Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gourmet Dumpling House

          When people ask me for recommendations in Chinatown, this Gourmet Dumpling House is always on my list with one caveat- go at a weird time or be prepared to wait in line! This place is small and insanely popular, with good reason. They have a good selection of dumplings including my favorite, juicy or "soup" dumplings, plus a lot of other great dishes on the menu. Here are some highlights from one of my most recent meals.

           Pan fried pork dumplings: These were perfectly seared on the outside, and the pork had great flavor.

          Pei pa tofu: this is one of my all time favorite dishes, and I love Gourmet Dumpling House's version, which has some spicy salt. In case you've never heard of it, it's a dish usually found at Cantonese restaurants and is tofu stuffed with shrimp, deep fried, and served with a sweet sauce. Sadly the last time I went they had taken this off the menu, I really hope they bring it back!

          Scallion pancake: this is one of the best I've ever had. When I think of scallion pancakes I usually think of the thin, greasy kind I got as a kid from American-Chinese takeout places. These are thick, airy inside, and perfectly crisp on the outside.

          Juicy dumplings with seafood and pork: these are my favorite kind of dumplings and I've tried several different kinds at Gourmet Dumpling House. These were stuffed full of crabmeat, which you can see is bursting out the top.

          Crab Rangoon: ok, I know these aren't authentic, but you can never go wrong with crab rangoon!

          Some of my other favorites on the menu are the beef ribs and flat noodles with beef, but I've never tried something here that I didn't like. This is definitely one of my favorites in Chinatown and I recommend it for the newbie or more adventurous eater!

Gourmet Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 28, 2014

Product Review: Sushi at Home

          Sushi at Home is a new product I discovered recently, and I absolutely love! I've been using it to make my favorite tuna tartare recipe and I'm always impressed by the freshness and quality of the fish.  

          Over the summer I attended a great talk by Jeremy Sewall, where he made some really good points about how frozen seafood can often be more fresh than what you get at the counter. Sushi at Home is one of these products. Fish from Sushi at Home are Super Frozen, which means they're immediately after they're caught at a temperature of -76 degrees Fahrenheit - the Eutectic Point. When this point is reached, all water in the cells of the fish is completely frozen and all microbial decomposition brought to a standstill. At this temperature it's possible to transport or store fish for an “infinite” period without loss of quality. Oxidation is halted and superfrozen tuna will maintain its bright color for the normal 3-5 after defrosting, just as fresh tuna would. Essentially you are eating 8 hour old tuna.

           Sushi at Home is available at Whole Foods, which has very high standards for its supplier, particularly seafood. Additionally according to Sushi at Home's website, the products are:
  • All Natural
  • No CO Treatment
  • No Antibiotics
  • No Preservatives
  • No Artificial Colors
  • Sushi Chefs' Choice
  • Long line caught
          I've only tried the tuna so far, but I've purchased it several times because it's so good! I definitely plan to try some of the other products available like their salmon. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014


          Pavement Coffee House is a local chain in Boston, and has some of the best local coffee and sandwiches around (including some amazing vegan options). I'm a regular at the Newbury Street location, and the place is always packed. It has a great atmosphere with a cool, artsy vibe.

          I'm not a vegan, but I'm lactose intolerant and appreciate the many non-dairy options including almond milk. I'm obsessed with the vegan sunrise, which is a breakfast sandwich on an everything bagel with veggie / tofu cream cheese, tempah sausage, hot peppers, and lettuce.

          Pavement has several locations in the Boston area, and if you see one I highly recommend stopping by. There will likely be a line, but it's definitely worth the wait!

Pavement Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tips for Navigating the Boston Wine Expo

          It's almost that time again! The Boston Wine Expo is returning to the Seaport Hotel This Feb! I'm a huge fan of the Boston Wine Expo, and if you're like me you're already planning your strategy for this year! The expo is huge and can feel overwhelming if you've never been. It's also easy to drink a lot right away, but if you start to get tipsy you won't pick up on all of the flavor profiles and subtleties of the wines you're tasting (and may not remember them). Here are a few tips I've learned from 2013 and 2014 to get the most out of the experience:
  1. Go both days and arrive as early as possible
  2. Leave your coat in the car, there will be a long coat check line
  3. Do not go on an empty stomach - there are food samples, but not enough to fill you before you start tasting wine
  4. Many professionals will tell you to always spit when tasting wine (see my point above) but that isn't always fun. Try to spit half the time, or only keep sipping (and swallow) your favorites!
  5. Look up the list of exhibitors in advance and make a list of the ones you want to try most
  6. When you arrive, find those exhibitors on your map, mark them, and visit them in order
  7. Once you've hit up all of your must try places, do a second loop and explore!


