Sep 16, 2012

Elegant Epicurian Summer 2012

In addition to the casual fare I was also indulging in some elegant foodie affairs while on holiday.  This next post summarizes my summertime excursions in Boston and New York as some of the most consistently tasty restaurants that never fail to impress in the flavor department.  First on the list is Stella restaurant in South Boston.  I have been a regular at Stell on Washington street, since my good friend Kendy Amazon introduced me to it back in 2007.  It can be classified as modern Italian fair with a touch of rustic here and there.

The dish below always lingers on my pallete, Spicy Mussels / saffron cream / roasted peppers / white wine / garlic, it's rich whoelsome cream base melding with the saffron make it one of the most mouth watering dishes I've ever had.  The mussels are served out of shell and are easier to enjoy in this iressistable sauce.  From the sweet peppers to the fresh herbs and the rustic grilled bread used to mop up all these gorgeous flavors is the perfect dish.  I enjoyed it as a starter, but s double portion could easily be enjoyed as a main course.

For my main course I enjoyed the Pan Seared Sole / potato and leek ragout / sweet corn crema / baby spinach. Corn is also one of those ingredients that's a sure sell for me when paired with any menu item. This combination of Sole along with the sweet corn cream and potato and leek ragout was satisfying.  The Sole was beautifully cooked, crispy on the outside and delicately flaky on the inside.  Balanced and filling, the perfect dish!
Now onto dessert, at this point sharing was the only option, so the Warm Pecan Pie / Caramel Crème Anglaise / Vanilla Gelato seemed like the perect choice. The warm flavors of pecan and caramel were literally singing out to me, and the right choice it was! Crispy, crunchy, sweet and creamy, all the elements one looks for in a dessert and much much more!
Sushi is always a necessary culinary experience anywhere you go, and fortunately, Boston is know for it's fresh seafood, so there was no question about deciding on a dinner destination.  This was my first Duozo (located on on Dartmouth street in Back Bay) experience, the maki rolls were great including a scallop kiwi, toro torch, and Boston Roll (with Lobster of course) however, the miso mushroom soup lacked the usual salty seaweed flavor i am used to enjoying and softshell crab tempura a little soggy and a littly too crabby, dissapointed, I just focused more on the maki instead.  Overall, the restaurant has a fantastic vibe in a prime location, so as a destination, Iwould go back!
One of our regular places to hang out in Boston is the seaport area, with its colorful and abundant restaurant choices, there are plenty of things to see and do at this one stop partying stop.  Temezcal always tops the list though in terms of price point, ambiance, and food selection.  The Zuchini blossom stuffed empanadas was unusual, and flavorful.  The egenrous portion was large enought o share, so my friend Elizabeth and I indulged in this yummy treatto start with. Some of the dinner choices includes a traditional Chicken Mole Poblano made with a mexican chocolate based sauce and chillie barised chicken.
My declicious main dish below was the fresh cod filled with shrimp & crab, cilantro, with a watercress-lime aioli.  Cooked beautifully and glistening in the light, this dish sayed true to authentic mexican cuisine.  The burst of ethnic flavors along with the gorgeous seafood textures were exactly what I was craving at that moment in time.  Temazcal has become a favorite summer timespot becuase of its strategic location and festive atmosphere.  It's perfect for a celebratory night out, and one particular person's birthday (Shabnam Saeed) we have been celebrating for the past couple years at this venue is always satisfied with the outcome. 
It's Wedding Time!  Summers are always popular for weddings, and this time, it was a classy affair to remember.  With hibiscus bellinis and lobster cones to start off the evening, we knew it was going to be a marathon of decadence on this beautiful Saturday in early August.  Sanya Fanous (the bride) and her family always throw a good party, from their 4th of July BBQ's to pool party's, and even casual gatherings at their beautiful Framingham home, the Fanous family is notorious for quality entertainment. 

