Tag Archives: nandi

Coppa!

Coppa is one of those restaurants that I kept meaning to get to. Chef/Owner Ken Oringer is legendary on the Boston food scene, with restaurants as diverse and well-loved as Clio, La Verdad, Toro, and KO Prime to his name. The other Chef/Owner, Jaime Bissonette, has not only worked with Oringer at several of those restaurants, but he’s the sort of young, funky, tattooed chef who gets profiled all over the place. All signs pointed to Coppa being a great dining experience. So what took me so long to get there?

I’ll admit it, location was a huge factor. Coppa is tucked away on a little side street in the South End that just isn’t that convenient to my nightlife. I’m in the neighborhood once a week during the school year to volunteer, but the middle of a work day isn’t the best time to visit a restaurant that calls itself an enoteca – while it’s not literally a wine shop, there is a very serious Italian wine list. I was also concerned that this would be a splurge meal – something I have no trouble doing, but I needed an excuse for said splurge.

One finally came in the form of my third marathon, which I ran with two friends with similar attitudes toward good food and drink. We would celebrate our accomplishment with wine and meat!

Because that’s Coppa’s specialty – a marvelous selection of Italian salumi, cheeses, and meaty delights. This is not a restaurant that vegetarians would enjoy. Thankfully, I am no vegetarian. So, did it live up to my great expectations?

DID IT EVER.

We started with pretty much our only vegetable dish of the evening, little crostini topped with sunchokes and marscarpone cheese.
Untitled
(apologies for the blurry picture – it was quite dark in the restaurant. Eventually I caved and used my flash.) This little bar snack is seriously fantastic. If you’ve never had a sunchoke, imagine a cross between a chestnut and a mushroom – nutty but earthy at the same time.

Our other non-meat dish was the burrata, which is type of insanely buttery mozzarella cheese made right in Somerville, MA.
Untitled
If it had been acceptable to lick the plate, we would have.

Similarly warm feelings were had about these:
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These are pig’s tails, roasted in a wood-oven and glazed with mostarda. They are tiny nuggets of pure joy. If I could eat them every day, I would be extremely happy for the rest of my incredibly shortened life span.

Naturally, we couldn’t visit Coppa without getting a salume plate. Regrettably, I forgot the name of nearly everything on this platter the minute she put it down, but I DO know there’s some lardo on that piggy, because we asked for it, and it was amazing. Also, how adorable is that tray?

Adjusted Salume Plate

This was an entree special of an extremely decadent rib. Though just one, the meat was plentiful.

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Finally, we did try one of the wood-fired pizzas – bone marrow with beef heart pastrami and horseradish. If, like myself and the ladies I was dining with, the combination  of beef heart and bone marrow on your pizza tantalizes, GET THIS. It is outstanding, meaty and silky and cheesy and wonderful.

Untitled If, on the other hand, like the young couple on a date next to us you are in fact a pair of very confused vegetarians, DO NOT EVEN ASK what is on this pizza. You will be sorry you did.

The atmosphere in Coppa is jovial and close – the space is teeny tiny. Everyone seems friendly and the wait staff is lovely, but if you’re in Boston and want to go, I’d get (I did in fact get) reservations, because there’s really not the space to wait. Since they call themselves an enoteca, a note on the wine: I thought it was fabulous. I also really love Italian reds, so this seems like a no-brainer, but I felt like Coppa carries interesting grapes for a reasonable by the glass price. They don’t have a full liquor license, so the cocktails are all cordial-based (Boston has some weird liquor laws). That’s not really my scene so I didn’t try them – but if you have I’d like to hear about it!

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A Continued Journeyman

When last we left our intrepid heroines,their senses had been tantalized by two of their five-course Journeyman meal (with a little, delicious lardo interlude). Tune in now for Journeyman, Part II: The Entree Initiative.

Fish Course

Our next course was the fish (no shells!: bluefish atop salt cod, with sea beans, a muscadet foam, and more of that heavenly lardo. There are people in the world who don’t like bluefish, finding it too oily. I am not one of these people, perhaps because I’ve only ever eaten bluefish in nice restaurants, where they know what to do with this oiliness – basically use it to make the crispiest, most delicious fish skin of all time. The sea beans and cod added a pleasant saltiness to contrast with the sweet muscadet foam and the fatty lardo. I put a little heart next to the lardo in my notes, because I loved it so.

