Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garden at the Cellar, Cambridge

I'm back in Boston for the final haul before Winter Break, and I thought I would post about a meal I had recently with Michelle in Central Square. 

The Garden at the Cellar was first introduced to me by Nikki, who claims that this place has the BEST chicken paninis and the BEST french fries. They do offer a very delicious chicken panini with pesto, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers on their bar menu, but let me tell you that their fries are addictive. I've gone to the gym and driven to this place right after just to have some of the rosemary truffle fries. I've also biked here from Medford with a hangover to eat their fries as well. Let me tell you, good stuff. 

We decided to share a few small plates and started with the beet salad that was served with candied walnuts, goat cheese, and a sherry-walnut vin dressing. Not exactly what we were expecting, but good thing I like beets and goat cheese. 

We also had a roasted mushroom flatbread that was prepared with mozzarella and served with a salad on top. 

The butter basted scallops were very tasty and had a sweet sauce and plated on top of butter nut squash. 

And finally, here are the magical fries that just keep making me come back for more. Rosemary truffle fries. Fried and seasoned to perfection. 

This "gastropub" offers simple and familiar foods with a kick of modern flavor. I definitely recommend this place at all times of day and is perfect for a get together with friends, a casual date, or a not-so-healthy post-workout meal. 

Garden at the Cellar 
991 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Monday, November 28, 2011

Main St. Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet

There's a lot to eat in Manhattan. However, for some cuisines, Flushing just does it better. I have yet to find a a Taiwanese restaurant in Manhattan that provides as delicious a meal as Main St. Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet. It's located on the outskirts of the main Flushing Chinatown area, and it has an extremely limited seating area given the high volume of people always waiting in line for a table. Lucky me, my dad is buddy buddy with the chef and owner, so we were able to get a large table at prime time Saturday night. 

The greatest part of this restaurant is that they have an unlimited selection of small stir fry plates, that are all delicious. Something about the wok or the temperature that the chef achieves while cooking really does it. 
Here is a celery with duck intestine stir fry: 

The popular and traditional San Bei Ji, "three cups chicken," which is basically chicken prepared with soy sauce, wine, and basil. 

I think at some point we ordered rice, and the waitress asked if we wanted the beef with rice, which clearly my family readily agreed to. 

This I believe is a tripe prepared with hot peppers/ chili oil. 

We also ordered a variety of tofu dishes. This is a fish and tofu dish in a spicy broth. 

This is the infamous stinky tofu in a spicy stir fry. 

Again, the spicy tofu, but in a simple chili and soy sauce. 

We ordered 17 dishes in total that night including a fish soup, 3 different types of vegetables simply stir fried, pig kidneys in a soy sauce, fried shrimp with chili peppers, and a lamb stew. 

I still don't have enough experience eating Taiwanese food to be able to describe you what makes Taiwanese cuisine distinctly Taiwanese, but let me tell you, this was a great meal. 
The first time I ate here (almost half a decade ago), the chef specially prepared a steamed crab over sticky rice. It is probably one of the most fragrant and memorable things I have eaten. This dish, however, needs to be ordered at least a day or two before to ensure quality and freshness, so I couldn't order it this visit, but I'll definitely be back soon for it!  

Main St. Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet
5914 Main Street  
Flushing, NY 11355

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Le Veau d'Or

The Golden Calf.

I had a lot of errands to run for Thanksgiving, so I knew I was going to be spending some time in Midtown East. I Googled "best restaurants near Bloomingdales" and started my lunch search from there. One description on the New York Magazine website that stuck out to me was for Le Veau d'Or, where it described this cozy establishment as out of its time, having reached its prime in the 1960's. Another review said that no one under the age of sixty dines here. So this was the winner.

Coincidentally when I Googled Le Veau d'Or, it automatically showed with Anthony Bourdain (surprisingly one of the most influential people in my life nowadays). It turns out, this restaurant was on his No Reservations episode on Disappearing Manhattan. I had no reason not to eat here. 

I made lunch plans with my brother, but he told me he had to eat with his friends because he won't be seeing them the entire Thanksgiving weekend (worst brother ever), so I went by myself. This turned out to be the best decision I've made in awhile. 

Like most Parisian restaurants, their menu was completely  prix fixe: $22 for a three course lunch meal. Not bad at all for sit-down dining in midtown!
I started with the herring in a light cream sauce. 

My main course I chose the lamb stew with scalloped potatoes. It was exactly what I needed after a morning of hot yoga and walking in the rain and cold. 

For dessert, I made the awesome decision of c'eufs a la neige, or "floating islands." It was this airy meringue served over sweetened milk and caramel, topped with almonds. It was absolutely heavenly. 

