Friday, August 26, 2011

Salsa for Noele's Going Away Party

2cu Tomatoes
1 Hot pepper
1/2cu Kohlrabi
1/2 Sweet onion
1 Red bell pepper

1t Salt
1t Pepper
1T Cumin
1T Lime juice
2T Olive oil

Roast the pepper and onion on the grill.  Chop all the veggies into small pieces.  Mix it all together.  Don't fret the details.  Simple.

The spice mix worked really well with the sweetness of the roasted onion.  The kohlrabi gave it a nice crunch and worked well with the lime.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tryst - Boston Restaurant Week 2011

Gail, Noele and I just got back from Tryst in Arlington. It's restaurant week in Boston. Area restaurants offer a three course, prix fixe menu for $33.11. It's an opportunity to try better restaurants for less money. We always have a good meal. Sometimes, like tonight, we have a great meal.

Unfortunately, restaurants often skimp on their offerings because of the lower prices. They make the portions smaller and don't put the same care into the ingredients and preparation. And the wait staff sometimes don't do as good a job, turning tables over faster to compensate for the lower per-check tip potential. It's a shame really, because they miss the opportunity to build a new customer base. Note that I'm writing one blog entry, but we've been to four restaurants this week.

Tryst put their best foot forward, and won new fans. First, the portions seemed almost bigger than normal. I have a nice lunch for tomorrow. When we go to a nice place, we look for food that we say "pops." None of the other three restaurants had anything that popped. We had four items between us that popped at Tryst, and everything else we ate was better than normal.

Pop 1: Shrimp Tacos - avocado, red onion and Aji crema. This appetizer had deep-fried shrimp on a bed of guacamole topped with tiny fried vegetable strings. The coating was like a fine panko, and the shrimp was lightly cooked to be tender and juicy. The guacamole was fresh and spiced with a cumin-like savoriness.

Pop 2: Corn Agnolotti - sage, mascarpone, toasted corn and pea greens. This was served in hand-made pasta ravioli. The toasted corn made each bite taste like a creamy bowl of smokey chowder.

Pop 3: Pig Under a Brick - white corn polenta, mostarda, collard greens and apricot glaze. Mostarda is candied fruit in a mustard sauce that was wonderful on its own, and perfectly topped the pressed pulled pork.  Pressing the pork made two textures. The body was moist and the top was crispy like cracklins.

Pop 4: Brown Sugar Tart - Ward's Farm peaches and butter pecan ice cream. The ice cream melted onto the warm, hand formed fruit tart and mixed with the brown sugar and peach juice. The flaky crust lifted the meltings and gushed them into our mouths.

There are two more nights of restaurant week, but if you miss it, go for the regular menu at Tryst.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

& Mannekin Pis

When I was a kid visiting my grandmother, Mimi, for the summer, she would take my sister and me for walks to the neighbor's house to see the "pee boy" fountain. In Brussels we saw the inspiration for this fountain - Mannekin Pis. The Belgians love this statue. Who wouldn't?

La Brouette - Brussels

We spent one day in Brussels on our summer trip, and went to lunch at La Brouette in the Grand Place. It was a great recommendation from Richard Soley. The waiter remembered him. Richard is memorable.

This is the restaurant around the corner from Maison J. Dandoy, where speculoos cookies were invented. I mentioned it in an earlier post.

We had multiple delights in this one lunch. Of course, the setting was wonderful. The wood decor was probably from the remodeling in 1697. My Belgian ale was a hit with my daughters. The waiter said it was an Affligem dark, but I'm guessing it was the dubbel.

This beer was a big departure from what I usually like. I typically go for heavy hops flavors. I must say, I'm a new fan of the Belgian style. My daughters both said that this was a beer they would order out. We joked that if someone asked them what beer they wanted, they could say, "I'd like a full bodied beer with light hops. You know, like a Belgian ale."

The next delight was my sandwich. The menu called it a Croque Argenteuil. It was a grilled ham and cheese with asparagus and hard-boiled egg. I do love a grilled ham and cheese. The asparagus added richer flavors that blended in amazingly, and the egg kept the tastes from overpowering my taste buds.

