Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ivy, Downtown Crossing

My friends and I were headed to see Eddie Izzard last night at the Orpheum and needed a bite to eat beforehand. My go-to for a pre-show dinner is Silvertone, but I wasn't up for the wait or the noise level last night. We ended up at Ivy, just a couple blocks away from the theater, for a mostly good meal.

Ivy is an attempt at Italian tapas. There is only one entree on the menu (why not just size and price it to match everything else?), a few larger dishes for sharing, and a whole bunch of small plates. They recommend ordering 2-3 per person, but if you're ordering pasta, 2 should be plenty.

For my meal, I had the sweet potato bisque with Italian sausage and grilled Tuscan bread and the gnocchi with pistachio pesto. The bisque was delightful, very smooth and creamy. The sausage was left in big chunks, which made it hard to eat, but still very good. Something like a topping of crispy pancetta might have worked better, though, to lend a textural contrast to the soup. The gnocchi was a knock-out. The pasta itself was ok, not terribly heavy but not light either, but the sauce was amazing - lots of crushed pistachios, basil, and tons of garlic, topped off with flakes of parmigiano. I would go back just for this dish... yum!

I also had some of the herbed frites, the arancini with prosciutto, and the steak frites. The fries were very tasty, although they got really soggy by the end of dinner. The portion was huge. The arancini were just fine, but nothing special. The steak, however, was disastrous - charred and crunchy on the outside, completely uncooked in the middle, and smothered in two (count 'em, two!) types of sauce. That one was definitely the loser of the group.

Overall, this place seems better suited for grabbing a drink and a snack. The plates aren't as small as you would think, making it hard to try more than one or two things. Also, if you're not a fan of salt, this restaurant isn't for you. Everything is heavily salted, and this is coming from a woman who thinks salt is its own food group!

Ivy Restaurant in Boston

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Game-Time Peanuts

Using my usual tactics of "just letting tickets fall into my hands," I went to the Red Sox game last night with a very nice invitation from my uncle. They were awesome seats, all the way in the top pavilion level, but sadly, we weren't seated together. Eh, it's a game, I'll take it. And my, was it an exciting one. Ellsbury and Pedroia are HOT! Plus, I found it funny that the woman in front of me kept yelling "Big Popeye!"

Foodwise, I've never been a fan of eating at the park. The food is passable, but I have a hard time paying over $10 for lukewarm chicken fingers. Plus, you can get Fenway Franks at any time at the Lower Depths! No, I grab dinner beforehand (UBurger, in this case) and munch of peanuts during the game.

Most people my age don't go for the peanuts, but for beer. I'm just not a beer drinker. But my peanut habit is something I've picked up from my dad (I think part of it is that he likes being able to throw the shells on the ground without having to worry about cleaning them up). We share a bag of peanuts every time we go to a game, and there are always nuts around when we watch or listen to the games at home. Just opening the bag up smells like summer, enough to make me forget that it was a little chilly last night. I just love the mindless action of getting them out of the shell and the dust that seems to cover everything by the end of a game. Forget those Cracker Jacks! It's just not a trip to Fenway without a bag of peanuts.

What's your must-order for ballpark snacks?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cheap Eats: Pinocchio's Pizza

Pizza is the quintessential cheap eats. A slice typically only costs a couple of bucks, and it's fast and portable. One slice, however, is often not enough, and you're left wanting more.

At Pinocchio's in Harvard Square, however, one slice is filling, and two slices, for the low price of $3.95, makes a full meal. The Sicilian slices are hefty, especially if you snag a corner piece. The dough is crispy on the bottom and edges, with just a little bit of chew. It's a little hard to cut with the plastic utensils, though, so don't bother sharing your slice (not that you'd want to, anyway).

Pinocchio's has tons of topping choices, and they have quite a few pizzas availble by the slice at any one time. Bostonist tried the pepperoni and the spinach. The pepperoni was a little greasy, but that wasn't much of a surprise. The tomato sauce was on the sweeter side of the spectrum, but this was a nice balance to the salty and oily pepperoni on top. The spinach pizza was even better - sauceless, but with plenty of mozzarella and tons of fresh spinach. It's always good to see veggies handled with a little grace on a pizza, and here, the spinach was allowed to be the focus of the slice. Yum!

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Pinocchio's Pizza & Subs in Cambridge

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Powered by...

This day of homework, powered by Athan's apricot and almond streudel. And coffee.

Every time I go into Athan's, I swear I'm going to try something else. And every time, the apricot and almond streudel is sitting in the case, just asking to be ordered. Who am I to disappoint?

