Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

Clover Food Lab

June 15, 2010

The inception of the Clover Food Lab brought with it two important contributions to the Boston food scene. The first is its addition to the slow and steady rise of food trucks in this city. While L.A., San Francisco, and New York have been quick to embrace the benefits of this medium, Boston has been lagging behind. What makes this trend so great, anyway? I think it can be summed up as: great food brought closer to customers at a faster rate and for lower cost. While brick-and-mortar restaurants will not be going anywhere, the lower cost food trucks allow chefs to distribute their culinary ideas without the time and investment need for a full-scale restaurant. Additionally, food trucks provide a better option when a customer does not need ambience or table service as part of their dining experience. Let’s face it: if you’re eating at a desk, ambiance is not going to matter much. But convenience, price and flavor probably will matter. What’s secondary but also important is that food trucks have greater flexibility to experiment and change their menus with relatively little cost to their reputation and business. Since food trucks are usually run by small start-ups types (few big financers and restaurant groups), consumers have come to expect constant change and for this change to be communicated via online and social media.  The increased flexibility for the food trucks allows you, the consumer, to try new and different foodie experiments that have the potential to blow your tastes buds away without completely damaging the food business if the experiment fails. If you’ve ever read their blog, you’d know that this is something that the folks at Clover Food Lab can attest to. The other important contribution Clover is making to Boston is that it serves 100% vegetarian fare that is delicious and not too “hippie-ish.” While Boston is mainly known as a meat and potatoes kind of town, the crazy lines at Clover Food Lab are a testament to a growing market that is currently underserved.

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I popped over there recently and tried out their seasonal sandwich: the pimento. It was mouth-watering. A soft pita was filled with pickled celery, spicy marinated cucumbers and pimento cheese spread. It’s a perfect combination of spicy, creamy and crunchy. The spread was so good I was inspired to try making my own at home. While this was ideal for a light lunch, they also have heartier options like the popular egg and eggplant sandwich. If you’re interested to try one of their creations, I suggest getting there on the earlier side of breakfast or lunch since they tend to run out of their top selling items quickly.

Boston Truck
Dewey Square (South Station T stop)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
7  a.m. – 3 p.m.

MIT Truck
Carleton St. (off the Kendall/MIT stop)
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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Meet a Locaveg: Danielle D.

June 10, 2010

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Welcome to a bit I call: Meet a Locaveg. What is a Locaveg? A locaveg is a vegetarian/vegan in your town or community who’s got the download on all the best places to eat and resources for recipes. Wait, did I just make that up? Why, yes I did! My first subject for this project is Danielle (see photo below). Danielle is a vibrant and very plugged-in student at Newbury College. She grew up in Swampscott, MA within a meat-loving family and spends a lot of time among Albanians who think chicken is vegetarian.

But this girl’s got the willpower of steel to stick to her vegetarian (well, actually pescatarian – but I forgive her for having great taste) diet. She’s even got enough energy to wake-up and do some Insanity ® workouts before her job and classes. So what does she eat that gives her this amazing energy? She swears by snacking on nuts (she recommends Ellie Krieger’s maple walnuts if you want to mix it up) and eating plenty of beans and lentils instead of gorging on carbs. Below are her top three picks for places to get some of the best vegetarian grub:

3) Sabor Deminas

“It’s organic and has really good polenta with vegetables. I also love their cous cous with fresh vegetables.”

Sabor Deminas
89 Broadway
Sommerville, MA
617-776-0032

2) Tapas Corner

“I recommend their vegetable chili – I think the secret ingredient is cinnamon sticks. They also have other great options like stir fry with their specialty Tapas sauce, babaghanoush and burritos.”

Tapas Corner
6 Wallis St.
Beverly, MA
978-927-9983

1) Arrows

Though this pick might not be strictly in Massachusetts, it’s only a two-hour drive from the city and completely worth it. You know Danielle has great taste when she names Arrows as her all-time favorite restaurant. It’s been nominated for the James Beard’s best chefs of the Northeast award six times previously and finally won for 2010. She recommends hitting it up on one of their bistro nights or their Arrows classic nights where they do 1980’s dish for 1980’s prices. But be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Arrows
41 Berwick Rd,
Ogunquit, ME
207-361-1100

Thanks for the great tips, Danielle! If any one of you want to be the next one profiled, leave a comment with your email and I’ll be in touch with you soon.

