Friday, February 29, 2008

Brookline Family Restaurant, Brookline Village

I'd heard good things about the Brookline Family Restaurant for a while now, but it was never in the front of my mind when I was in the Brookline Village area. When I think of what kinds of Turkish food are going to be available in a restaurant, I usually don't think much beyond kebabs. And when I picture kebabs, it's in my own backyard with my dad pulling the skewers off the grill. But I was in the area the other day, and it was a toss-up between Turkish or Chinese for lunch, so I decided to give it a try.

The menu is extensive and includes breakfast and lunch sections. There is also a section called "Turkish Pizzas." I even recognized a few dishes from having made the Armenian versions at home, specifically lehmajun and su boreg, so I had to try those two, of course.

The lehmajun was super crispy, more like a giant meat-topped chip. It was served with plenty of fresh parsley and red onions for topping (at home, I roll my softer lehmajun around salad, while my brothers slather it with mayo). The lamb was tasty and not too dry, although it could have used a little more seasoning.

I was very surprised to see su boreg on the menu (and on the breakfast menu at that). It's a labor-intensive dish that involves extremely thin sheets of pasta layered with a cheese and parsley mixture and tons of butter. My mother and I usually make it together because it helps to have four hands working on it. The restaurant's version was very tasty, but it was missing something - salt, perhaps, or enough butter. I would definitely order it again, though, especially when I have a craving, because I rarely have enough time or energy to make it myself.

I would try other dishes the next time I go, but I'll probably just end up ordering the su boreg again :)

Brookline Family Restaurant in Brookline

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Don't Understand... Kowloon

First off, a big thank you to Kristen at Basegirl for hosting Doug Mirabelli Appreciation Night last Saturday at Kowloon in Saugus. It was a very surreal night, mostly because there was a cut-out of Dougie's head on a stick that managed to make its way around the whole table... and onto the dance floor. To put it simply, it was a blast.

Since this blog is about food, though, I feel the need to comment on the food at Kowloon. Quite frankly, I don't get it. The food is pretty horrible, and yet the 1200-seat place is always packed. It took roughly 3 minutes for our food to arrive after we ordered, and it tasted... generic. It can't be that their prices are good, because they're just as, if not more, pricy as most Chinese places around. Is it the kitsch factor? 'Cause I'm all for kitsch, but even this place is a little too much for me. I mean, as a setting for Mirabelli Night, it was perfect, but for dinner with friends or family on a Saturday night?

Please, someone explain it to me.

And yes, that's Dougie's head on a stick in that picture, wearing a lei and enjoying a plate of chicken fingers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SNL Mixes the Food Network with the Oscars

Ah, movies and food. Always a good mix. It's not a far cry from the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

And how awesome is Bill Hader?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Difficult but Tasty

I've admitted before, but I'll say it again: I'm a big nerd. So much, in fact, that I enjoy nerdy media from other disciplines than my own. XKCD is "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language," but more often than not, I get lost in the math/programming speak. But a food comic? I'm there.

If you've read anything on this site before, though, you'll know that pomegranates are my favorite fruit, and that I'm not a fan of peaches. Obviously, I have some quibbles with this chart, and I'd move things around if it were my own design. And, although this comic is titled "Fuck Grapefruit," I'm still a big fan. Not saying pomegranates aren't difficult to clean, but they're still tasty.

Where does your favorite fruit fall? Difficult but tasty?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Say It, Frenchy! Say "Chowdah!"

It wasn't until this past year, when I dragged my non-pork-eating roommate to Chowderfest, that I realized that most commercially-produced clam chowders contain bacon. Stupid of me? Probably. But I had my reasons.

Growing up, clams skeeved me out. Fried clams from any of the regional clam shacks were traditionally summer food, but the clam bellies were just gross to me - gritty and weirdly salty and not at all appealing. The only way I would eat them - the only way I would trust them - was in my mom's clam chowder. She only makes her chowder about once a year, usually when the whole family is down the Cape, ready to head off for a day at the beach. My mother, who is of the persuasion that soup is not a meal, thinks that something that contains butter, cream, and milk is a perfect food to consume before laying out in the hot sun.