The Wine Expo typically includes the following:

Grand Tasting: The main exhibit, featuring over 200 exhibitors and 2,000 wines

Vintner's Reserve Lounge: A smaller exhibit featuring unique wines that generally retail for over $75 a bottle, plus tastes from some of Boston's finest restaurants.

VIP Experience: This allows you into the expo 30 minutes early, a separate line and coat check, and access to a VIP lounge

Seminars: Included in the general admission price, these educational sessions are going on throughout the weekend and feature talks and demonstrations from experts in the food and wine industry

Tickets are now on sale, grab them now for any last minute Christmas gifts on your list!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Brunch at Kirkland Tap and Trotter

          I recently had an amazing dinner at Kirkland Tap and Trotter, so I was psyched to have the opportunity to try them out for brunch with the Boston Brunchers.

          We started with some sticky buns to share, and they were delicious!

          It was hard to choose between so many great options, but I decided to go with one of the most interesting sounding dishes on the menu - the poached egg with pasta, lamb ragu, and pumpkin. 

           It was creative and delicious, exactly what I'd expect from Tony Maw's. All of my fellow bruncher's dishes also looked amazing.

Vegetable frittata with smoked salmon
Turkish breakfast
           I was disappointed to learn recently that Craigie on Main is planning to stop serving brunch, but being able to go to Kirkland Tap and Trotter makes it a little better!

Kirkland Tap & Trotter on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 15, 2014

MC Spiedo

           MC Spiedo is a fairly new Italian restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel in Boston's seaport. It was opened by Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows and MC Perkins Cove in Maine, and named for the spit-roasting or rotisserie cooking, which was popular during the Italian Renaissance. The decorum also fits the theme quite well, with pillars and red curtains around the tables. 

          The fiance and I went in for dinner the other night, and were especially impressed by the huge selection of meats, cheeses, and charcuterie. There were a few options for different boards and samplers, but we decided to create our own and selected: chicken liver mousse, proscuitto, duck ham, speck, pecorino stagionato, and parmesan. It came out with several accompaniments including grilled bread, pickled cherries, apple walnut compote, pickled onions, and honey. I enjoyed all of it, but my favorites were the chicken liver mousse which had a great creamy texture, the duck ham, and combining the honey and cherries with the two cheeses. 

          I ordered the braised rabbit pappardelle with butternut squash and swiss chard for my main course, and it was delicious. The rabbit was extremely tender, and the squash and chard were subtle and didn't overpower the delicate flavor of the rabbit.
           The grand tortellini and meat torta was very impressive, and one of the restaurant's specialties. It's a huge pie filled with meatballs, sauce, and cheese tortellini. At least one person at the table should order this dish so everyone gets to see and try it!
          Overall we both enjoyed the meal, and I would definitely go back. 

MC Spiedo on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Cod Ban in the Gulf of Maine

          Earlier this week the federal government issued a temporary six month ban on all commercial fishing of Cod in the gulf of Maine. The measure is unprecedented, and includes several components:

1. Areas where commercial cod fishing was already banned have been expanded
2. These existing bans now apply to recreational fisherman
3. Allowed accidental catch of cod is reduced to 200 lbs per boat
4. Tightened reporting requirements
5. Reduced the allowed net size

          John Bullard, Greater Atlantic regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was quoted as saying

“We’re trying to absolutely shut down fishing where there are concentrations of cod, so there will be zero cod caught"

          The measure comes after an NOAA Assessment this past summer, which found that the cod population had dropped much more than previously thought and that it was only 3% of what would be necessary to sustain a healthy population. Further, there were few young fish as a result of also low spawning rates. Overfishing and climate changes have been cited as two possible explanations for the dramatic decline.

          While environmental groups have praised the measure, local fisherman have spoken out against it calling it a threat to their livelihoods. They say that with measures this strict, they are unable to leave the docks and fish at all.