Chinese Mirch Coming to Beantown Burbs

May 21, 2010

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Tipped off by a commenter, I investigated Chinese Mirch’s website and they are indeed coming to Boston (well, Framingham) this summer. So only a few more weeks before the people of this city can taste what true Indian Chinese is supposed to be like. In the meantime, if you’re in NYC and not sure whether to hit up Nanking or Chinese Mirch, you’re in luck! I’ve put together a guide on how to choose between the two. Check back by Monday for the full story.

Mumbai Chopstix is a Tease

May 20, 2010

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I’ve got good news and bad news for Bostonians. The good news is that an Indo-Chinese restaurant, Mumbai Chopstix, has finally arrived. The bad news: the food is not really up to par and will leave you feeling teased rather than satisfied.

Steamed Vegetable Momohs

At Mumbai Chopstix, the execution of the food is poor and the service mediocre. I tried several of the dishes. Among the starters, I had the vegetable momohs, the “authentic” bhel, and the papaya and mango salad. The steamed vegetable momohs (dumplings) were terrible. The wrapping was undercooked so that the texture was doughy and tough. The immediate taste to overwhelm your palatte was that of raw dough…a flavor which permeates and persists in the mouth. The filling was tolerable but lacked any personality.  The “authentic” bhel was unimpressive as well. Though the presentation was beautiful – a tower of rice puffs capped with a puri (fried bread dough) holding sweet chutney, yogurt and sev (a fried snack shape like thin noodles) – the bhel was far from authentic and was actually a bit dry and dull in flavor. The papaya and mango salad succeeded more as a side salad than as an appetizer salad. It provided a much needed cooling respite from the overpowering spiciness of the entrées. It was crunchy and acidic and tasted almost like pickled vegetables. The few mangos in the salad gave the dish a much needed brightness and tang and in fact, I could have used a few more of those mangos in my salad.

Papaya and Mango Salad

As for the entrées, I sampled the vegetable Manchurian, the vegetable Hakka noodles, the chili garlic noodles, the lachew cauliflower and the chili paneer. The vegetable Manchurian was the absolute biggest disappointment on the menu. This dish is my favorite item when it comes to Indo-Chinese so my disappointment was magnified. Usually, the dumplings in this dish consist of steamed cabbage, carrots and onions that have been loosely bound together with flavoring agents, eggs or boiled rice and flour. They should be slightly crispy and golden brown on the outside but fluffy, light and slightly chewy on the inside. If I had to guess, I would say the Manchurian dumplings at Mumbai Chopstix were made out of frozen veggie burgers that they cut up and rolled into balls and then fried. They were extremely dense and tasted like soy and mushrooms: simply awful. The vegetable Hakka noodles and the chili garlic noodles fared much better. They were very similar to each other, but the Hakka noodles had a tomato-based chili sauce on them while the chili garlic noodles were coated in a black pepper sauce. Both of these noodle items were extremely spicy. The lachew cauliflower was one of the better items on the dish. It had the crispy texture on the outside that I was looking for. It was much less spicy than the other dishes, so probably more appealing to a wider audience. The chili paneer, however, was the highlight of the show. Again, it was quite spicy. But the paneer was cooked exactly how it should be – soft with a bit of resistance to the teeth. And it had a great brightness and acidity to the flavor that was lacking in most of the other dishes.

chili paneer, vegetable Hakka noodles, and chili garlic noodles

Aside from the food, the drinks were surprisingly good. I would especially recommend the lychee Bellini. The service on the other hand, was not so great. The waiter who served us mumbled and could not be understood by a single person at our table. He also seemed like he didn’t care all that much.

Overall, if you are having a tsunami craving for Indo-Chinese where you are considering going to NYC to get your fix, then you can stop in at Mumbai Chopstix and order the chili paneer and one the noodle dishes. If you are keen on any other item, I recommend skipping this place and planning your next trip to NYC.  Or better yet, have a party, invite your friends and cater it from Bombay Club, which will provide you with what you are looking for.

Mumbai Chopstix
254 Newbury Street (between Fairfield and Gloucester)
617-927-4444

