Monday, December 26, 2011

Il Mulino

Ever since our trip to Italy, my family has been on the hunt for the best Italian restaurant. Every restaurant we ate in Rome or Capri had very solid pasta in terms of both flavor and texture, but you do not get that often in America. We decided to try Zagat 2010's top rated Italian restaurant in NYC: Il Mulino. 

First, let me tell you how incredibly dark it was in there. (Sorry for the blurry photos). I did not realize how serious my mom's warning was until I sat down and tried to read the menu or decipher the plate of antipasto right in front of me. 

For starters, we had the scampi oreganata (breaded shrimp with lemon, garlic, and white wine), prosciutto e melon, calarmi fritti, and a caprese salad. 

For our entrees, there was a wide selection of veal to choose from. My father had to osso bucco served with saffron risotto, and I had the veal Milanese (pictured below), which was a veal chop pounded very thinly and served breaded and topped with arugula. The meat on the osso bucco fell right off the bone, and the veal Milanese was very tender and the arugula balanced it right off. 

My mother ordered a a very simple pappardelle all'arrabbiata, which is a spicy marinara sauce with garlic and basil. The pasta had a very nice bite to it and was cooked wonderfully al dente. 

And of course someone had to order the spaghettini alla vongole. It had a great clam and white wine sauce and the pasta was cooked to the right texture as well. It was still not Italy, but it was close enough. 

And finally for dessert we shared a tiramisu and a ricotta cheesecake (shown below). The tiramisu was rich and had a strong coffee flavor, and the ricotta cheesecake was not too sweet and just creamy enough. It was definitely a delicious meal in a very intimate dining area. 

I say if you are looking for a good Italian meal in Manhattan, stick to Greenwich Village. You can't go wrong. 

Il Mulino
86 W 3rd Street
New York, NY 10012

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Holiday Party Ideas Ch. 2: Mushroom wraps and Brussels sprouts

Here are three easy recipes that can be pulled out last minute for any holiday party! Sorry that two of them are with Brussels sprouts, but 'tis the season! 

Chicken and mushroom pastry wrap
8oz chicken
1 box mushrooms (button or portabello) 
1 onion
1 pastry sheet (I used Pillsbury)
1 egg
4 slices American cheese (I used Kraft)
5 cloves of garlic
spices: salt, pepper, thyme

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
2. Chop the chicken, mushroom, and onion into small pieces. Pan fry all those ingredients with the garlic (add the chicken in last). 
3. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
4. Lay out the pastry sheet on a flat baking tray and line the ingredients down the middle of the sheet. 
5. Then place the cheese slices over the cooked ingredients and fold the pastry over (I have yet to perfect a technique). 
6. Brush over with a beaten egg. Bake for 35 minutes. 


Brussels Sprouts with Truffle Oil
1 stalk Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoon canola oil
5 cloves of garlic 
salt, pepper
3 tablespoon white truffle oil (I had a bottle leftover from Thanksgiving that I'm trying to incorporate into all my cooking)

1. Quickly blanch the brussel sprouts in boiling water. This supposedly helps removes some of the bitter flavor. 
2. Then sautee the garlic in the heated vegetable oil. Add the brussel sprouts and pan fry them until thoroughly cooked and they have a nice brown or slightly burnt color on the outside. This should take about 8 minutes (I used baby brussel sprouts, so they were a bit smaller). 
3. Remove from heat and mix with the truffle oil. 


Festive Holiday Brussels Sprouts (in a Darth Vader pan)
1 stalk Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup whole dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans, toasted
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs canola oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake Brussels sprouts with olive oil for 10 minutes.
2. Heat the pan with canola oil. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir fry until browned. Add balsamic vinegar.
3. Mix in the cranberries and pecans. 

✓ fiber
✓ vegetable
✓ monounsaturated fats

Wishing everyone a happy holidays filled with great food and warm company! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Boston Chinatown Picks

I've been studying nutrition policy at Tufts' Friedman School and spend plenty of time in Boston's Chinatown. The Chinatown only spans a few blocks, and I can tell you that it is not well known for variety or top quality Chinese cuisine. However, I make due and have eaten around. Here are some picks that you really can't go that wrong with. 

Nikki first introduced me to "Win Sum Dim Sum" last school year.  Since then I have been back almost a dozen times for hangover brunches and all my dim sum cravings. Dim sum is something I grew up sharing with my family, so it is always nice to go back to familiar foods with my new college family. Windsor Dim Sum Cafe offers made to order dishes and has better quality dim sum than the popular China Pearl across the street or other larger establishments in Chinatown. This place is definitely my first pick for dim sum in Chinatown, though prepare to wait in line on weekends.  