            There are definitely two sides to this issue, and not necessarily a clear answer. Which do you think is more harmful: overfishing a single species to near extinction or essentially shutting down all commercial fishing in one of the regions largest hubs? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cafe Art Science

          Cafe Art Science is the newest addition to Kendall Square's dining scene, and unlike anything this city has ever seen! The idea came from Harvard inventor David Edwards, who has been mixing science and food for years to create dishes such as breathable chocolates and pods of frozen yogurt wrapped in an edible skin. In 2007 he moved to Paris to open Le Laboratoire, a laboratory / design studio that mixes art and science.  

          Cafe Art Science is part of Le Laboratoire Cambridge, which (in addition to the restaurant) includes a museum and gallery space for public lectures from poets, scientists, and visiting chefs, and cultural exhibitions. The first exhibition, Vocal Vibrations also debuted this last week and featured, MIT Media Lab’s Tod Machover, an innovative composer, and Neri Oxman, a 3D-printing and environmental-design specialist.

          The restaurant itself brings together some big names in the Boston industry, including Todd Maul, former bar manager of Clio; Tom Mastricola, who helped open No. 9 Park and former general manager of Clio and Commonwealth; and Patrick Campbell, former chef de cuisine at No. 9 Park and executive chef at Eastern Standard.

          The food is a fusion of high end French and American technique, with a bit of art and science mixed in. If you dine in the bar you can sip a vapor cocktail, after watching it float in the air. As cool as this sounds, for my first visit the fiance and I opted to sit in the main dining room and order a multi-course meal so that we could try most of the opening menu. 

          We started with a tuna crudo topped with jalepenos, spicy cream, cucumber, and crumbled cashews. The tuna was excellent, and I loved the combination of the spice and the crunch.

          Next was the beef carpaccio with Canadian lobster and XO sauce. The sauce had some toasted garlic in it, which was delicious with the beef. The addition of lobster made this dish even better!

          For a third course, I had the poached farm egg with seasonal mushrooms, fois gras vinaigrette, and crispy chicken skin. This was definitely my favorite dish of the night, the egg was cooked perfectly, and I loved the flavors of the fois gras and crispy chicken skin.

          The fiance also enjoyed his cauliflower veloute with sea urchin, lobster oil, and curry salt.

        I ordered the Berkshire pork belly as my main course, which came with sweet potato agnolotti and truffled escargot. The pork was done really well, and was different from other pork belly I've had in a couple of ways. The fat cap was there, but not quite as noticeable as it often is because the whole thing had this great seared flavor and texture.

          The fiance's potato crusted tautog with roasted brussels sprouts looked amazing.

          For dessert we shared the cherry wood old fashioned: a warm maraschino financier with cherry wood bourbon gelee, and burnt orange meringue. This was one of the most impressive desserts I've ever had, the cake was the perfect texture and all of the flavors really did taste like an old fashioned cocktail. 

          At our server's recommendation, we paired the dessert with its namesake cocktail: the burnt cherry wood old fashioned made with a house blend of bourbons, charred cherry and orange, and demerara sugar. It was really cool to see how the two compared, and how the similar flavors were incorporated in different ways.

           Cafe Art Science definitely fits in with the neighborhood so close to MIT and all of Cambridge's tech companies. I can't wait to go back and check out some of the cool vapor drinks and effects at the bar, and see some of the exhibits in the museum / gallery.

Cafe ArtScience on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 8, 2014

PS Gourmet Coffee

          Have you spotted one of these yellow cups around Southie? Since I recently braved a snow and rainstorm for my favorite cup of hot butter cookie, I thought it was time to highlight my favorite local coffee shop: PS Gourmet.

          Located at the intersection of East and West Broadway, PS Gourmet is a small mostly takeout coffee and breakfast shop (although they do have a handful of seats). The coffee menu is huge and features a wide variety of flavors and specialty drinks. Here are just a few of my favorites from the long list of flavors:
  • Butter Cookie
  • Mocha Mint
  • Milky Way
  • White Russian
  • French Vanilla
           While the specialty items do have added syrups and sugar, I love that all of the flavored coffees have the flavors infused in the beans. This means they are much healthier and don't taste overly sweet.

           I also love the breakfast sandwiches, which are are always fresh and made to order. The eggs are always cooked perfectly, and they never skimp on the bacon!

PS Gourmet is also famous locally for two things:
  1. The Bucket - a GIANT sized iced cofee
  2. This awesome commercial that you should definitely check out!
P S Gourmet Coffee on Urbanspoon
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Friday, November 7, 2014

Homemade Tuna Tartare

          Some people are intimidated by cooking seafood at home, and raw seafood can seem even more daunting - but it shouldn't be! In a city like Boston, it's easy to get high quality fish caught the same day or even hours before purchasing. Don't be afraid to ask your fish monger when something was caught, any reputable one will be glad to answer.