Next, the main course – lamb two ways:
Lamb 2 ways
The two ways the lamb came were braised in barley milk, served atop a little bed of bulgur wheat, and roasted, simply but perfectly. The accompaniments were blackened pistachio puree and autumn olive puree. (Our server helpfully explained that autumn olive is not really an olive, but sort of a berry. I helpfully explained that I was well aware of what an autumn olive is. I fear I have not totally mastered the gentle art of smiling and nodding.) There were also black trumpet mushrooms on the plate, which were pleasantly chewy, but unexciting. Unlike the rest of the dish, which was VERY exciting. The braised lamb was very tender and its little bed tasted, fascinatingly, of almonds. The roast lamb, while it sounds boring, was divine. Tender, cooked to perfection, everything a little lamb should be, and the purees just enhanced it. A lovely fall meal.

Prior to dessert coming, we were informed, a palate cleanser would be served, and after dessert there would be a surprise “thank you.” We asked if we could try the milk punch with dessert, since we’d not selected a dessert wine (it was actually what sounded like a very good vermouth) as part of our beverage pairing. Alas, we were told, the milk punch was nearly gone, but there would be enough for us to sample it. Huzzah!

Palate Cleanser - Greek yogurt ice cream and watermelon gelee
The palate cleanser was delightful, a greek yogurt ice cream atop a watermelon gelee. Watermelon is not the most aggressive flavor, which I suppose is appropriate when cleansing the palate, but it was sweet, which partnered nicely with the tart ice cream and a wee bite of chiffonaded mint.

The milk punch arrived:
Milk Punch!
The beverage fellow was the most enthusiastic I saw him all night when we asked about the process of making the punch (he was perfectly lovely the rest of the night, just a bit soft-spoken. This brought him out of his shell.) For those who don’t know, milk punch is made by combining liquor (traditionally brandy or rum), milk, and citrus. The citrus curdles the milk – you then strain off the solids and are left with a clear, but still creamy, liqueur, which can then be flavored how you like. This one was meant to taste like a root beer float, and the root beer taste was very clear. I smell a project coming.

Desserts

Our dessert proper, the “Three Apples,” came next. That’s a brioche filled with Scotch cream, a caramelized apple with Madeira creme anglaise, and an apple sorbet atop house-made graham cracker crumbs. I think I liked this last the best – it was intensely, purely apple. The others were pleasant, and I liked the smoky Scotch cream, but if I’d had my druthers I’d probably just as soon had another plate of lardo. In the battle between sweet and salty to win my heart, salty takes every round.

That said, our surprise was quite nice, and perhaps just more up my dessert-alley:
Surprise!
Housemade marshmallows, super-dark chocolate brownies, and the teeniest little creme brulees you ever saw! Isn’t it cute? The marshmallow tasted of lemon, and the brownies were barely sweet and intensely fudgy, which love. Since I am not a huge fan of custard, but a GIANT fan of burnt sugar, this was also just about the most perfect helping of creme brulee I can imagine.

All told, Journeyman did not disappoint. It’s definitely not an everyday sort of meal – it’s expensive, and the presentation is all about theater and lingering over your meal. But if you have something, or several somethings, to celebrate, I can’t think of a more intimate and lovely way to so!

Also, they’re working on building an attached bar, called Backbar, to open sometime soon. You better believe I’ll be checking it out!

Fantastic Journey..man

Journeyman! So cute.

This is the story of two little ladies who embarked on a quest, and ended up finding far more adventure and magic than they had even imagined!

Or maybe it’s just the story of two friends trying to make dinner plans, and finally getting around to it. But they were truly AMAZING dinner plans, as you will soon see. Fantastic, even.

It all started nearly a year ago, when I read about a new restaurant that had opened up in Union Square. I don’t remember where I read about it, truth be told, but I was enchanted by the description – super local, super seasonal set dinner menus of 3, 5 or 7 courses, with a few molecular gastronomy-style flourishes. Not the sort of place you could enjoy some good old-fashioned down-home cooking, but rather a stage on which to enjoy the whole experience of food. I wrote to beloved dining companion Nandi, and we made plans to head to this restaurant, this Journeyman, as soon as a suitable celebratory occasion presented itself. And present themselves they did!

