Tag Archives: hats

Orange Line Adventures, Part II!

As promised, the continued saga of our trip to JP and the Scottish delights we encountered there!

After thoroughly enjoying all of the appetizers, it was time to dig into our entrees. For the most part we tried for “traditional” fare, though we made an exception for duck. It is imperative, if you’re dining with me, that you always make exceptions for the duck.

For my own part, however, I went with the sassitch and mash.
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The sassitch refers to a lovely house-made sausage, in this case pork combined with apples and sage (you can see a bit of apple poking out in the photo!), always a fantastic group of flavors. Mash can mean any of a number of mashed vegetables, often turnip or potato, but in this case roasted sweet potato, to play nicely with the fall flavors of the sausage. Finally the kale on the side added a bit of much-needed bitterness to balance all of the sweetness, and the cider-jus, with bacon and duck stock, was to die for. The leftovers made a killer hash the next day, too!

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The beef and ale pie! The ale really brings out all of the flavor of the beef, and the caraway crust was perfectly flaky.

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Hard to see, alas (it was VERY dark!) but this is the fish supper – beer-battered haddock, thick chips, and mushy peas. Fish and chips, but very, very good ones, some of the most tender fish I’ve had outside of home in my life, and the batter was thick and delicious. I’d never had mushy peas before – essentially mashed fresh peas with mint. Very green-tasting, and I liked them, but they were served cold and I think I prefer my veggies of this type hot, as a general rule. Others at the table had no such qualms, however, and they did not go to waste!

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Our duck exception, and it was exceptional! The duck was perfection, crispy outside, still rosy inside, and served with mustard greens, red curry, and some kaffir lime yogurt that makes me want to go back and ask for the recipe.

Now I know that at this point you might be thinking, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HAGGIS?” Fear not, my lovelies, for it was ordered and it was eaten. I didn’t get it as my personal entree because two other folks at the table were getting it and I wanted to make sure we had our culinary bases covered (though I needn’t have worried, two other folks ordered the sassitch!).
Here she is:
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A few words about the Haven’s haggis, before I give my thoughts. First, rather than a sheep’s stomach, they use a beef sausage casing. Secondly, they forgo the pesky, only-recently-legal lungs in the filling,though the heart and kidneys are still present. Finally, they serve it with a Drambuie butter, which maybe the tastiest damned thing that’s happened to butter in many a year. I think I may need to make some of my own to keep around the house and spread on everything.

And so, my thoughts – fantastic. The filling ends up being soft and rich, with the strong flavor of the heart coming through. Served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and rutabaga, this was a perfect winter food.

All of this was washed down with a Kelpie Seaweed Ale, a Scottish chocolate ale brewed with bladderwrack seaweed. Think chocolate with a bit of brininess. Tasty, and low-alcohol enough to go well with dinner – plus I really loved the label!
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The great thing about dinner with 9 people is that you almost always have room for dessert, because you’re sharing nearly everything and eating tiny, tapas-like amounts of it all. Even better, if you’re lucky, with 9 people it is totally reasonable to order EVERY DESSERT ON THE MENU and eat the round-robin style. If you have never had such an experience I highly recommend grabbing 8 other people and finding a spot that carries 4-5 dessert options. You will not regret this.
We ate:
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A deep-fried Mars Bar! Way better than any of us had expected it to be, mostly because it was lightly sprinkled with sea salt, which the ladies at the table figured would make nearly any dessert appealing to us, but also because it was all melty and warm inside, and the coating was crisper and tastier than I, for one, was expecting.

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A tart of lemon curd, scented with rosemary smoke. This was the most flamboyant dish, coming as it did with elements that were on fire. You can pretty much always impress with open flame tableside. The taste was also fantastic, however, like a lemon square that had upgraded from the church bake sale and learned to be fancy.

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This is cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert similar to a parfait – layers of fruit, whipped cream, and whiskey are topped with toasted oatmeal. The fruit in ours was, as is seasonally appropriate, cranberries. Valerie, upon enjoying her first spoonful of cranchan, exclaimed “I want to write poetry to this!”

However, the cranachan was soon upstaged by our last dessert, another traditional beauty. Alas, due to the dark, my photo hardly does her justice:
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That is sticky toffee pudding, and that is pure joy on a plate. Imagine a rich, moist sponge cake enrobed in the thickest, darkest toffee sauce possible. The taste is burnt sugar molasses goodness. If you put sea salt on top of it might possibly die right at the table. Upon biting into this, Valerie was moved to say, “If I wanted to write poetry to that, this I want to eat in the back seat of my car!” Her sister, Elise, then summed it up thus: “[Cranachan] is who you take on a nice date, to dinner. Sticky toffee pudding is who you call up after when you didn’t get any.”

Here at Adventures in Food we like to keep it classy.

The waitress, who really was an absolute delight, did us one last favor and took a picture of the whole group:
Hats!
It is painfully obvious who did and did not skip the hat portion of our day, but we love you guys anyway!

A big thank you to the delightful staff of The Haven, who put up with a rotating number of people, our ridiculously early selves, and a very large party with grace and charm. I can’t wait to go back and try their brunch!

Orange Line Adventures – Part I

Let me start with a big thank you to everyone who made this day such a great time: Valerie, Elise, Dan, Gary, Jenn, Ben, Matty and Jill – these adventures are a lot more fun with a big group of people! To those who couldn’t make it, we missed you, and I hope you make it to the next one!

It all began with haggis. What it turned into was so much more – sasquatch and lunchboxes, cupcakes and fedoras, seaweed beer and burning rosemary. But haggis was the start of it all.