Fortunately, I've gotten past my abhorance of clams - they're still not my favorite, but I'll eat them. I've come to see clam chowder as a showcase for the shellfish, but my mother's clam chowder is still what I consider Clam Chowder. The recipe quite clearly is lacking any bacon, which is why I'm always so confused by bacon-y chowders.

Anyway, although clam chowder is traditionally a summer food in my family, the cold and snowy weather have gotten me in a mood for warm and hearty meals. This was my first stab at the recipe, and I think it measured up to my childhood memories.

Mom's Clam Chowder

1 stick butter
2 white onions, chopped
2 large potatoes, small cubes
3 Tbsp. flour
3 cans minced clams
1 pint heavy cream
2-3 cups whole milk
salt and pepper

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and potatoes and saute until onions are translucent. Stir in flour until incorporated and cook to form a roux. Add clams (including the juice in the cans), cream, and 2 cups of milk and stir. Cover and simmer over low heat until potatoes are soft, about an hour. Add extra milk if you like a thinner broth. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with oyster crackers.

*The title of this post? A salute to Massachusetts' own Quimby family.

Only in Boston

Fresh ears of corn and freshly-fallen snow.

Only in Boston.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Three Magic Ingredients, One (Almost) Great Taste

Last May, Vosges, maker of uniquely flavored chocolates, came out with "Mo's Bacon Bar." The bar uses applewood smoked bacon and Alder wood smoked salt, wrapped in deep milk chocolate. Really, all it took to get me to want to try it was the words "bacon," "salt," and "chocolate" together. It's taken me this long to finally find a bar - Whole Foods finally came through - and I can't say that I'm disappointed... or outright pleased.

Overall, it's tasty and not too different than I imagined. The chocolate is a deep, rich, and very smooth - it would be enjoyable even on its own. The bacon, which texture-wise is like Bac-Os, isn't overpoweringly strong, nor is it a mild afterthought. The salt is quieter, enhancing the meatiness of the bacon and the sugar in the chocolate.

My one issue with the confection, though, is the use of smoked salt. Having two components that issue a rather strong, smoky flavor is a bit too much. Not all bites were very smoky, so perhaps I got one chunk of salt that was overly seasoned, but it still detracted from the chocolate bar. I expect that smokiness from the meat, but not from the other ingredients. A less flavorful salt would, I think, balance the entire thing out a little more.

Will I be buying this again? Probably not for the $8 it set me back. It's good, but the overly-smokiness of some bites turned me off. It would be a fun inclusion in a gift to a fellow foodie, or perhaps as an entry into a Yankee swap, but I can't see myself chowing down on one of these after a hard day at the office.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pomegranates for Persephone

Being the big Classics nerd that I am, I have been anticipating the Achilles Project for a while. It consists of a high-end boutique (Achilles) and a lounge and restaurant (Persephone) in one large space. It's an interesting mix, but honestly, it's a little hard to tell that it's a store. At night, when the boutique section is closed and the racks are moved to form little glassed-in, hanging exhibits (you really just need to see it for it to make sense), the space is all about the food and drink. The lounge area is very white and bright, a nice change from many bars, while the dining room in the back is darker in light and decor color. The change delineates the two rooms, even though they consist of one large space.

I didn't have a full meal, only tried tastes of a bunch of different things, but based on what I tasted, I'll be back soon. Everything is fresh, and the flavors pack a real punch. Michael Leviton, from Lumiere, heads up the kitchen, and he brings much of the same local, organic, sustainable product mentalities that abound in the Lumiere kitchen to Persephone.

The highlights for me were the crispy gulf shrimp with shishito peppers and lime-scented fleur de sel ($8) and the Lucki 7 Farms pork ribs ($9). The shrimp, still in their ultra-thin shells, were fried in a very light coating. They were salty and crispy and a perfect little snack or start to a meal. The ribs were incredibly tender, to the point that they were literally falling off the bone. The spicy hoisin sauce is a bit messy, but hey, they're ribs - at least you don't need a bib to eat these.

The grilled serrano ham & manchego cheese sandwich ($9) was tasty but no knock out as an appetizer. If this is on the lunch menu (they open for lunch in a few weeks), however, it would be a great mid-day meal. The braised veal shoulder ($39, from the "extra large" section of the menu, meant for sharing) was even more tender than the ribs. Served with polenta, tomatoes, and kalamata olives, it would be a hearty and warming meal to share.