She won a football pool, and got the job of her dreams! I got betrothed, and finished a prestigious leadership workshop! We both ran countless races, including a second marathon, and STILL WE DID NOT GO. Finally we decided to just make the reservations, already, and celebrate the whole lot of it, occasions be damned! Would Journeyman be able to live up to a year of build up?

We arrived spot on time for our 7:00 reservation, to discover we were the first patrons of the evening. The space is modern yet cozy, with plants filling the front window and a lovely bar in the middle at which we were encouraged sit if we liked and watch the chefs. Of course we chose these seats – I prefer to sit at a bar rather than the middle of the room whenever possible – and we were off.

We chose the 5 course, omnivore meal, after determining that none of the fish were shellfish, since they are Nandi’s deadly enemies. Our server, a dapper young man, assured us they were not, and brought us an amuse bouche to start our journey.

Tomato Confit and Garlic Toast!
This was a whipped confit of tomato with garlic toast. The tomato was a veritable umami bomb – however it had been confited had rendered it into the most savory foam imaginable. The toast was deeply garlicky, crisp, and browned. During this course a young couple joined us at the bar, and we listened to them ask questions of the staff, my favorite being when the young man asked how the “Underage Teenager” Mezcal got its name. “A false cognate,” the serious young beverage manager assured him.

Bread and Butter

Even the bread and butter was lovely! Nandi dubbed the aesthetic “precious, but in a good way.”

Because I couldn’t help myself, we added an ala cart charcuterie plate to our meal. I know, I know, we already had five courses, but they had lardo! They cure it in-house, and I’m a wee bit obsessed with the stuff in general.
Lardo aka Heaven on a Plate
And now, very likely, so is Nandi. She declared it “the best morsel of food I have ever put in my mouth,” and indeed it was nutty, salty, and decadent – so thinly sliced as to melt on the tongue, and paired with delightful little pickled vegetables and seriously tasty mustard that contrasted perfectly.

It came simultaneously with our salads, which faintly embarrassed our server, I think, but bothered me not one whit.
Salad - Decomposed?
As you can see, the salad is deconstructed (or composed, but thankfully not decomposed), wee little veggies portioned off to play nicely with different sauces, looking gorgeous on the plate. The best tidbit was the Brussels sprout, cooked as it was in clarified butter.

Following the salad was the mushroom course, an assortment of wild,locally foraged mushrooms served on a ramp puree (they freeze them in the Spring for just such an occasion!) and alongside a potato “galette” and mushroom foam.

Potato and Mushroom

This was quite the parade of fall flavors, even the normally vernal ramps. The potato was a buttery little wonder, and each mushroom had a distinct flavor and texture, ranging from nearly identical to the meaty chew of an oyster to delicate and shockingly sweet (that little round fella in the center). The mushroom foam was ethereal on the tongue and tasted surprisingly of lavender.

Tune in later this week for the exciting conclusion of our meal – will our intrepid young food adventurers make it to dessert? Will their quest for milk punch ever be fulfilled? Find out here!

Kitchen Improv!

NB: This post is quite long. I thought about splitting it in two, but I like the way it reads all together. So sorry, friends, y’all will have to deal.

This is the story of two ladies who have formed a bond of love and friendship over food. Actually, it was originally a bond of love and friendship over a mutual understanding of a Donkey Kong reference, but it grew into so much more, quite a bit of that more being food.

It should be fairly obvious that one of the ladies is me. The other is my dear friend Nandi, who has graced these pages more times than I care to look up and add links for, but for this post we are going to do something extra-special – you are going to hear about a dinner we shared, each in our own words! For those of you who know both of us, you know that this means that you will get one rather whimsical, absolutely beautiful description of the sensations of our meal. And you will also get my half, in which I relay the facts, as I know them. My words will be in the usual font and style. Nandi’s will be in:

well.  hmmm.  let’s just say that it’s hard for nandi (who has now jumped in and is speaking about herself in the third-person, which is an odd habit that she tries not to cultivate, but slips out from time to time, especially when making difficult choices involving typography) to decide what kind of font best describes her style. comic sans? oh god, let’s hope not.  this is not 1998, after all.  oh man, remember the curlz font?  i used to think that was the shiz.  how about this– SKIA!  woooo, this nandi knows how to party!  (to further clarify matters, please be advised that from this point on, nandi will eschew all capital letters unless in a moment of extreme EXCITEMENT THAT REQUIRES YELLING.)