From the outside, you would have no idea that this restaurant has been here for years and that the old man in a vest and jacket sitting at the front table is actually the owner. His daughter was my hostess and my waitress, and they are both there because they love what they do. The Parisian ambiance of this establishment is quaint, comfortable, and it put a smile straight on my  face the moment I stepped in. I got a few looks for being the only single, young, and Chinese diner on the floor, but it was nice. It was different. I got to people watch. The food was not the BEST French food I have ever had, but it was exactly what I needed. It was traditional, familiar, and completely satisfying. The unpretentious presentation, the heart warming food, and the passionate management was the perfect calm before the Thanksgiving storm. 

Le Veau d'Or
129 East 60th Street 
New York, NY

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mermaid Bar

Over the weekend, I went to Mermaid Bar in Greenwich Village with my parents. I offered to treat them to dinner after receiving my first two paychecks, and we are definitely a seafood eating family. 

We started with the grand platter, a tower of two oysters (mixed of East and West Coast, and we requested a few Kumamoto oysters on the side. There were also half a dozen clams, shrimp cocktail, a salmon ceviche, and half a lobster. 

Other appetizers we ordered included the crab cake, New England Clam Chowder, iceberg wedge salad, and a fish taco. Everything was quite underwhelming, except the wedge salad, for the pungent Maytag blue cheese  used on the iceberg wedge salad was superb. It's making me salivate thinking about it right now.  

The lobster and truffle macaroni and cheese was the reason I came here, but it was only acceptable. Stephanie's was more aromatic and the cheese melded with the macaroni more.  

The brussel sprouts were delicious and made me make my grandmother promise me to make more for Thanksgiving. It is fried with bacon and almonds. 

My father ordered the special, a linguini with scallops in a garlic and white wine sauce.

I wanted to try the lobster roll, as many have written about, but it was nothing compared to Neptune's. The fries were nice and crispy and seasoned with old bay. 

They offered a complementary chocolate pudding for dessert, that was rich and I couldn't get enough of it. 

The food was good at Mermaid Bar, but not something that I thought impressed my parents much. It's definitely a place to go with friends for a nice meal with drinks. It's in a tight space and has a noisy lively atmosphere. Or as my mom said, "Next time don't bring me to such 'young man' place." 

Mermaid Bar
79 Macdougal Street
New York, NY

Alone in Harvard Square: Quick Picks

So basically, I spend a LOT of time in Harvard Square. Doing what, you may ask? Oh, just trying to find my future husband. Just kidding. I've actually been working a retail job there to support my extravagant eating habits in grad school. Not so kidding. So during my breaks, I of course cannot just sustain on Luna Bars for months on end (which I did the first few days of work and throughout high school); I must find something more substantial. So here are a few of the places that I frequent during my 30 minute lunch breaks. 

The first time I stumbled upon this wonderful cafe was senior year of college when I ran in here for a cup of coffee for Saturday morning classes (actually the worst, don't know how I did it missing only one class the entire semeseter). The coffee at Crema was rather gross and tasted like sour dirt, but I went back for other things more recently that make this cafe worth a visit.

Sweet Potato with avocado, green apple, sprouts, hummus & caramelized shallot vinaigrette on toasted wheat.  Great sandwich that is surprisingly addicting. The double starch is kind of weird, but it works in a way. 

I've been here about four times since my first order of grilled cheese with soup. It is made of Monterey Jack & Gruyere pressed on light rye bread and I add just the avocado. The caramelized onions are nice as well. I also have had the tomato bisque, potato and leek, and black bean soups. 
It's such a classic combination that I just can't keep myself from coming back for more. 

Other things I've had here include the Taragon Chicken Salad. It's a premade sandwich, and that name doesn't lie. The bread is a bit soggy and the chicken is a bit cold. The chicken doesn't blend in with the cranberry salad either. 
But you must try their oatmeal chunk cookies. It is amazing. It is so good that I'm scared to go back to Crema because I will most definitely not be able to resist the temptation to get another one. 

Crema Cafe
27 Brattle Street  
Cambridge, MA 

The Upper Crust is super close to where I work, so I was surprised I didn't notice it sooner. I've never been to a pizza parlor in Boston before for clear reasons, but I've heard good things about it and decided to try.

My first mistake was going there craving a salad. So I ordered the salad and mini calzone special that came with my choice of a garden salad and a spinach and cheese calzone. It wasn't great. It tasted too-doughy for the exterior wasn't made crispy enough. 

The second time I made more sensible choices of a slice of pizza, which was unexpectedly massive, and a Greek salad. This was considerably more enjoyable, though the crust had the same problem of not being as crispy as I wanted. 

The Upper Crust 
49 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA

Flat Patties is a new addition to Harvard Square, and was recommended to me by Yuri. I was impressed by their very affordable prices, and ordered myself a portabello (just the mushroom, no beef patty) with cheddar cheese, avocado, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and jalapenos and pickles on the side. 

Hearty meal, and it's great on a warmer day outdoors. But don't order the milkshake. It's really bad and tastes a bit artificial. 