Drinks, too, were delicious and out of the ordinary. I laughed outloud at the "Obligatory $15 Chowhound-Predicted Pomegranate Martini" ($9) because I remembered reading that exact Chowhoud post a week earlier. I much prefered the Desperate Housewife ($12, with Nigori sake, blueberry syrup, Gray Goose bodka, cranberry, ginger and lemon) and the Petal Punch ($12, with Milagro silver tequila, peach and pomegranate liquor, lemon zest and chamomile tea). Other drinks made me squee in my nerd-dom with names like "Spiced Pyrus," "Achilles' Heel," and "Spartan Sling."

I'm definitely looking forward to the chance for a full meal at Persephone - if what I tasted is indicative of what comes out of the kitchen, I'm sure they're going to be quite busy. I better make a reservation now.

Persephone in Boston

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blogging by Mail Meme

Blogging by Mail is a program in which food bloggers send small gifts to fellow bloggers as a way to create community amongst people who will probably never meet. I'm very excited to be taking part, but I'm still trying to figure out what I'll be putting in my package.

This afternoon, Antonia from Food, Glorious Food! tagged me in a meme - she will be sending me a package from sunny ol' England. She thought this would be a good way to get to know me a little (I've already gotten to know her a little too), so I thought it would be fun. I'll go ahead and tag Michelle from Culinography, to whom I'll be sending my package. Hi Michelle!

My five favorite foods: Greek-style pizza (this is a Boston thing, I think), napoleons, popcorn with lots of salt and butter, pomegranates (the fruit, not the juice), and anything chocolate-mint.

My five least favorite foods: Mushrooms (although I'm beginning to like the more gourmet varieties), smoked fish, eggs (by themselves - I don't care if they're in something), sushi, and peaches (I like the flavor, but just can't get over the fuzziness).

Something I've never cooked, but really should have: Pilaf. My aunt gave my cousins "pilaf tests," and she can't believe I've never made a batch. My mother was going to remedy this last summer, but it just never happened.

What I ate today: a honey stick for my sore throat, a handful of small Reese's peanut butter cups, peppermint tea, a couple glasses of orange juice, a rice and bean burrito, a blood orange, and drink (lots of different martinis) and food (crispy shrimp, tender pork ribs, braised veal) samples from a new restaurant called Persephone.

My last meal on Earth: For pure sentimentality, I'd have to go with some of the Armenian goodies I grew up with - su boreg made with my mom, cheese boreg (my sister-in-law, who's not even Armenian, makes awesome ones), string cheese, lamejun, choreg with lots of mahleb, and cream kadayif. And Brigham's peppermint ice cream, because I'm from Boston, and we have the highest per capita ice cream consumption in the US.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cheap Eats: Taqueria Mexico

Most taquerias in the Boston area are counter service, fast food-type places. You order your burrito and move down the line, making sure you get all the right fillings. But at Taqueria Mexico, in Lynn, Waltham, and Coolidge Corner, Brookline, a hot, cheap, delicious, and sit-down meal is only a few minutes away.

The Brookline location is small, with only a handful of tables, so service is quick. Hot and fresh tortilla chips and a bright salsa verde are brought out for free as you peruse the menu. There are tons of choices, so it might take you a while to make a decision.

The chicken tostada ($2.50) was huge for the price. The crispy tortilla was topped with shredded chicken, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream. It was like a fresh salad and would be a perfect snack.

The chorizo gordita ($4.50) was also huge and filling. The Mexican sausage was ground and very messy, though, so it had to be eaten with fork and knife. The bread was crispy and a little too oily, but the crunchy edges were the perfect accompaniment to the meat and fresh vegetables. There was a good helping of cilantro mixed in for plenty of flavor.

Full plated meals are also under $10. The chicken enchiladas with mole ($8.45) are served with refried beans, rice, and plenty of lettuce. The mole was excellent, with pronounced coffee and chocolate tones, and the chicken was moist, not dried out at all.

Taqueria Mexico in Brookline is closed Tuesdays, but open the rest of the week 10am-10pm (12am on weekends). They also do takeout and delivery – pick up a menu in the restaurant, as they have no website.