Let’s ride!

The setting of this adventure is TW Food, a favorite establishment for both Nandi and I, despite a name that sounds a wee bit like a chain restaurant specializing in flair.  (seriously true, ms. menace!  tw food is one step away from my all-time favorite bar, tipsy mc staggers.) In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – TW Food is dedicated to using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients in creative ways. Chef Tim Wiechmann (yes, the name becomes more clear. It is in fact a sort of…anti-flair (TEE HEE!)) studied at Le Cordon Bleu and cooked under several prominent French chefs, and it shows in his work. At the same time there is a modern playfulness to the food that I feel like I rarely encounter. In the spirit of that playfulness the restaurant has recently started doing a rather fun new prix-fixe concept – on Wednesdays after 8:30, the restaurant serves a totally impromptu menu with the ingredients of the day. Food allergies will be taken into consideration, but otherwise it’s a totally spur-of-the-moment experience. How could we resist?

Our evening started with an amuse-bouche:
Amuse Bouche
Crispy, with a hint of maple. A lovely start.

lovely start, indeed!  now, normally, i am a bit wary of the amuse bouche.  maybe it’s because i watch too much top chef and it seems like the chef-testants ALWAYS eff up this portion of the meal.  plus i kind of hate the image that its description conjures– according to my main man chef tom colicchio, an amuse bouche should merely AMUSE THE TASTE BUDS.  what the heck does that EVEN MEAN?  but my concerns re: naming and verb choice aside, this was a perfect beginning to our meal.  as ms. menace points out, it was crispy and tart, yet sweet, and left my taste buds clamoring for MORE MORE MORE.  plus, it was served on a tiny spoon.  and goodness knows, i LOVE all things tiny. But ESPECIALLY Tiny Cooper! (darling readers, you don’t know Tiny Cooper yet, I’m pretty sure, unless you’re on the cutting edge of YA fiction (as we are, clearly). But you will, if Nandi and I have anything to say about it. Go on. Click the link. Dare to fall in love with the maelstrom of awesomeness that is TINY COOPER.)

At our first course, I realized that the evening was going to be even better than I had hoped for, because they brought us different dishes. The opportunity to sample twice as many options was enchanting! I was served a salad composed of watermelon turnips and golden beets over julienned parsnips:
Turnip-Beet Salad
Vibrant and outstanding in color, this was crisp and cool, with a hint of vinegar and a bit of warmth from olive oil. and, like snookie, i have never met a pickle i didn’t like.  this was no exception.  the vinegar-laden vegetables were tasty and crisp, but what made the dish special was the aforementioned olive oil.  it was fruity and nutty and mellowed out the acidity of the beets and radishes, giving the plate a depth that you just don’t find at tipsy mc staggers.  or at most restaurants in the boston area, for that matter.

Nandi received a stunning smoked broccoli rabe soup:
Pea Soup?
This was rich and smoky, with a spiced creme fraiche on top. I think I could have licked the bowl, if it were appropriate. I will say that nearly every soup I’ve been served at TW Food makes me feel the same way.

now, now, now, this was one of my very favorite things that we ate this evening.  then again, you could coat my grody old running sneaker in creme fraiche and i would devour it.  but, as red points out, this soup was smoky and rich and stunningly not at all bitter, which is what i certainly expected from a soup that showcased surly broccoli rabe, the crusty old man of vegetables.  o frothy deliciousness of soup!  your velveteen texture and smoky taste!  your adorable little fold of creme fraiche… you, you, you are the soup of my dreams.

