Tag Archives: restaurants

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.
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(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.
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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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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!

The Wonders of Peru!

Specifically, Machu Picchu. Though sadly, I have not been the pre-Columbian Inca site, fabled in story and song. I am speaking instead of the Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken and Grill, fabled in restaurant reviews and blogs!

I visited Machu Picchu in February, after our Taza tour on the suggestion of my friend Elise. There are actually two Machu Picchus in Union Square – a more formal restaurant with a more extensive menu, and the grill, which is more casual (as evidenced by the smiling, fat chicken bursting out of their logo. Confidential to Machu Picchu – I would like to request a tee-shirt with that guy on it.) We were visiting the grill primarily for the Parrilladas Machu Picchu – a mixed grill platter that includes pork ribs, gizzards, rachi (tripe), chorizo, anticuchos (beef heart, in this case), steak, and of course, pollo ala braza – the famous chicken!

However, that was the main course of our meal. We started out with some appetizers:
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Some fried yucca! The starchy plant is similar to a potato, but more fibrous. The sauce in the middle was tasty, creamy with just a hint of spiciness. It’s called ocopa, and apparently includes chili pepper, peanuts, and mint among its ingredients!

We also had tamales:
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These were unusual for containing egg and olives, along with the pork filling. Man, I really love tamales, pretty much no matter what you put in them, and these were no exception. I once tried to make them, and while they weren’t spectacular, it may be time to revisit that project. At the very least I know now how to get the right kind of corn flour…

But wait, there’s more! Empanadas:
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Empanadas are another food that’s hard to mess up, based on my time-tested rule: Food that is made up of a filling surrounded by dough is amazing. Whether we’re talking about raviolis, dumplings, or corn dogs, this rule has yet to be broken. These empanadas, however, were actually even better than that. They were amazing – a dense, slightly sweet pastry surrounding perfumed meat.

Our final appetizer was the choclo Peruano con queso:
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For those of you who aren’t up on your Peruvian Spanish, that’s corn with cheese! More specifically, choclo is a very large-grained type of corn from the Andes. It’s not as sweet as American corn – more chewy and nutty. The cheese is a mild, salty farmer’s cheese – like feta, but not as briny.

We also ordered chicha morada, purple corn drink, to start. The corn provides the amazing color of this beverage, but the flavor is more like a spiced juice:
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It contains pineapple, clove, cinnamon, lemon, and sugar and is seriously tasty. I’m not usually a fan of a sugary drink with my food, but the spices balance this nicely.

Finally, the time came for the serious business of dinner, the mixed grill:
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Truly it is an impressive pile! I also ordered a side of fried plantains, because I adore them:
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We also had an extra order of chicken for the less adventurous:
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And my sister ordered the el Peruanisimo, a sandwich of marinated pork and sweet potatoes:
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I made sure to tuck into a little bit of everything:
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The meat is prepared with a dry rub of “Peruvian spices” according to the menu. I’m not sure what was in the mix but it is incredible – salty and spicy without being overwhelming. In fact it greatly improved the items I was most nervous about, the tripe and the gizzards. I was concerned about the tripe because when I’ve eaten it in the past I haven’t really enjoyed it much, typically in pho. I’ve found it tasteless and chewy, like someone had sneaked a rubber band into my soup. This preparation is much more compelling – the honeycombs catch all the spice mix, and while it was still a bit chewy, it wasn’t unpleasantly so.

The gizzards I was concerned about primarily because those who’d been to the restaurant before didn’t seem to like them as much, describing them as “gristly.” They’re popular in the cuisines of most of the world, however, and I needed to try them. The truth is that – I LIKED the weird, slightly crunchy texture. They kind of pop in your teeth, a texture I enjoy. I can see why it’s not for everyone, however.

Everything else was outstanding – beef hearts are awesome, I think I like them better than steak – and I’ve never met a chorizo I didn’t like. The chicken was juicy and flavorful, and I can see why they built the restaurant around it.

There were enough of us eating that we had room for dessert, so we all split a torta tres leches – the cake of three milks:
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The three milks are evaporated, condensed, and heavy cream. I’m not the world’s biggest cake fan, but it was nice and light.