Below are just some of the treats we enjoyed at this gorgeous celebration of matrimony, and no summer time Boston wedding would be complete with out an abundance of seafood around! 
Keeping with the seafood theme, we also had to make sure a Lobster roll was on the agenda.  The best place to have one of these, other then harborside or in Glouceter, MA is B&G Oysters on Tremont in the South End.  Barbara Lynch has revolutionized New England cuisine at this quaint little gem. Served in a buttered brioche along with salty and crispy double fried fries, I dream about this dish often:)  

 No seafood restaurant in New England, big or small, would be complete without a extensive selection of local oysters.  This is as fresh as it gets! B&G Oysters takes pride in their fresh supply and keeps them neatly orgainzed in this little nook for their open kitchen concept.
Another meal to remember was the DelFrisco's experience.  Known for their southern style hospitality and pricey steaks, eating a meal at this top notch restaurant was something we weren't prepaired for.  Surprisingly elegant and consisitng of an array of flavors and proteins (other than steak) we thoroughly enjoyed this birthday celebration for Mr. Steve Sylvester.   The Seared Scallops and Shrimp Scampi were classic steak house dishes, but had an extra dimension of flavor which added to the aroma of the restaurant.
The hearty Crispy Duck Steak with a Cherry Sauce was enjoyed by 9 month pregnant Asma Syed, but even she couldn't finish this generous portion size. There's nothing wrong with doggy bags in this part of town, so we all enjoyed left overs the follwing day as well. 
Now, if you follow by blogs regularly, you have gathered I have a particular affinity for mexican cuisine.  I tried to pack in as much as possible this past summer, becuase it's not readily available in the UAE. This particular restaurant in the West Village has to go to the top of the list for Mexican.  The fresh guacamole was served with two compliementary sauces a smoked cashew and arbol.  All I can say is WOW!  The guacamole, which was fresh and tasty was great, but nothing next to these original and flavorful sauces. 
After the guacamole, we opted for  the "lunch special" starting with a selection of salads and soups plus a main course consisting of a variety of tacos and tortas.

Again, I am a sucker for anything with fresh corn, so the Tomatoes with Sweet Corn and Arbol Chile Vinaigrette salad was the obvious choice.  The fresh ingredients, creamy cotija cheese, and spicy dressing made this lunch sstarter really stand out.

Amongst the taco selection were the Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo (toasted garlic, orange juice, cumin) Fish Tempura with Cabbage and Lime Mayonnaise,and Chicken with Crema and Salsa Verde (tomatillo, cilantro, serrano)  The Skirt Steak was tender and juicy with all the rights notes, the fish tempura were a close second, but found it needed atouch more of the lime mayonnaise. In third place came the chicken taco, creamy and textured, but didn't really match up to balance and flavvor as the other 2 taco counterparts.

 When you think of good food in New York, people often turn to Manhattan, but Brooklyn has proven to be up to par with it's sistering borough on the culinary front, but always boasts a more economical price point.  I was fortunate to be amongst foodie friends that lived in the neighborhood for many years, and were enthusiastic about this traditional Italian spot in the heart of Park Slope on 5th Ave. We walked in early on this particular Sunday morning, and everything seemed to be working in our favor.  The table for 6 was ready and waiting for us, as we sat down to our delicious Italian brunch feast.  Below are a couple of starters to begin with we shared a gorgeous Insalata di Farro with fresh summer tomatoes, basil, olives, onions, and a touch of EVOO with a splash of lemon juice. 
My choice was the sweet summer corn and tomato soup with torn bread and fresh basil. The soup was full of testure and aroma, however lacked a little salt for my liking.  The freshness factor was present, but it could have used a few more hours to simmer to really develop a deeper flavor. 
Because we were at an Italian restaurant, we had to have a couple orders of pasta on the table.  The group decided on 2 different selections, one consisting of a home made tagliatelle al Ragu and the Ricotta Cavatelli with a lemony goat cheese and Parmigiano.  Needless to say, both thos plates were wiped clean after 6 hungry diners had a go at them. 

For main courses, we were again spoilt for choice.  I went for a traditional Creamy Polenta with Sauteed wild mushrooms, Braised Greens and a Poached Egg topped with Parmigano.  This dish was so rich, i felt like I didn't even put a dent into it, but it was worth every bite that I could take. 