Next I received a Wild Mushroom Croute with Persillade:
Wild Mushroom Croute
I’m sorry the photo is so dark, because this was quite possibly one of my favorite dishes. I really, really love the taste of wild mushrooms, that sort of funkiness combined with meatiness, almost like game. The persillade brightened it up a bit, however – contrasting the darkness while at the same time enhancing it.

and let us not forget the BREAD!  to provide some context, at the time of this delicious supper, i had been experimenting with a gluten-free diet and had not eaten bread for about three weeks.  however, in honor of this event, i decided to throw off my shackles of self-inflicted food ludditism.  and was it ever worth it… the slightly toasted bread served as a grand nest for the mushroom and herb deliciousness that the red menace describes.  firm enough to serve as a good delivery vessel (read: it didn’t fall apart when i shoved the shroom into my mouf), and yet not too crunchy– it’s the attention to even these miniscule deets that make my heart swell.

Nandi’s dish was equally exquisite:
Pheasant in Cornmeal
It’s pheasant, in cornmeal! This is like the fanciest comfort food of all time. The cornmeal was more of a mush consistency than polenta consistency, and that was fine by me. Salty, meaty, cheesy heaven in a cute metal bowl.

a tureen of happiness, i agree completely.  if there was one food that i could eat on this whole earth morning, noon, and night, it would be cornmeal.  (and you could totes do it!  mix it with dried fruit and syrup for breakfast!  eat it plain for luncheon!  and for a decadent dinner, stir in some mascarpone.  drool!  it’s the cher of grains– constantly reinventing itself to remain relevant.)  and so this little number, complete with pheasant and cheese– i have actually compulsively started eating corn chex whilst i type this in order to quiet my hunger pangs.  NOT THE SAME.

Next came our main dishes. I received fluke over a bed of kale:
Fluke with Amazing Sauce
Fluke, also known as summer flounder (and I’m not sure why they prefer to call it fluke, since I get creepy associations with that word, and none at all with flounder) is a local, totally ridiculous-looking fish. They’re flat fish, so their eyes are both on the same side of their head, making them look like something Picasso threw away. I’d never really had fluke, and I was amazed at how much I liked it, as white fish aren’t typically my jam. This was incredibly tender, and it didn’t hurt that it was served in a creamy sauce that seemed to be infused with 5-spice powder. Outstanding.

and so incredibly soft!  i know, terrible adjective choice.  but that’s what this fish was… a buttery (and not too fishy) pillow that fell apart when gently probed with a fork.  (okay, i am just embracing the terrible word choices at this point, much to my own chagrin.)  and the sauce!  magical.  if i was writing a recipe for this particular dish, i would call it soft buttery fish WITH MAGIC MAGIC SAUCE.

Nandi received pork ravioli in a black pepper sauce:
Pork Ravioli with Black Pepper Sauce
I very much enjoyed these as well, though the sauce was QUITE peppery, with a bit of cinnamon flavor hidden just below the pepper surface.  Alas, there’s not much more to say than that.   It’s just a bit hard to write anything exciting about ravioli, and I can’t even cast aspersions on their looks.

since i have already used the word “pillow” to describe the delicious aforementioned fluke, i will have to resort to other turns of phrase to describe ye olde ravioli.  it was expertly made: the dough was tender, not tough, which can be a big problem with homemade pasta, and the filling was meat-laden.  but i do agree with red about the pepper– it overpowered the porkiness (woooo, love that adjective) of the filling, and i was left feeling a little sad that it hadn’t lived up to the expectations that i had placed upon it.  but friends, although i am sort of hinting that this was the lowlight of the evening, please consider my feelings to be similar to my contention that the godfather two was not as good as the godfather one.  like, it’s still an amazing movie, but without sonny corleone, well, godfather two just wasn’t quite there.  (and no, that one extra flashback scene at the end doesn’t count.)

These courses were followed by two of the most amazing cheese plates I have ever had. This is actually a bit of a tragedy, because our server (Bronwyn, wife of Chef Tim) carefully explained what each cheese was, and then we didn’t write them down, but we were blown away by them, so we asked a bus boy what they were, and he not only had no idea, he did NOT go ask Bronwyn for us. SO. SAD.

hey, busboy!  your ineptitude (or laziness) is now revealed to the WORLD!  HA. HA. HA.  SUCK ON THAT!

