Thursday, March 29, 2012

Minetta Tavern

Old saloon decor, framed caricatures, and extremely limited space and seating... this feels like New York City but from another time. Minetta Tavern has been on Macdougal Street since the 1930's, but it was recently revamped as an upscale restaurant serving one of the best steaks in Manhattan. 

I went with my family over my spring break because I've been dying to try the infamous cote de boeuf. It's a $124 ordeal for 2 and it comes with a 32oz steak, marrow bones, and a sucrine lettuce salad. We started with a smoked salmon galette served with a fried egg and salmon roe. It was a delicious fried egg with salmon topped with roe and served in an airy doughy crepe-like galette, and I wish I could have it for breakfast every Sunday morning. We also had the roast baby beets salad and a mesclun salad that came with an amazing toast that was smothered in goat cheese. With our cote de boeuf, we got the pommes aligot, cheesy silky mashed potatoes, that was so dangerously addicting, that I had to physically move it out of my reach to restrain myself from overeating. My brother also insisted on getting the pommes punched because rosemary roasted potatoes with duck fat just sounded too appealing. 

The cote de boeuf? It was marvelously marbled, medium rare, and oozing with juice. In all seriousness, thinking about it now is making me salivate. The generous portions of bone marrow left me in pure ecstasy. And can someone please let me know if there's a civilized way to eat meat straight off a bone? Much thanks. Also, we ended up sharing between four people; I cannot imagine a pair of people who can actually finish the monstrous serving of steak themselves. 

We ended the night with a delightful apple tart that was not enough for all of us to share and a Grand Marnier souffle. I have yet to have a souffle in America that makes me feel like I'm eating clouds, but it hit the spot, nonetheless. 

Smoked salmon galette 

Dry Aged Cote de Boeuf

Grand Marnier Souffle

It took me two tries over three months apart to book a table for 4 at a normal dining time (not 5pm or 10pm), so make your reservations now if you want to eat there next month! 
And I keep hearing things about their french dip, so I guess I'll have to meander back soon. 

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Willie Mae's Scotch House, New Orleans

I just got back to New York from New Orleans, and boy do I miss it. I do not care for any of the restaurants in Manhattan right now (I'm going to Don Peppe's tonight, and I'm not even excited for that. What is wrong with me?) because I need to get back to the South, ASAP! 

Here's a new series of blog posts that I hope to start, simply stating a few of the best things I've eaten. I am now honestly admitting (here goes my nutrition career) that I love fried chicken. I mean, what's not to like? Good old crispy chicken. That simple. 


For my last meal in New Orleans, I took a cab outside the French Quarter to the alleged BEST FRIED CHICKEN IN THE UNITED STATES. Several cab drivers told me this. And one of them even said this, "My wife said that if this place has the best fried chicken in America, then I make the best fried chicken in the world." I did not have the luxury to try dear old Mrs. Charles' fried chicken, but Willie Mae's is pretty  amazing (understatement). The area itself was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Katrina, and the restaurant is surrounded by abandoned building and some empty construction sites. Worth the cab ride? Oh was it worth it. 


One bite into the chicken, and let me tell you, it is a game changer. The batter is simple, crispy, and delicious, and with every bite, I just couldn't help but wonder.. how is the meat so extremely tender? It's unfair to all other fried chicken ever made. It also has a slight hint of seasoning that I want to say is Cajun inspired because it has the spice of cayenne pepper. It was just so finger-licking good that I even ordered half a dozen pieces to bring home back to New York. 

I also tried the country fried pork chop, but really, don't even bother with that. You only need the fried chicken. It also goes well with rice and gravy or corn muffins. Top it off with a cold glass of iced tea (no beer served), and you're golden. I will definitely be going back next time I visit New Orleans. 

Willie Mae's Scotch House
2401 St Ann St  
New Orleans, LA 70119 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Abigail's, Cambridge

I rarely venture out to Kendall, but I went out to dinner with my new friend Michael who currently resides there, and he brought me out to Abigail's for a quick dinner. Abigail's opened up less than a year ago and offers a comfortable dining area with warm lighting and wooden furnishings. 

