasted Fingerlings

Housemade Tater Tots
          We ended on a sweet note with a sampling of desserts, and even sweeter - a signed copy of Chef Bruce's cookbook to take home. All of the recipes are two pot and take 45 minutes or less to cook. I can't wait to try them! 

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp


Lemon Meringue Tart

          Thanks to Chopps for hosting such a fantastic meal. I definitely plan to come back soon!

Chopps American Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon