Sunday, December 14, 2014

Barcelona - South End

          Barcelona's new South End location has been in the works for awhile, and they were packed last week on opening night! I was lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar fairly early and enjoyed an excellent meal with the fiance. 

          This was probably the smoothest opening I've ever seen. The service was impeccable, and our bartender had excellent recommendations and sherry pairings which the kitchen executed on flawlessly.

          We started with a selection of meat and cheeses including black foot ham (one of my favorites), manchego, and mahon. This came out with some delicious crusty bread, and we somehow managed not to eat the entire basket and saved room for more tapas.

          Our next two dishes looked so good that we dove into them before snapping pics: the tuna crudo and spinach and chickpea cazuela. The tuna was excellent paired with citrus fruits and garlic, and the spinach and chickpeas had great flavors with a bit of a Mediterranean influence. 

          We had to try the tortilla and croquettes, since those are some of our favorite Spanish dishes. The tortilla was mostly potato with a bit of egg, served with a side of herbed sour cream. The croquettes were bite sized balls of ham and cheesy deliciousness.

          The next two dishes were my favorites, and these came highly recommended by the bartender. The beef tongue was the most tender I've ever had, and served with a mix of spicy peppers. The fideos with chorizo, poached egg, and fois gras was probably the most creative dish on the menu. The rich flavors of the egg and fois gras were perfect with the crispy noodles. I was literally scraping the pan trying to eat all of this.

          This dessert is unique to the South End location, and probably one of my favorites in all of Boston: sugar cookie sandwiches filled with home made dulce de leche. The cookies were just a little crunchy, and the filling rich and creamy. I would go back just for this dish alone.

          I was impressed by the entire experience at Barcelona, both the food and service. The menu is huge and definitely has something for everyone - staples like tortilla, croquettes and patatas bravas, as well as more adventurous items like the beef tongue and fideos.

 Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

A Preview of the 2015 Boston Wine Expo

          It's almost that time again! The Boston Wine Expo is returning to the Seaport Hotel Feb 14-15, 2015. 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!
  8. Now that you have some tips for a game plan, here's what you can expect in 2015! I recently attended a preview event and got to sample wines from some of the participating makers. 

          One of the first tables I hit up was 90+ Cellars, where I not only tried some amazing wines but I also met Caitlin of Cait Plus Ate. I love her blog and have followed her for awhile now, but this is the first time we met in person! My favorite from 90 Plus was lot 90, the Rosso Toscana, an amazing Super Tuscan with flavors of dark chocolate and black currant. I also learned 90 Plus has started their own new label Ironside, and sampled the first release - a California Cabernet.

          My next stop was the Anna de Codorniu table, where I sampled some delicious sparkling rose. Sparkling rose is always one of my favorites, and this did not disappoint! It was light with notes of strawberries and cherries.

          Another favorite was Marisco Winery - they were sampling some really delicious and unusual Sauvignon Blancs.

          I also enjoyed wines from Alexander Valley, Dos Familias, Hope Family, LGL Imports, Merriam Vineyards, and Rutherford Family.

          All of the wineries I mentioned will be tasting at the wine expo, and you should definitely check them out! Additionally, the 2015 Wine Expo will include 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, and early bird prices are available through the end of the month. I'll also be hosting a giveaway for a pair of tickets in the next couple of months! Be sure to check back for your chance to wine!

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