Chef Profile: Bob Bouley

May 12, 2010

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Upon first glance, Chef Bouley does not look like someone you would picture when you think of a vegan. In fact, he looks more like your next-door, all-American, meat-and-potatoes family man. I guess because, well, that’s true – except for the meat part.  Aside from running a vegan restaurant, Bob, along with his wife and co-owner Lisa, is a parent and has the same responsibilities as any other parent, such as making school lunches (vegan, of course!). Bob didn’t start out as a vegan, however. Far from it, he began his career working in a diner in Danvers, MA around the age of thirteen. Without receiving any formal training, he worked his way up in several kitchens, including the ones at Paparazzi, The Colonnade Hotel, Whole Foods Market and a catering company. It was only when he met Lisa, who was already a vegan, did he begin to think about food as an ethical choice. She took him to the Boston Vegetarian Society’s Food Festival where he spent time looking around, visiting all the booths and talking to people. After that experience, he went vegan cold turkey (pardon the expression) and never looked back. Bouley says he doesn’t miss meat or dairy – instead he uses the techniques he’s learned over his career to replace animal products with tons of flavor. With his latest restaurant, The Pulse Cafe, Bob is cooking foods that are familiar and comforting in order to appeal to meat-eaters and recent vegan converts as well as those who have been vegan for a long time already. So, what are his favorite dishes from the menu? Though the menu is seasonal, right now he loves the quinoa salad with grill tofu cutlet, ranchero sauce and salsa. The BBQ seitan is also an evergreen favorite. So what else does Bob eat? Well, while he and his family don’t eat out too much, he is anxious to get to Prana Café. In the meantime, when Bob’s cooking at home, it usually comes down to Amy’s burritos. Though Bob claims that he’s “not a hard-core vegan,” he really enjoys his vegan lifestyle and creates comforting vegan dishes that can satisfy even a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

See Chef Bouley recall his favorite food memory in the video below and learn how even great chefs can make mistakes.

The Pulse Cafe
195 Elm St.
Somerville, MA
617-625-1730

Thomas Keller Speaks to Veggiewala!

May 10, 2010

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Thomas Keller might be the newest target of the vegan foie gras protest, but much like with Bill Telepan, the protestors might be going after the wrong guy. Sure, both Telepan’s and Keller’s restaurants serve foie gras, but Chef Keller is actually very friendly towards vegetarians and vegans. At his restaurants Per Se and The French Laundry, he accommodates the dietary requests of the diner “as any great restaurant should.” And he’s collaborated on the cookbook Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long. I got a chance to speak with him while he was in Boston for a signing for his new cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home. Check out the video below. And if you’re curious about his favorite Bay State eateries, here’s some insight… while coming up from Providence, he ate at Il Forno, but is also a big fan of Ken Oringer. If he gets a chance, he likes to stop over at Clio while he’s in town. He’s also looking forward to checking out Oringer’s latest project near Fenway: La Verdad Taqueria.

Chocolate Buzz at Café Fleuri

May 4, 2010

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Have you ever been drunk off of chocolate? I have. I didn’t even think it was possible until I went to Café Fleuri at the Langham Hotel Boston. Their Saturday chocolate buffet was full of all kinds of delights – mainly chocolate but some non-chocolate as well. All of the desserts were organized around a theme (as if they needed one aside from unlimited chocolate), which had to do with the neighborhoods of Boston. Represented were the North End, Chinatown, Beacon Hill, Faneuil Hall and Fenway.  The spread included items like dim sum, five-spice chocolate soup, cannolis, tiramisu, bread pudding, crepes, chocolate pizza and pasta, crème brulée, cupcakes, cookies, mousses, jellies, tarts, fresh-spun cotton candy and a chocolate fountain. My favorites were the Chinese five-spice chocolate soup, the egg custard dim sum, the crepe station and the croissant bread pudding. The most intriguing item – chocolate pasta – turned out to be extremely devoid of any flavor, chocolate or otherwise. While the chocolate bar is offered during brunch hours (11a.m. – 3p.m. on Saturdays), I would highly recommend eating something non-sugary ahead of time. This was the first meal of the day for most of the members in my group, and afterwards, we all felt kind of woozy and unfocused. Those of us who got a chance to nap woke up with a hangover of sorts. Those of us who didn’t, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

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The Langham Boston
250 Franklin St.
617-956-8751

Guilt Tripped

May 1, 2010

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How many of you guys watched Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution? I’m not gonna lie…I was so inspired by the show, I had my own Food Revolution marathon via Hulu. I signed up for Jaime’s petition and was reminded by his friendly Friday newsletter to spread the word. So I might be a day late, but I’m doing my part.

If you are unfamiliar with the petition, it’s really simple. All it says is:

I support the Food Revolution. America’s kids need better food at school and better health prospects. We need to keep cooking skills alive.

Fill in your email address, first name, last name and state/province and that’s it! You’ve just helped to petition the While House for better school food.

Thomas Keller Makes His Way to Beantown

April 30, 2010

On tour for his new book ad hoc at home, the executive chef of Per Se and The French Laundry will be coming to Williams-Sonoma in the Copley Mall. He is scheduled to do a book signing starting at noon on Saturday, May 8th.  Now the real question: where will he be dining while he’s in town?

100 Huntington Place
617-262-3080