Originally posted at

Taqueria Mexico in Brookline

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tea at the Taj

There are few things in Boston more regal and pampering than afternoon tea at the Taj Hotel. A harp plays, and sunlight streams through the tall windows as a perfect cup of tea is poured.

To begin, I chose the Shanghai Rose black tea to drink, a wonderful blend that had strong floral notes. Usually, black tea can get bitter if brewed for just a little too long, but this didn't have any bitter tones until my very last cup, an hour and half after it was first brewed.

The traditional (and untraditional) tea sandwiches were delicious and varied enough that there were many different flavors and combinations to try. My favorites were the lobster profiteroles, a mayo-less lobster salad with strong lemony flavor nestled in a small choux pastry, and the prosciutto and melon sandwich, with paper-thin melon slices that melted into the prosciutto.

And while I'm never a big fan of egg salad or smoked salmon, leaving the sandwiches as a mixed bag for me, I loved everything on the pastry tray. There were many choices, including the traditional scones (lemon and currant) with lemon curd and Devonshire cream. The pistachio macarons were tender and powerfully flavorful, as were the madeleines. The chocolate-dipped strawberries were juicy and perfect, making me forget that it's actually February.

For $28, this is far from the cheapest cup of tea in Boston, but the service and atmosphere (and, of course, the tea and food) made it well worth the price.

Taj Hotel (Bar, Cafe and Lounge) in Boston

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Kind of Conversation Hearts

Being a Boston girl, I have a fond place in my heart for NECCO (the New England Cofectionary Company, based in Revere) and their Conversation Hearts (and NECCO wafers, which have the same consistency, but better flavors, like chocolate). I am not, however, a fan of the chalky texture of the candy - it reminds me too much of Tums, but with less acid-reduction.

But what would Valentine's Day be without Conversation Hearts?

So I made my own (more-palatable) version.

I have crappy penmanship, and I had a hard time getting the frosting to the right consistancy, but they turned out ok. I used many of the same sayings that are on the candies. My favorite that I added myself, though, is "I Dig You," because I'll be taking these into work, and my office is filled with archaeologists.

Get it? "Dig"?

The cookies themselves are orange shortbread, adapted from a recipe in Elinor Klivans "Big Fat Cookies". Best cookbook name ever, right? I added the zest of one blood orange (for Valentine's irony) and about 2 Tbsp of juice from the orange, but Klivans offers other examples of ways to change up that recipe and many others.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cheap Eats: Silvertone Bar and Grill

Sometimes you want something nicer than a counter-service type of place but you don't want to spend a ton of money. Pub food is always a good choice in that situation. Many bars, though, have only standard (i.e. greasy) food to go with the drinks. Silvertone Bar & Grill, located on Bromfield Street near the Park Street T stop, serves up just what you need.

On first entry, the subterranean room feels like a noisy bar – because it is. The acoustics aren't great, so don't expect a quiet meal, but the drinks are strong and the food is filling, delicious, and cheap! It's a little calmer in the dining room section, away from the bar itself.

The calamari appetizer ($8) is huge, definitely for sharing. The squid rings are nicely fried and accompanied by thinly sliced fried leeks, a potent garlicky aioli, and a spicy dipping sauce. The restaurant is best known for its mac & cheese and steak tips – both fantastic. The mac & cheese ($8) is a more gourmet version of the childhood favorite, and its topping of buttered breadcrumbs adds a nice textural contrast to the gooey cheese. The steak tips ($12), flavored with a "Long Island marinade," are juicy and perfectly cooked. The accompanying mashed potatoes are smooth and well-seasoned. Both meals come with greens tossed in a light vinaigrette.

Entrees hover around the $10 mark and are hearty and filling meals. The restaurant also has an imaginative (and reasonably priced) cocktail list.

Originally posted at

Silvertone Bar & Grill in Boston

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Favorite Sniglet

Remember sniglets?

Sniglets are words "that should appear in the dictionary but don't." Even if you've never heard the term before, I'm sure you've created your own sniglets as inside jokes or shorthand. Typically, they are words or phrases that are quirky and sum up a whole idea in very little space.