Flat Patties 
33 Brattle Street  
Cambridge, MA

Since eating Anna's a few times a semester at Tufts for four years, I get serious Anna's cravings. So I've been trying to find a replacement, but to almost no avail. There are a few places to get quesadilla to-go including Chipotle and Felipe's. I definitely recommend going to Felipe's for their greater variety of meat choices (instead of just beef, pork, or chicken) unless you're craving the photographed burrito bowl. 

1 Brattle Square
Cambridge, MA

83 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA


Falafel Corner was an interesting experience. Lucky for me, it's supposed to be one of the best falafel places in the Boston area. Unlucky for me, the guy that works there asked if I was single and later on found me in the sitting area to ask for my number or to add me on Facebook. Super awkward. But the baba gonoush was really good and unlike Falafel King, their falafel is freshly prepared. The falafel was different, a bit more starchy, but still enjoyable. 

Falafel Corner
8 Eliot Street
Cambridge, MA


I heard good things about Tory Row, but was not impressed at all by their menu choices. Perhaps it was because it's more of a place to get a few drinks rather than a good meal. But still, the table set up was too casual for a sit-down menu, and the menu did not have enough depth for a sit-down.  

I ordered mussels in a garlic broth served with a baguette and an asparagus w parmesan over a balsamic reduction. I would've finished the broth if the baguette was made better. It was a bit too dense and borderline stale. 

It was nice for a dark cold night to sit down in a place facing a large intersection in the square just to watch traffic pass. 

Tory Row
3 Brattle Street  
Cambridge, MA

Naanini at Chutney's is also a great choice for it is a truly Indian food to-go destination located next to Starbucks and Ben and Jerry's in the Garage. Chutney's paneer tikka naanini is my go-to choice if I need my  spice and naan fix! 

36 John F. Kennedy Street  
Cambridge, MA 

Finally, also in the Garage, is Le's. This place must be mentioned just because I've been there countless of times, and the primary reason why I was in Harvard so often in the past. My friends usually go to this Vietnamese joint for pre-drinking or hangover pho, a beef noodle soup, and we usually share a spring roll, but I usually order the ginger chicken with white rice. Their pork chops are also very good and surprisingly so is their house fried rice. Definitely try their avocado shake as well! 

36 John F. Kennedy Street  
Cambridge, MA 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DakDoriTang - Korean Simmered Chicken Stew

The hardest part about cooking a foreign cuisine is when you don't know what it's suppose to actually taste like. The other night, I decided to put together a Korean meal (heavily inspired by Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations). I looked up a few recipes for dakdoritang, a chicken stew with potatoes and carrots made with gochu jang, or hot pepper paste, and decided to try making it myself, even though I've never had it before. 

4lb chicken (I couldn't find a food whole chicken, so I did a combination of wings and drumsticks.)
5-6 cloves of garlic
2-3 shallots
1 onion 
1 hot pepper
2-3 potatoes
2 carrots
5 tablespoons gochujang
1/2-3/4 can chicken broth 
Sesame oil

First, the marinade. After cutting up all the wings, I marinated it in a mixture of a clove of garlic, half a hot pepper, and 2 tablespoons of gochu jang for about 6 hours. I would have done it overnight if I had more time. 

Then chop up the onion, shallots, and the rest of the garlic and chili pepper. In a heated pot, stir fry these ingredients with about 3 tablespoons of oil on high heat. 

Once browned, add the chicken and mix for about 5-7 minutes. Then pour in the chicken broth and let it simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes (make sure the cover is on)

During that time, prepare the vegetables! Skin the carrots and potatoes and chop them into chunks for the stew.

Place them into the stew and mix in with the chicken. Let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes. 

I actually let the cooked stew sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the flavor would seep in even more to the meat. I then reheated it in time for the dinner party. And according to the Koreans at the dinner, it tasted like how it was supposed to taste! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween Candy Cookies -- yet another accident

Do you still have a lot of leftover Halloween candy that you're not sure what to do with? I have a simple solution: baking cookies. 

Halloween Candy Cookies
8oz unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
2/3 cup milk 
1/2 cup chopped Halloween candy (I used mostly chocolate candies) 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream together the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, peanut butter, eggs, salt, and baking soda. Then sift in the flour and milk until it has a smooth consistency. 

Then add all the chopped bits of pieces of Halloween candy and fold it into the dough. 

Finally, scoop them onto a greased sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes. 

...except for some unknown reason, half my cookies were very burnt on the bottom. I swear I'm not doing this to prove that I'm an incompetent baker. Things like this just happen to me. I thought it was weird when smoke was coming out of my oven. Good thing I opened a window and pulled these out before any real damage was done. 

How embarrassing. 

Well, good thing I was able to salvage half the batch! 

And the incredibly unpredictable baking chronicles with Linda Yung will be continued...