Some of the other entree selections included this succulent Duck Confit Hash seasoned with shallots, thyme, served with two poached eggs, Yukon gold potatoes, and crispy duck skin.  My mouth is watering just writing about it.  If only there was a way to fly this over to Dubai.....
This dish was a beauty, a cripsy polenta cake with two poached eggs, wilted spinach, tomato sauce topped with crispy bacon. Peter Sylvestri not only enjoyed his dish to the fullest, but also made it dance to the beat of his rumbling stomach (before getting stuck into it)! A feast to say the least, with plenty of satisfied customers.
Back to Boston's culinary adventures.......still thinking about the fabulous New York eateries, and it was brought to my attention that a very cool and kitsch spot was recently revamped in the outskirts of Boston.  Still under its original ownership, Strip T's had been around in Watertown since 1986, but when the owner's son returned to his hometown after building his culianry portfolio with the likes of David Chang of Momofuku, they had no idea what was in store for them......
We started with an order of Fried Japanese Sweet Potatoe wedges topped with fresh herbs and sea salt and served wih a light mustard aioli mix. Crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside.  These potatoes could have suffuced as my meal.  We aslo ordered a mix of mushrooms lightly sauteed with garlic and fresh herbs.  I don't know how they do it, but the crispy texture on the outside and soft inside is the only way to enjoy these beauties. 

Each entree ordered at the table stood out in it's own right.  The King fish with sauteed summer squash radish and avocado was an unusual mix, but somehow all worked very well together. The very familar grilled skirt steak with chimichurri, pickled peppers, creamer potatoes, and artichokes was a steal at $19
 Even the classic burger had it's own twists with smoked miso, lemon aioli, and pickled onion, you can see where and how the momofuku training has come into play. 
I decided to go with the mussels as my entree.  I normally only take mussels as my starter, but on this particular day, they seemed to be calling out my name.  Meticulously plated and seasoned to perfection, I am glad I went with this option, which allowed me to save room for the fantastic desserts that awaited.....
With it's quirky name and it's eclectic menu, Strip T's is now my new favorite spot in Bean town.  The mains were all fantastic, and the desserts didn't dissapoint either.  With the beautifully plated goat's milk panna cotta with raspberry and coconut cake and beside that the fried brioche donut with blueberry pastry cream, and lemon frosting.....yummy yummy in my tummy!! 
 All this indulgent eating over the course of the month just proves, life is too short, so enjoy every moment of it!  I make the most of as many culinary experiences I can, and now that I can explore them all through this blog, it makes me feel blessed that I have been able to accomplish and review so much in such a short span of time.  There's never an opportunity I don't document or share in one way, shape, or form.  I'm glad that others can learn from this as much as I do. 

Sep 2, 2012

The Best of Casual Dining in Boston/NY Summer 2012

This past summer was all about the good food.  It's alwasy fun returning home for a visit, because it ends up being a marathon of binge eating at friends houses or out and about somewhere.  The first stop we made was at a new Asian food destination in Framingham called Tenichi a "Dynamic Food Kitchen"  Not sure about the "dynamic" part, but it was a decent meal.  For starters we had the lovely Salmon plate, garnished with micro greans and capers along with balsamic, I am not sure how this dish was asian, but it was an interesting take on asian fusion cuisine.  They were also running a lobster special that night, prepared in a traditional ginger and scallion sauce.  It wasn't the best I had ever had, but I knew I was in for more lobster, as there was an abundance on the east coast this summer and they were selling it like hot cakes all over town!
For those with a sweet tooth, and I can honestly say I am guilty, here are a couple of New England classics.  Below, my sister and I being silly at Ben & Jerry's as we all know, is a vermont original.  I passed on my usual my usual order to try Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night Snack" with chocolate covered potato chips and salted caramel, and I'm really glad I did! The perfect cure for a munchies craving....To the right a classic Tiramisu from Modern Bakery in the north end.  We enjoyed that after a long night of singing and dancing at the Coldplay concert at the TD Banknorth Gardens!  What a treat all aorund!