Plus, they're fun. When I spent a summer abroad at an archaeological dig, we would sit in the trenches and come up with new sniglets all day (we were an exciting crowd). You can imagine how weird/crazy/dirty the words and definitions became after days on end in the hot sun...

However, there is one sniglet that I use all the time - and it's culinary! It's yorange - the white pithy strings that cling to an orange after you peel it. I hate those stringy things and will laboriously pick each one off as I eat my orange slices. The word just sounds perfect to describe those strings. As in, "I hate all the frickin' yorange that ruins the great taste of my snack!"

First runner-up: Cheetle - The orange residue left on fingers after eating Cheetos or some other cheesy snack. The word just sounds gross.

Favorite sniglets, anyone?

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Case of the Mysteriously Disappearing Cookies

There I was, browsing through my precariously stacked pantry, when a bag of dried cherries forceably ejected themselves from the shelf at me. Normally, I would just get mad and shove the offending item back in, willy-nilly, practically asking for it to fall out again. But inspiration struck (it helped that I was hungry), and I pulled out my block of Trader Joe's Pound Plus chocolate as well - time for cookies!

This recipe is based on an old Cooks Illustrated recipe, and it truly is the best chocolate chip cookie out there. There is no need for any other recipe. A few changes - there was originally an additional 1/8 cup of flour, but I'm lazy and didn't want to dirty another measuring spoon ;) Also, the recipe calls for 2 cups of semisweet chips, but I prefer chopping my own chocolate because you get an interesting mix of shapes and sizes - some large chunks, some shavings, and everything in between. By adding the cherries, I gave the cookies some depth so they weren't all chocolate, all the time (not bad in a brownie, but cookies need a little variety) without being overly fruity.

When I brought the cookies into work (because I would have eaten them all had they remained in my apartment), they vanished faster than I could say "Hey, there are cookies up at my desk." Glad to know my baking is appreciated ;)

The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 325°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.

Mix the sugars and butter just until thoroughly mixed, then add egg, yolk and vanilla and mix until creamy. Add the sifted ingredients and mix until just blended.

Stir in the chocolate and cherries, then drop dough in heaping tablespoons on a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart, and bake for 15-17 minutes until golden and puffed. Slide the sheet of parchment off the cookie sheets and let the cookies cool without disturbing them for a few minutes. Once they have cooled slightly, move the cookies to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cold-Killing Chicken Soup

I was wondering when I'd finally get a winter cold. I've been fighting something vague for a week, and I figured some good-ol' chicken soup would do the trick. But what's better for a cold than chicken soup? Chicken soup with ginger!

Ginger Chicken Soup
1 large bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger plus 1/2 cup very fine matchsticks
1 (3-lb) whole chicken
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
10-12 cups water (enough to cover chicken in pot)
3/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup carrot, cut into fine matchsticks
1/2 lb dried thin egg noodles

Separate cilanto leave from stems. Reserve leaves and roughly chop the stems. Simmer cilantro stems, chopped ginger, chicken, scallions, water, sherry, and salt in a 6- to 8-quart pot, covered, skimming fat occasionally, 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer chicken to a bowl and cool to warm. While chicken cools, pour broth through a sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids. Rinse pot out, then return broth to the pot. Using your hands or two forks, shred chicken and add to broth. Add cilantro leaves and ginger and carrot matchsticks and bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Salt to taste.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Shrimp Bisque for a Cold Day

My parents' house is colder than my apartment, mainly because I don't have to pay for heat. I was visiting them for the day, and we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. I remembered the shrimp bisque that JB from Urban Drivel had posted a few weeks ago on another particularly cold day.

Note, though, that my recipe is different than the original, due largely to my misreading the amount of clam juice needed. My bisque ended up being very thick (but still delicious), and the recipe below is what I ended up making. My father made his famous popover, which were the perfect accompaniment to the soup.

Shrimp Bisque

4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbsp all purpose flour
6 tbsp tomato paste
2 (8-oz) bottles clam juice
2 cups white wine
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, celery, and carrots and cook until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add clam juice, wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Pour broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract juices. Discard solids in the strainer.

Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the shrimp and cream and milk and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

*Alternate title for any shrimp-related post: "Why do you always have to de-turd these things?"