We started with the night's appetizer special of razor clams in a buttery garlic wine sauce with sausage. (Really, if you go wrong with that sauce, there is no saving you.) Needless to say, I found myself dipping every last crust and crumb of the toasted bread in the garlicky goodness. You don't see razor clams on menus much, so this was a treat. 

For entrees, I ordered smoked lamb sandwich with babaganoush, spicy yogurt, arugula, and pickled red onion on a ciabatta. It was a good sandwich, but I wish the lamb wasn't leaking with juice. My plate was soaked upon my first bite, and it took away from all the other flavors and made the ciabatta a bit soggy after awhile (Landmarc is still my favorite place for a lamb sandwich). Michael ordered BBQ'd brisket with a fried egg on a grilled sesame bun, which was very well flavored and tender; great comfort food choice. We also had a side of brussel sprouts (my favorite) with pancetta. 

Abigail's is definitely an inviting locale that I can see locals visiting time and time again. Hopefully with the warm weather, I'll find myself enjoying their outdoor patio seating soon. And looking at the menu again, I wish I ordered a gouda fries with chicken gravy. 

Razor clams with sausage

Lamb sandwich 

Brussel sprouts with pancetta and BBQ' brisket sandwich

291 3rd Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dumpling Cafe

I always walk by Dumpling Cafe, and I finally went with Lukas because I was craving xiao long baos like no other. As previously mentioned, the Shanghainese pork dumplings  are one of my favorite things to eat, and I am in search of the best place to get them in Boston. 

Dumpling Cafe's soup dumplings are good (definitely better than Gourmet Dumpling House's). The skin is an acceptable thickness, though a bit on the sticky side, and the pork and soup are deliciously savory and fragrant. We also ordered a stir-fried string beans and beef and Shanghai braised noodles. The string beans hit the spot and so did the flavor of the noodles, but I wish the noodles were a bit thicker and less limp. 

I must say that I intend on returning soon because I love my Shanghainese food and dumplings. 

--edit: their noodles are actually Taiwanese styled noodles. This might explain the texture of the noodles? It still has the same flavors. 

Dumpling Cafe
695 Washington Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kitchen Improv: Niçoise Pasta

Nicoise salads were popularized in Nice, France. It's traditionally made with anchovies, tomatoes, black olive, capers, and lemon juice. When I studied abroad near Talloires, France, my host mom would make a liberal version of the Nicoise salad whenever we had leftover pasta or rice. The beauty of this  recipe is that it is made of ingredients that you usually have lying around anyways, so it works magic with leftover starches.

Niçoise Pasta:
2 cups cooked orecchiette (or I really like using farfalle)
2 eggs (hardboiled)
1 cup string beans
1 tomato
1 tin tuna
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 cloves or garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
black pepper, salt

1. Slice the hard boiled egg, dice the garlic and cut the string beans. Make sure all the other ingredients such as the hard boiled eggs and the pasta are prepared. 
2. Heat a pan with the olive oil, then sautee the garlic. Once the garlic is browned, add the string beans. Cook on high heat (adding a few spoonfuls of water or chicken broth and covering the pan will help the beans cook faster). Once beans are about ready, stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, sliced olives, and about a teaspoon of salt. Turn off the heat. 
3. Combine with the tuna, sliced hard boiled egg, and cooked pasta. Mix thoroughly, flavor with  pepper. 

I also love this recipe because it's meant to be eaten cold. It works great as a lunch on-the-go, and makes a great pasta salad for picnics on warm days like this!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Istanbul, Turkey

I have been in Boston for less than two months, but I am already itching to fly off to somewhere new again. 

Constantinople. Istanbul. How do I give a city with such rich history, culture, and people, justice with just a simple post? Istanbul was my first encounter in an Islamic country. Though it was clearly a modern metropolitan city, the Muslim influence is prevalent. There was so much to learn, so much to see, and only so much time. For those of you who have never been inside a mosque, it is a must. Nothing compares to the serenity and the grandness inside the majestically domed structures. Furthermore, being spoiled with a Turkish bath (hammam) and the smoothest hookah (nargile), everyone can feel like a sultan. Don't even remind me of how fun Turkish clubs are. The live bands played the most bumping beats, and everyone is just there to dance. And to top it off, every country we visited after Turkey admitted to the Ottoman Empire's influence in their own modern cultures, so really, Turkey is where it is. 