All in all, the food was terrific, and very reasonably priced. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the typical Thai/Indian/Mexican fare, and you’re in the Union Square area, I recommend giving Machu Picchu a shot! Now if they’d just make me my tee-shirt…

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!

Babka! Or, A Trip to Cafe Polonia

Actually, unlike my first post about Polish food, very little in this post is about babka, though it makes an appearance eventually. It’s just that, by the end of the night, babka became a bit of a slogan, a rallying cry, if you will, for our little band of food adventurers.

I’d been wanting to visit Cafe Polonia for quite some time – it’s the only Polish restaurant in Boston proper, or even in the immediate area (although they’ve added another location in Salem, MA, for our friends in Witch City to enjoy.) In addition, I’d been to the deli owned by the same folks across the street (to buy babka, in fact, in the days before we started making our own!) and had been impressed by the selection, particularly of the meats and sausages. The deciding factor to finally get me to South Boston, however, was the voice of the people – the members of the Adventures in Food Facebook group voted for it as their top dining destination. Never one to ignore the will of the crowd, I made a reservation and we were off!

When we arrived at the restaurant (after a brief detour at the deli, where we bought assorted goodies for later) the first thing that struck me was how homey it felt. It’s small, but it’s bright, clean, and warm, with blond wood tables and matching chairs that look incredibly sturdy, and decor that ran in the vein of copper pots and bright fabrics on the benches and walls. We’d originally come intending to start with some Polish beer, but Kasteel Rouge, a Belgian fruit beer, was being offered as a special, and how could we refuse? This beer is a brown ale steeped in cherries, and it shows. It’s quite red, and quite delicious as long as you’re cool with your beer tasting more like fruit than beer (which I am, when that’s what I’m in the mood for.) It was also served in branded glasses, which were rather fun:
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With our drinks came the bread basket, and the first nod to traditional Polish cuisine – in addition to butter, the bread came with rendered pork fat!
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Spread on the sourdough bread and studded with bits of roasted pork, this “pig butter” as Elise called it was incredibly tasty – rich and meaty while keeping the delicious fattiness that butter provides. I don’t think I could chow down on a whole basket, but it was a nice treat as an opener.
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While we pondered over the “traditional” portion of the menu (in a clear nod to American tastes, you can order some chicken fingers or a Caesar salad in addition to your golabki, which we were NOT interested in) we ordered a couple of appetizers for the table.
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These were the kielbasa twists, our less adventurous but still quite delicious appetizer. Basically they’re just little links of kielbasa cut into the amusing shapes you see there and served with brown mustard, but they were exceptional kielbasa, very smoky and salty without having the heaviness some kielbasa does. The little “twists” provided some textural contrast since they got quite crisp while the middles remained juicy.
We also ordered:
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This is kishka, or blood sausage, one of the surprise hits of the evening. I say surprise because while 5 of our crew of 6 are jaded, hard-core organ meat lovers, 1 of us is a little less bold with his food choices normally – but he loved the kishka! I’d never had blood sausage of any kind served without a casing before and it was a revelation – soft and tender, almost like a porridge. The caramelized onions on top and the delicate, crunchy pickles served with it were perfect accompaniments.

Finally, we settled on our entree choices, trying as much as possible to maximize our exploration of the menu. I went straight for the Polish Plate, a sampler platter of pierogies, bigos, kielbasa, and golabki with tomato sauce:
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The Goog joined me in this order, which meant we had pierogies for the whole table, luckily! I’d had most of these items before, but eating them homemade from folks who know what they’re doing is very different than grabbing some pierogies (the little dumplings!) at the fair. The bigos, a hunter’s stew that is the Polish national dish, was the one thing I’d never eaten before and it was outstanding. The name means “big mess” in Polish and it is indeed a hodge-podge of ingredients – cabbage, of course, stewed with meat and caraway seeds and assorted other goodies. It made a lovely bed for the kielbasa. Golabki, which is a meat and rice stuffed cabbage roll, is a dish my Nana used to make at home sometimes. Sadly, I hated it as a kid – the smell of cabbage cooking was vile, and the idea of all of my food being mixed together was unappealing. I wish I’d been more open-minded back then, because I really enjoy it now!