          Last weekend I made a trip to the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge and purchased some incredibly fresh tuna caught just that morning. Sadly, I forgot to snap a pic of the whole filet before I started slicing but you can still see how good this looks!

           The fiance and I made some tuna tartare together, along with my spicy miso ramen for dinner. First we removed any pieces with sinew in them (this was a very small amount) then diced the tuna into small cubes and followed this recipe.

  • 8 oz sushi grade tuna, finely chopped
  • 2 tsps pure sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp chives, minced
  • 2 tbsp panko crumbs
  • 1 ripe, firm avocado, diced
  1. Combine sesame oil, rice wine, lime juice, soy sauce and sriracha. 
  2. Poor over tuna and mix. 
  3. Add chives
  4. Gently combine tuna with diced avocado, refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  5. Add panko crumbs just before serving
  6. Serve with rice crackers

          The finished dish was delicious - just as good as anything you'd get in a restaurant!

          Along with the miso ramen and this amazing bottle of gruener, it was a perfect meal!

          Have you ever tried making sushi at home? What's your favorite recipe? Let me know in your comments!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner, if You've Never Done it Before

          Although I often prefer cooking from scratch, this post is not about cooking a gourmet Thanksgiving dinner, where everything is made from scratch and takes days to prepare. This is a post about how to make a tasty dinner relatively easily even if you're hosting for the first time and have no idea what you're doing!

         I'll teach you how to make a really juicy turkey, which should really be your focal point, five easy sides, bread, and two desserts.


          Size: A good rule of thumb is to buy one pound per person. If you buy the turkey more than a day or two in advance, make sure you freeze it. Plan to thaw it for about 2 days in the fridge in advance (maybe longer if it's a really big turkey)

          Prep: Before you prepare your turkey, check to make sure the innards have been removed. They are in a plastic bag, and it will be obvious whether they are there or not. 

          There are a couple of easy tricks to make sure your turkey stays really juicy - one requires more planning than the other. If you plan ahead, you can make a simple salt brine (approximately 1 cup of table salt per gallon of water) and let the turkey sit in this in the fridge overnight. If you don't plan ahead you can rub butter all over the outside of the turkey, and underneath the skin.

          Seasoning: Generously season the turkey with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary (you can be less generous with the salt if you've already used a brine)

          Cooking: The FDA guidelines for cooking a turkey to a safe internal temperature are "To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165ºF. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165ºF."

          The turkey should have instructions on it or you can generally use the following guide for roasting an unstuffed turkey at 325 degrees (stuffing adds a bit more cooking time)
  • 5-10 lbs 2 - 2.5 hours
  • 10-18 lbs 3 - 3.5 hours
  • 18-22 lbs 3.5 - 4 hours
          Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast side up, cover with foil, and place in a preheated oven. Remove foil about an hour before the end of the cooking time to allow the skin to brown, at the halfway point after removing the foil baste turkey with juices from the bottom of the pan

          Once the turkey is done cooking, let sit for 20 minutes before carving (this will help the juices lock in and keep the turkey moist)


          I prefer cooking the stuffing separately, it saves time (you can cook the stuffing while the turkey's roasting) and helps the turkey to cook faster. There are some tricks you can use to make boxed stuffing taste better and taste like it was cooked in the turkey.

          I buy a couple of packages of Stovetop, and prepare according to the instructions substituting chicken broth for water. I add browned and crumbled italian sausage (two links per package) plus a large can of French's fried onions. If you do decide to cook the stuffing in the turkey, mix all of the onion rings in the stuffing. If you bake it separately, save a few to sprinkle over the top and then bake the whole thing for about 20-25 minutes until the onion rings brown.

           Tip: Start the stuffing about 10-15 minutes before the turkey is done. You can bake the stuffing for the 20 minutes the turkey is setting.


          The rule of thumb for potatoes is generally cook one per person, and I find out they come out much better (and cook faster) if you steam rather than boil them.

          Tip: If you don't have a steamer, you can make one with a large pot and a colander. 

          Peel and cut up potatoes into quarters, bring water to a boil in a large pot, place potatoes in the steaming basket and let cook until soft (about 20-25 minutes). Warm about 1/2 a cup and 2-4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and mix with the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don't turn off your steamer just yet!