Anyway, I received this:
Cheese Plate I
The harder cheese was actually transcendent. I will never forgive myself for not knowing what it is. (the softer cheese was good as well, but it’s the other one I’m kicking myself over.) The cranberries served with it were torched in some way and tasted like roasted marshmallows. This was amazing with the cheese.

amazing.  amazing!  i have no other words, except to express my sadness that we will NEVER KNOW what the delicious cheese was.  (shaking fists at busboy… why i oughta!)

Nandi’s cheeses were also excellent, though a bit subtler in flavor:
Cheese Plate II
They came with an apricot compote, also delicious, though it doesn’t help me remember the cheese names one bit.  but what does it matter, ms. menace?  these cheeses, much like all other cheeses that i will eat for the rest of my LIFE, will never measure up to the deliciousness of the phantom cheese of ought-ten.

At last we reached the dessert portion of the evening. I don’t normally order dessert in restaurants, in part because I am far more of a salt fiend than sweet and in part because I don’t eat dessert at home, either. But when I get one in a prix fixe I’m usually pretty jazzed about it. Mine was a pumpkin mousse tart:
Pumpkin Mousse Tart
The crust tasted like sugar cookies – I would like the recipe. The ice cream is creme fraiche, and I’m not sure they meant to make the coulis smile at me, but I like it.

Nandi’s dessert was in another direction entirely:
Chocolate Budino
That, my friends, is a Valrhona chocolate budino with candied nuts, sea salt, and olive oil. It is also pretty much my perfect dessert – barely sweet, with salt and crunch. For those of you who don’t know, budino is an Italian pudding, similar to mousse but more dense. Heaven.

i am not a dessert afficianado, either, for a multitude of reasons.  i actually grew up in a bakery– my mom ran a cake bidness out of the basement of our home.  and like any good daughter, i tended to overlook the amazing things that my parents did, and therefore never was really big into the whole dessert thang.  but then a few years ago, i was diagnosed with diabetes and suddenly, guess what!  i love dessert!  but, of course, now i cannot really eat it (especially now with this whole gluten-free escapade), except for on special occasions.  special occasions like kitchen improv night at tw food, that is.

so, because red received the punkin mousse tart first, i was graced with the valrhona chocolate budino.  “chocolate budino!” i thought to myself as it was lovingly set in front of me.  “what an adorable name for something so decadent!”

and then i took my first bite.  what. the. eff. i had gulped the world’s largest spoonful of olive oil.  salty salty olive oil with peanuts.  and maaaaaybe a slight hint of chocolate, but i wasn’t exactly sure.

“well,” queried the red menace, eyes somewhat cloudy and distant from her own punkin-induced haze.

“um.  it’s.  um.  i don’t really know how it is,” i admitted, whilst steeling myself for another bite.

as ms. menace points out, this dessert was barely sweet and very salty, which definitely threw me off.  but i am no stranger to salty dessert items (these were ubiquitous on my wedding day, par example), so what i think really threw me off was the gigantic spoonful of EVOO that coated my entire first bite.  after that, the dessert still packed a heavy and powerful punch, but the olive oil just amplified the punch, instead of whacking me right in the jaw.

meanwhile, the punkin mousse tart was lovely.  but it was a bit too nice– the leather-wearing, scooter-driving valrhona chocolate budino left little miss punkin in its dust.  tasty as all get-out, but really not so different from the punkin pies that you meet on thanksgiving day.  however, my compliments to mr. tw food for his delectable homemade creme fraiche ice cream!  any feast that delivers not one, but TWO, items involving creme fraiche ranks at the top of my list.

i would like to offer my most heartfelt thanks to the red menace for allowing me access to her blog and therefore the ability to wax poetic on foodstuffs.  although food writing is not my forte, food eating is, and i have had a big big BIG amount of fun documenting this joyous occasion.  and so i would like to propose a toast to the red menace and her excellent blog– may you continue to adventure!  may you continue to eat!  and may you continue to invite me along for the ride, especially when there is creme fraiche and phantom cheese to be had!

Aww, many thanks, Nandi ‘o mine! Thanks to you both for eating with me, and for helping me to write this post. I will raise the glass with you, and say, to many more joint adventures! And to Tiny Cooper, long may he reign!