For those of you who don’t know, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, a sort of sausage or savory pudding. It is famous, or perhaps infamous, for its ingredients; in addition to oats and spices, the primary ingredients are sheep “pluck” – the heart, liver and lungs (it was actually illegal in the US until this past January, due to that last ingredient. Read more about it here.) The whole mixture is combined, then put into a sheep’s stomach or intestines to simmer. While for many people these are good reasons to avoid haggis, here at Adventures in Food it’s something to run toward.

However, much like Polish food, and Filipino cuisine, it is not as easy as one might imagine to enjoy haggis in the greater Boston area. Much like those previous adventures, there is only one restaurant that I know of serving Scottish food in Boston, and it’s actually fairly new – The Haven, in Jamaica Plain.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the geography of Boston, Jamaica Plain will have little significance for you, but for myself and my fellow food adventurers it posed a little bit of a problem. It’s a wonderful neighborhood, with lots to do and see, but most of us live in Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, and the surrounding towns. These are about as far from Jamaica Plain as you can get and still be part of metro Boston (to be completely truthful, none of those is actually Boston proper, while JP is.) So for a while we kept putting off the haggis experience, choosing things that were more convenient, or at least felt that way. And then, during our Kimball’s outing, I had a brainstorm. I couldn’t make JP easier to get to, but I could ensure that we got the most bang for our buck. There were a few spots in the vicinity of the restaurant that we wanted to visit as well – why not make one big day of it? We could visit the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute, in Egleston Square, and Salmagundi, a hat store about a mile from the restaurant – places we might not get around to, otherwise. People liked the idea, and we ended up with seven for Bigfoot Research and hats, with two more for dinner.

The day arrived last Saturday – a surprisingly gorgeous fall day for mid-November. We met in Egleston Square, home of 826 Boston – a non-profit writing center based on the popular model started by Dave Eggers of McSweeney’s and friends in San Francisco at 826 Valencia Street. Each of the 826 sites (there are ? In the country) is in part financed by some sort of whimsical supply shop co-located with the writing center. The original boasts a store for all of your pirate needs, the NYC site a depot for would-be superheroes. Here in Boston we are blessed with a shop dedicated to all of the needs of a budding cryptozoologist – the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute. Here you will find everything you need to track Bigfoot, trap a unicorn, or learn more about the eating habits of sea serpents. This mostly translates as waterproof notebooks, “unicorn tears,” and books on cryptozoology, but it’s all laid out in a charming, bright space. Obvious care has been put into the look of the place, with little labels in the style of old science labs detailing everything. Most of us left with tee-shirts or mugs, though I was enchanted by the “sasq-watch.” The store isn’t terribly big, but check it out – you’re supporting a good cause, and hey, you never know when those unicorn tears will come in handy.

From here we wandered down the T one stop into JP proper, for Salmagundi and some hat shopping! En route to Salmagundi we also made a couple of quick stops worth mentioning – one at Monumental Cupcakes, the other at a little antique store next door. While I did not partake of the cupcakes, the gentlemen who did assured me they were some of the best bakery cupcakes they’d ever had! And Gary made a sweet purchase at the antique store:
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Yes, folks, he is now the proud owner of an H.R. Pufnstuf metal lunchbox, thanks to the eagle eyes of yours truly and the antiques haven that is downtown Jamaica Plain.

After that brief, magical interlude we arrived at Salmagundi. Located on Centre Street, this store is the absolute mecca of hats – they literally have thousands of them, in every style you can imagine, from classic fedoras to trendy flat caps. They sell a small selection of clothes and cool accessories as well, but the headgear is the star of the show – along with the fabulous customer service. When we arrived the store was fairly hopping – but that didn’t stop owner Jessen and his crew from giving our folks their full attention. After over an hour of shopping, we each had a hat (or two!) to add to our collections. Yes, we DID wear them to the restaurant, and yes, we did get weird looks on the street as we walked the final mile to the restaurant. There’s something about a gang of 7 people in classy hats all walking down the street together that commands attention, and hey, we looked good!

When we arrived at The Haven, we were about an hour early for our reservation, so we decided to grab a drink at the bar while we waited for the final two members of our party to arrive. The restaurant is small but intimate, with lots of dark wood, low-lighting, and a general feeling of coziness and warmth. I checked in with the host, and as we ordered our beer he let us know that it would be fine for us to take our table – dinner service didn’t start for half-an-hour, but we were welcome to sit. Given that we had taken over the little bar we thought that a good idea and sat down. Our waitress brought bowls of lovely homemade pickles, crisp and fresh:
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(the red onion were outrageously good!)

She also brought oatcakes and butter, an immediate hit with our group. Softer than a cracker, but not as sweet as a cookie, these were a delightful treat with our beer while we waited for our companions:
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Once they arrived we set in to do some serious work on the menu! First, a round of appetizers was in order. We decided on one of the specials, a duck liver terrine, served with more oatcakes, grainy brown mustard, and sweet onions. Not terribly traditional, but it was divine:
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The terrine was smooth, silky, dark and rich, highlighted perfectly by the accompaniments.

We also had a plate of smoked fish:
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Bridie, a tradition pastry similar to Cornish pasties.
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Think a buttery, flaky pie crust, filled in this case with sweet, roasted autumn vegetables.

And finally, Scotch eggs!
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These little beauties are becoming popular on other Boston bar menus, and it’s easy to understand why. A hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs, and fried, they’re the perfect combination of taste and texture – salty, slightly rubbery (but in a good way!) crunchy and soft – for eating with a pint of something tasty. Mustard makes the ideal accompaniment, and the salad served alongside stops it from being unforgivably decadent.

And now, after all the haggis build-up, I’m going to do something terrible and make you come back for a part II! This post is already a behemoth and I want to do justice to the great meal we had. Check back tomorrow for the rest of this tale!