Next up was a little Italian joint my dad was dying to take me to called Linguine's in Marlborough, MA.  A casual dining spot with a substantial menu.  As I stepped into this quaint little suburban restaurant, I felt like I was in a time warp, but all that didn't matter when the food arrived.  Everything that came out of that tiny little kitchen was scrumptious from the cherry stone clam linguni to the chicken parm as well as the pizza!  My dad ordered the chicken marsala, but had already attacked it before I could take a proper photo, so it didn't make the cut here.  But this is a great place to come for a casual mid-week meal.  Great comfort food and portions are large enough to get two meals worth.

So, who doesn't love a good jewish deli?!  I for one have really missed them while living in Dubai.  There is something so homely about enjoying a bowl of Matzah Ball soup along side a big plate of sour and dill pickles, and how could you pass up those bagel chips!  Why have I been away for so long???Zaftig's is considered Brookline's finest, but if you ever try to go there on the weekends for brunch.....think again!  Luckily they opened one up right in Natick across from the mall, convenient and equally as delicious as the original.   The baked mac n' cheese my friend ordered was ooey and gooey, the Israeli cous cous salad with cranberries and fennel topped with grilled salmon was the healthier choice, but also packed full of flavor.  Because I went with the healthy lunch option, I thought it appropriate to splurge on dessert, Boston Creme Pie was the obvious choice....

The cuisine I miss the most while living abroad is Vietnamese.  One of my favorite Brighton spots during my University years was Pho Pasteur, currently known as L'es.  It's located on Brighton Ave and still produces top notch quality food for a reasonable price.  They are best known for the Pho pictured below left with a beautiful aromatic beef broth, fresh greens, and tender slices of beef brisket for USD $6.00, you won't find a better deal.  Amongst some of our other favorites is the quail, salt and pepper calamari and the shrimp summer rolls. 

Sticking to the Vietnamese theme was also Pho Real!  I quirky little concept located on Christopher street in Greenwich village (NYC).  They also do a mean Pho, but I really go there for the Bahn Mi.  A hearty sandwich traditionally filled with pulled pork, but I opt for the one with spicy fried catfish, layered with pickles and red onions all nestled in a crunchy baguette!  If I had the ability to teleport anything on earth, it would be one of these tasty delights! Pho Real also served these organic all natural sodas, I enjoyed the fresh ginger ale with pomegranit and hibiscus, it tantilized my taste buds and melded well with the sandwich.

Next stop on the casual dining train was a frozen yogurt joint recommended to me by a friend.  In fact, she was such a regular here, she received e-mails/text messages informaing here about specials and discounts.  The discount of the day was on  pomegranite flavored frozen yogurt.  I opted for the junky version with caramel sauce and crumbled oreos.  Not my usual choice, but hey, I was on holiday, so the calories don't count, right? Out of the hundreds of froyo concepts in the city, this one does not go high in the ranks for flavor, but the aesthetic was cool, and they get points for maintaining cleanliness dispute their busy 6th ave location.
This is the second to last on the casual dining post from this summer's culinary adventures.  Cafe Habana/Habana Outpost located in New York's Soho (Cafe Habana) as well as Brooklyn (Habana Outpost).  The vibe and food at this casual margarita/corn and cob spot was incredible. We strolled into the Outpost on a Friday evening during "happy hour" and there wasn't a seat in the house.  We ordered our corn covered in delicious cotija cheese and drinks, and waited around until we could claim a picnic table of our own.  Successful in hinting down a place to sit, we felt comfortable to order more snacks for the hungry campers.  The chicken and waffle on a stick was by far the most unique item I had seen yet.  The corn still one my vote for best "food on a stick" item, but the chicken definitely made an impression. 

Last post for New York casual dining is Berry Park in Williamsburg, this little gem overlooking the Manhattan skyline is the perfect place to be on a Sunday afternoon.  With giant Bavarian pretzels, duck fat fries, and Frickles (Deep Fried Pickes) I took comfort in all these delictable goodies after a busy weekend in the city.  I was trying to load up on as many fried items as possible, holidays are great to give into all those guilty pleasures.  My favorite of all these brooklyn style bar snacks were the Frickles, served with a spicy aioli, the unusual combination of flavors ad textures will be a fond food memory forever!