Elise got the golabki with the mushroom sauce, which was a take I’d never seen before. The sauce was delicious and did not skimp on the mushrooms!
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Gary, our more particular eater, ordered the potato pancakes with goulash and apple sauce, and Matt did the same but with sour cream in lieu of Gary’s favorite condiment. The pancakes were wonderfully crispy and surprisingly light.
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Finally, Valerie ordered one of the specials on the menu that evening:
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Those are pyzy, little glutinous potato balls stuffed with meat and served with pickles and beets on the side. While everything was delicious, this might have been my favorite dish – as I’ve mentioned, I’m a sucker for a dumpling.

Despite all of that, we couldn’t walk away without trying a few desserts. In the name of science, of course.
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Strawberry blintz!

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Apple crisp – this was warm and the apples were wonderfully tart.

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Chocolate babka – also warm and our inspiration for battle cry of the evening – this was Gary’s favorite dessert! The chocolate was excellent, with just the right amount of bitterness to keep from being cloying.

I also enjoyed a terrific cup of coffee (check out the cute little dessert forks, too!)
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All in all, this was a wonderful experience – enhanced, no doubt, by the terrific company!
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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Today’s post is inspired by the always awesome M of Travel, Eat, Love, who recently wrote a post about things she’s loving right now (she also just moved her blog over to her very own domain! Go check it out!). It made me think about some of my favorite food items and places, and given that it’s the end of year, a traditional time for lists and wrap-ups, I figured I’d steal her idea write my own list! Keep in mind that this is ever-changing; it’s just a sample of what I’m enjoying at the moment.

Favorite snack: Lately I’ve been mixing either almonds or walnuts with dried cranberries. Properly measured out this is a pretty low-calorie, high-protein snack, it transports easily, and it tastes amazing. The almonds in particular are elevated by the cranberries – their sweetness really brings out the almonds’ perfume.

Favorite “alone” food: Oatmeal with sauteed kidney beans and tomatoes. It’s totally hideous to look at, but throw a little blue cheese on top and you’ve got this intense umami bomb topping soft, bland oatmeal, a contrast that is oddly and wonderfully pleasing.

Favorite bar for the drinks:This one’s a little obvious, I realize, but it’s Drink. I’m quite enamored of the vintage barware, fresh ingredients, and perfectly balanced cocktails. I tend to think of Drink as the place to try new cocktails – since I know they will be done in their purest and most correct forms I can judge them on their true merits.

Favorite fancy eating establishment: Let it first be said that I’m not a huge fan of the name, but T.W. Food is my go-to spot for a splurge. Every time I’ve eaten there I’ve received a perfect marriage of gorgeous presentation, fresh local ingredients, and truly transcendent food. Their teeny-tiny location tucked away on Walden Street, rather than being a deterrent, makes T.W.Food seem special and private. Now that I see they’re offering a $39 prix fixe they are also not so extravagant as to be out of reach!

Favorite bar menu: This was the hardest self-imposed category; I’m a bar-menu lover in general, as I think it’s the best way to experience a nice restaurant in a more casual and cost-efficient manner. Right now, for the way it exemplifies in miniature the rest of the menu, I’m going to have to say it’s Craigie on Main. A factor may be that it’s winter, and I can think of nothing more glorious than a plate of crispy pig’s tails and a nice red wine as a way to enjoy a cold evening.

Favorite home-cooked food: This is ever-changing, but I think right now it’s the turkey stock that we made from the Thanksgiving leftovers. I’ve glazed vegetables with it, made a terrific pot-pie, and the other night used it in beef stew!
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I know, you’re thinking, “wouldn’t you use beef stock in beef stew?” but the fact is that this stock is so meaty and rich that it didn’t matter that it was poultry-based. This came of literally hours of simmering and really quality ingredients going into it.

So, let me put the question to all of you: What are you loving right now?