Next, we split a simple Belgian waffle. We were full, but couldn't miss out on one. It was a nice ending to a great lunch. Actually, the ending was Noele's speculoos cookie.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Penzeys Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon

Before we found Penzeys, I thought there was just one kind of cinnamon and it came in a red and white tin box. Penzeys has four varieties and a blend. Our favorite is the Vietnamese. I just stuck my nose in our bottle and was reminded about those cinnamon toothpicks we got as kids. (Haven't seen those in a while.) This is the kind of cinnamon you want to use when cinnamon is the star of the dish: I'm thinking snickerdoodles or spice cake.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Food Pictures from Europe

I'm excited about this new blog. And, I've got a backlog of things I want to share. As part of clearing that backlog, here are some food pictures from our summer trip.

First, the London pub. This one was around the corner from our hotel, but London is dotted with pubs just like this one. You can look down almost any London street and see a storefront bedecked with plants. Those are the pubs. If you don't see one down the street you are on, just look down the next cross street: It's there.

Gail and I got the best cup of coffee in the Orrery Epicerie in London. We also got some nice chocolates.

Wine glasses to go in London's St. Pancras train station. Because, if you are going to drink wine on the train, you need the right glass.

This loaf was in a high-end bakery in Paris. It was Father's Day, if that wasn't clear.

Paris had lots of little shops like this that each sold a portion of what you might want for dinner: cheese shops, produce markets, meat shops, bakeries, wine shops, fishmongers, etc.  It looks like people would stop by two or three of these on the way home from work.

We saw a number of small cheese shops, each with an amazing array of options. Given that, we were surprised by these little Eiffel Tower cheeses. Who buys these?

After a morning at the Musée d'Orsay, Gail and I stopped for some lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Here is my tapas plate. Somehow, sidewalk cafes in Paris have a relaxing and dynamic feel that I can't find a duplicate for. At the same time, you are in the flow of passers-by while separate from them.

This is me sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Anna, Noele and I split a glass.

We toured the Veuve Clicquot champagne cellars in Reims. The cellars were carved directly out of the chalk. Veuve Clicquot is my favorite champagne ... so far.

Why all Germans are not giant fat people, I can't figure out.

This is Noele in front of the home of speculoos, Maison J. Dandoy in Brussels. Noele is a speculoos nut. We were sitting in a restaurant in the Grand Place and the waiter brought over a speculoos cookie.  Noele showed her excitement and the waiter told her that they were invented right around the corner. That was one extra treat for our trip. 

This is the window of a little sausage shop in Brussels.

Back in London at the end of our trip, we came across this pastry shop. My wife is Gail.

The window of Gail's.

That's all for now. I still have a few more posts to catch up from our trip. More to come.

Purity in London

You would think that the best beer I could get in London would be pulled in a pub. I had a few of those on our trip, but I can't say I loved them. The whole pub thing was high on experience; very high. But the beers were just fine. They had less hops and were typically flatter than I prefer. People usually complain about the temperature of the beer. I find the temperature works well for the style.

I got my best beer in London at The Riding House Cafe in a bottle. The beer was Purity Brewing Company's Pure UBU Amber Ale. This is the best beer I've had in a long while. It was full-bodied like an American micro-brew, and maintained a perfect hop balance. I don't think I can get it in the states, but I'll be keeping an eye out. If you see it, buy it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Venta Morales from Hi-Rise Bread Company

It is somewhat incongruous that Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge also sells wine. But it is little wonder, with the quality of their bread and sandwiches, that the wine they sell is delightful. Last night with friends I opened a bottle of Venta Morales 2010 Tempranillo that we bought there as part of a mixed case. This was one of the nicest, everyday reds I've had.

I know almost nothing about Spanish wines, but this one makes me want to know more. Tempranillo is a Spanish grape variety that is the base for Rioja wines. This red is full bodied but without the heavy tannin of other full-bodied reds. Despite this, it has all the character of its bigger brothers, with a smooth balance of dry and fruity flavors. It would go nicely with spicy foods, but not overpower lighter foods. And, at under $10, what a bargain.

Best Restaurant on Our Vacation

This summer the whole family took a European vacation including London, Paris, Reims, Luxembourg, Cologne and Brussels.  By far, our best restaurant experience was in London, at The Riding House Cafe.  The menu is a combination of small plates and main dishes, which really fits our family style.  We love variety, and everyone gets a little taste of the each other's special picks.  The fish and chips was a standout.  Gail had fish and chips on her must-have list.  And, while The Riding House is not a British pub, they made a star out of this simple dish.

The fish was as fresh and flavorful as you can imagine.  It was not fried in week-old bar oil, but neither did it have that blah taste you get when the oil hasn't experienced life.  A side of not-so-mushy peas completed the full British experience done in a proper, up-scale way.