The food? I hope you like lamb. There are so many opportunities to grab a doner kebab or pomegranate juice on the go. My favorite thing? Meatballs. Also known as kofte, the Turks got it right. I found myself eating kofte almost every meal because they were well seasoned, tender, and juicy. And if yogurt is your thing, then so is Turkish cuisine. There are lots of variations of yogurt sauces and ayran, a salty yogurt drink that pairs perfectly with my favorite late night snack, kokorec, a lamb intestine wrap. And oh what I would give for some more flat bread and hot lentil soup right now. 

Suleiman Mosque

Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, the perfect detox, or so I tell myself. 

Yogurtlu kebab: lamb with a yogurt and tomato sauce over fried potatoes

inside the Grand Bazaar

New friends with an Ataturk flag at the Grand Bazaar

Sahlep and kunefe

Soggy hamburgers? Yes, please! (Anthony Bourdain No Reservations was here before!)


Fresh fish sandwiches served from a boat

Spice Market

Kahve: Turkish unfiltered coffee

view from the Galata Kulesi

Turkish dumplings: manti

Kokorec: spiced and seasoned sauteed lamb intestines. The best.

Best hangover cure: red lentil soup and fresh oven baked flatbread

Kofte: the addictive Turkish meatball

Dolma, olive oil, and hummus

Check out those stuffed mussels. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mistral, Boston

Don't judge me, but I enjoy dining by myself from time to time. It's a great time to really enjoy what you're eating and concentrate on nothing but the food and your immediate surroundings. (Whatever, I'm alone and crazy. It's cool.) Eating out alone is honestly an underrated pleasure that everyone should experience. So on my date with me, I decided to try out Jamie Mammano's Mistral. 

The decor is Southern France inspired, as seen in the panels depicted with lavender fields. I thought the dining area was a bit too understated for me, but the wall-length clock in the sitting area is really nice. I think it would be a much more comfortable dining experience during the day or twilight when the sun streams through their windows. 

The bread. How do I describe something so utterly divine? It's to die for. No, that's insensitive (I just watched The Pianist, and any form of food was worth dying for in that film), but the bread is simply amazing, and I never expect amazing bread in Boston. It is freshly baked, light, airy, and made with a perfectly crispy crust. Even better? The mashed garlic and chickpea spread in olive oil is like a modern hummus that went really well with the heavenly bread. I had to resist the temptation when my server asked if I wanted seconds. If anything, Mistral is worth it for the bread.  
House bread with Vermont butter and a mashed garlic chickpea spread

I started with a crab ravioli that came in a very light broth. I'm usually quite hesitant in ordering pastas as a first course, but this dish was refreshing and flavorful. It reminded me a bit of wonton soup, for the ravioli was very thin, and the broth was so clear. The crab in the ravioli was slightly creamy and  paired very well with the fragrant broth. 
Maine crab ravioli with rock crab, thyme, and tomato broth

I've never had lamb osso bucco before, and I'm a huge fan of bone marrow. However, how does one elegantly suck all the marrow out of the bone in a formal setting? I'll never know. The lamb wasn't as tender as I hoped it to be, but the texture contrasted well against the creamy goat cheese polenta. The tomatoes in the dish were a surprising delight, for it absorbed a lot of the sauce. 
Braised lamb "osso bucco" with goat cheese polenta

Of course I ended a date with myself with a hot cup of cappuccino and some dessert. I was drawn to the Mistral Assiette for Two, but of course I was only by myself. However, the waiter let me leave out the creme brulee and profiteroles for just the pot de creme au chocolat and the berries. The pot de creme was dense and creamy chocolate served with whipped cream and a nice cleansing sprig of mint. The fresh berries were in a nice thin baked shell with champagne sabayon, a very light custard.
Pot de creme au chocolat and berries with champagne sabayon

Mistral is definitely the place to go in Boston if you're looking for somewhere to dine on a special occasion. The service was very attentive and amiable. There were many other menu options that I was torn between, so this just might mean I have to go back. Even if it's because I want more bread. I will definitely be down to try Jamie Mammano's other establishments in Boston. 

Mistral Bistro
223 Columbus Ave
Boston, Massachusetts 02116