Also, they have this pan fried glutinous rice that I have not had anywhere else. They take the traditional lotus leaf wrapped rice and fried it in egg. How wonderful does that sound? 

Windsor Dim Sum Cafe
10 Tyler Street
Boston, MA 02111

Being the awesome student I am, I am usually rushing back and forth from classes and usually try to cram a meal or half in between. Sandwiches in the med school library are definitely way overpriced and so not worth it given that there are several bhan mi locations a block away from the Tufts Health Science campus. Bhan mi are Vietnamese sandwiches that are cold cuts, shredded pork, barbecue beef, or tofu served on a baguette with cilantro, shredded carrots, mayonnaise and fish sauce. I usually head to New Saigon Sandwich or 163 Vietnam Sandwich before a long lecture or on my way home. 

Recently I found a new favorite, which is New Saigon's pre-boxed lunches. They have the typical pork chop over rice, but I discovered this gem: barbecue chicken over glutinous rice. Sticky rice is one of my guilty pleasures, and this is a great combination. With a Vietnamese pork spring roll, it doesn't even feel like I'm studying nutrition. 
New Saigon Sandwich
696 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111

Sometimes I just prefer bringing food home over sitting by myself in a restaurant, and one afternoon I was really craving Thai food. Lucky me, Montien is right by the Chinatown area, and its door is studded with stickers of approval from various rating agencies. 

I ordered a crispy chicken spicy pad thai and a tom yum goong. I always feel like there's something missing in tom yum goong that just doesn't make it 100%, but the pad thai was satisfying and exactly what I was craving. A bit nutty, a bit spicy, and completely oily. 

63 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116

I've always had a soft spot for hot pot. And there are a lot of mixed reviews online about Hot Pot Buffet, but I think you should go. $21 all you can eat? I think I ate 5lb of food that night. I couldn't sit or stand or move comfortably after that meal. 

I highly suggest the prime rib eye beef, the fried tofu, and the fish paste. Good stuff and perfect for the cold New England weather. Going back soon for sure! 

Hot Pot Buffet
70 Beach Street
Boston, MA 02111

HK Eatery is a great place for a quick lunch. They serve solid Cantonese barbecued meats and in big amounts. 

I went there last night to try out their rice casseroles cooked in claypots, which is my absolute favorite Cantonese food. However, I must admit that HK Eatery did not reach my expectations: 
1. the rice was not prepared in a clay pot. 
2. the rice against the sides of the pot were not sufficiently burnt
3. they were very stingy with the soy sauce, and told me to use the soy sauce bottle on the table, clearly not the same thing (professional casserole rice restaurants especially prepare soy sauce medleys and will never serve you raw soy sauce from a manufacturer). 

Finally, my favorite mushroom and chicken casserole pot was not at all what I expected. But I still enjoyed it. However, it was still pretty much a great comfort dish and perfect for the chilly weather.  

HK Eatery
79 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02111

I get these sporadic cravings for bubble tea, and The Juice Bar is a place I always find myself going back to.

I recently discovered that they have hot Cantonese desserts, which I definitely want to go back to try. They also have sticky rice wraps, which is meant to be a breakfast food, yet they do not open until 11am. Quite disappointing.

Recently, I had the avocado milkshake with boba. Delicious. 

The Juice Bar
40 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02111

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bistro du Midi

Earlier last month, I invited my cousin and close friends to join me at Bistro du Midi, a restaurant showcasing modern Provençal cuisine. I walked by it several times to Newbury Street from the Chinatown area, and the ground floor always seems lively and there is even outdoor seating in the late summer. 

I started with the mussels, which were in a great garlic and wine broth. 

Jerica ordered the seared foie gras served with chutney and apple fennel juice. 

I ordered the shellfish bouillabaisse, my new favorite dish to order at French restaurants. It is a seafood stew that is usually prepared with fish and flavored with various spices and saffron. 

Megan and Martijn ordered roasted chicken for two that was served with pumpkin and potato, and Jerica had the duck with gnocchi, photographed below. 

For dessert we all shared (from left to right) a hazelnut milk chocolate cake, a fruit crumble, and lavender beignets with chocolate sauce. I'm definitely coming back for the souffles. 

I must say it was a very tasty meal and that I would not mind coming back here again. The food was all great quality, and it was a very comfortable environment to just linger for long conversations or late night drinks. Great place for special occasions, dining to impress, or just an overall satisfying meal. 

Bistro du Midi
272 Boylston Street  
Boston, MA 02116

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Roma, Italia

Rome: The Eternal City. It really is amazing how every few blocks there is a piece of living history from ancient times. Here are some photos of my meals and travels in Rome from this past summer. Oh how I miss it. All the intricate stone and marble carvings, all the fountains, and of course, all the pasta.