          You can keep the water from the potatoes boiling and use the same technique to make mashed butternut squash. Add  roughly the same amount of milk and butter for a whole squash, plus some cinnamon and brown sugar to taste.

          I also buy a package of green giant frozen broccoli steamers . You can cook these in the bag, in the microwave for 4-6 minutes. I haven't tried all of the steamers varieties, but I've found the broccoli tastes great and you can't tell it's frozen!

          Pacific Foods makes a great whole cranberry sauce, and it comes in a box so it won't have the telltale mold and ridges you find with canned cranberry sauce!

           Pillsbury Dough Boy crescent rolls have been a staple in my family for years. These are super easy and amazing, trust me NO ONE will care that they aren't made from scratch!


           You can make these two super easy pies a day in advance. Don't even try to make pie crusts from scratch - seriously, don't do it. I've tried it once, and it's definitely not for a beginner! You can buy graham cracker crust or pre-made crusts that taste great! I prefer the graham cracker, and buy two to make a Chocolate Cream and pumpkin pie. 

          Pumpkin Pie: Buy one can of pureed pumpkin, which usually has the pie ingredients and recipe right on the can. The recipe may vary depending on the brand of pumpkin, but generally will include one can of condensed milk, 2 eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground ginger. Follow the instructions on the can, which will generally be:

          1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a hand mixer
          2. Pour into the graham cracker crust
          3. Bake at 425 for 35-40 minutes or until crust has browned

          Chocolate Cream Pie: Buy two packages of chocolate jello pudding mix. Prepare according to the instructions on the package (this involves adding milk and chilling), serve in the baked and cooled graham cracker crust. Top with whipped cream.

Tip: You can substitute just about any pudding flavor for chocolate including banana, lemon, vanilla, and more!

          Do you have any easy Thanksgiving recipes you love? Leave your suggestions in the comments section!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dinner at Mast and A Night at the Ballet

          The new season at the Boston Ballet just began, and I was thrilled to be able to see the world premiere of Mikko Nissinen's Swan Lake on opening night! Before the show started, the fiance and I decided to check out Mast - an Italian restaurant that just opened a few blocks from the Opera House.


          Mast is a Southern Italian restaurant and craft cocktail bar with a wood-fired pizza oven. We went less than a week after they opened, and this place definitely has potential. Our server was helpful in steering us away from items that might take too long (we told her we were going to a show) and we ended up ordering  some apps and pizza to share.

          My favorites were the meat and cheese plate with parmigiano, prosciutto, sopressata, and salami and the pizza with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and parmigiano.

          I would definitely like to give Mast another try once they've been open longer, and check out some of the entrees!

Swan Lake

          After dinner, we headed to the Opera House for an incredible show! I've been to several Boston Ballet productions over the last few years, and Swan Lake was by far the best I've ever seen. Everything was perfect - from the dancing, to the music, costumes, and sets. 


           The production is choreographed by Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and features costumes and sets by award-winning designer Robert Perdziola. Due to the high-ticket demand, Swan Lake has been extended from two to three weeks. The show will now run from October 30–November 16 at The Boston Opera House.

          “Swan Lake is one of the greatest ballets of all time, set to a score that is celebrated throughout the world,” said Nissinen. “After a six year hiatus, I am so excited to bring this exquisite classic back to Boston with a fresh look.”

          Swan Lake is designer Robert Perdziola’s second commission from Boston Ballet, following his highly acclaimed debut of The Nutcracker in 2012. He describes the new production’s designs as having “some recognizable German influences” set in the late gothic/early renaissance period.

          In addition to the reimagined sets and costumes, Nissinen has adjusted the choreography to what he feels is the authentic Swan Lake. The new production features an added prologue that depicts the abduction of Odette and the beginning of Rothbart’s spell. “If I have done my job correctly, this production will stay classic, but fill in the gaps,” said Nissinen. “Our version is updated to meet the skills of today’s dancers but remains true to the intent, impact, and feeling of the original.”

          Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake follows the Swan Queen Odette and Prince Siegfried in a tale of romance, sorcery, and deceit. The second act, created by Lev Ivanov, is historically considered the finest piece of classical choreography for the corps de ballet. The production is set to a luscious score by P.I. Tchaikovsky, and will be performed by The Boston Ballet Orchestra.

          After seeing Swan Lake, I'm even more excited to see Nissinen's The Nutcracker, which returns to the Opera House November 28-December 31!

Mast on Urbanspoon