The dried apricots are soft and tender, and the frangipane filling is sweet with very few chunks of almond. The slices are huge, too. One piece could happily feed two people (and it's only $3.25!).

Of course, I can't manage to eat a slice without making a mess - the filo flakes end up flying all over the place. Tasty, but messy. I should probably just start bringing it home so I don't embarrass myself eating it in public.

Athan's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Old ARE These Eggs??

I was a little surprised to see these eggs at Whole Foods this weekend. Hasn't it been ages since there was a Bread and Circus around? I mean, the eggs tasted fresh, but still...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cheap Eats: Arrow Street Crepes

When most people think of crepes, they think of the on-the-go snack from France, spread with sugar or Nutella, or the fancier flambéed Crepe Suzette, served for dessert in fine restaurants. But crepes can make an excellent meal, especially when they are stuffed with lots of fresh ingredients, like those at Arrow Street Crepes in Harvard Square.

Arrow Street Crepes is a small place, with the kitchen and the crepe pans right out in the open. There's not much seating, although a small greenhouse-like room off to the side is lovely and bright. The menu is up on the wall and a little difficult to read without getting in someone's way, so make sure to ask for a menu for the cashier.

The long list of savory crepes will find something for everyone. The crepes themselves are crispy and chewy, a wonderful consistancy. The Primavera ($8.75) is filled with cooked spinach, yellow squash, broccoli, tomato, and feta cheese, all topped off with a light Dijon balsamic sauce. There are a lot of veggies in there, and it's quite a hearty meal. The Frenchie ($8.50) is another delicious savory crepe, although it would be delicious as dessert as well. It's filled with green apple slices, brie, walnuts, honey, and a balsamic glaze. Green apples and brie are such an amazing combination, both crisp and creamy, sweet and tart, that Bostonist could eat 2 or 3 of these.

The sweet crepes are also a little heartier than you'll find in France. The Lulu ($8.25) was amazing, stuffed with a plentiful amount of slices strawberries tossed in a lemon syrup. It was like having strawberry lemonade inside a crepe. Don't worry, though; you can still get sugar or Nutella for an on-the-go snack.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Arrow St. Crepes in Cambridge

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Creamy Polenta

I cleaned out my pantry this weekend and discovered all kinds of good stuff that I had forgotten about. Behind a giant canister of Quaker oats, I found an unopened bag of polenta. I must have bought it in the fall sometime. I've never cooked polenta before (well, besides the preformed slice-and-serve kind), so I was a little hesitant because I thought it would be hard. But having made it now (both creamy and the harder kind, thanks to a misprint in the recipe I was using), I can pleasantly say that this is easy enough for a weeknight meal when I barely feel like cooking. Plus, it's always good to find a new way to eat one of my favorite combos, arugula and pecorino.

Creamy polenta with arugula and bacon

- 5 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- 4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
- 1 large bunch of arugula (about 1/2 pound), well washed and dried
- shredded pecorino romano
- olive oil

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add polenta in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and add a hefty pinch of salt. Stir frequently to prohibit sticking. The polenta is done when big lava-like bubbles form and the grains are no longer hard. Stir in parmesan and set aside.

In a saute pan, fry bacon on medium heat until the meat is nicely browned. Pour off as much fat as possible, then add arugula and let it wilt. Add a little of the bacon fat back in if it seems too dry.

To serve, heap the polenta on a dish and top with the arugula and bacon mixture. Sprinkle with shredded or shaved pecorino romano and drizzle with olive oil.

The Food Blogger's Creed

Over the past few months, I have reread Stephen King's Dark Tower series for the first time since it was completed in 2004. It's a tremendous and powerful cycle of stories, and it is a masterpiece of modern storytelling.

In the books, the main character Roland brings some people from our world into his world and begins to teach them the ways of the Gunslingers. He teaches them to hunt, to shoot, and to recite the Gunslinger's Creed:

I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.

I really love the rhythm of that saying, and the words gain power within the books as the characters recite them as they learn how to use their guns. They also admonish each other not to forget the face of their fathers when faced with difficult decisions.

As much as I love the gunslinger's creed, it doesn't have much to do with my own life. I doubt I'll find myself in Mid-World, fighting against the powers of the Red, anytime soon. But the saying was still stuck in my head, and for days, I kept turning it over, trying to find a way to make it mine.

Over the past year of writing this blog, I've read thousands of other people's food posts, and I've met quite a few fellow food bloggers. I'd like to think that I've learned a few things from all of them, and hopefully someone has learned a little something from me as well. A common theme amongst many food bloggers seems to be a commitment to preserving particular recipes and activities, especially special family recipes. Many bloggers talk about the influence that they gained from their mothers, grandmothers, or aunts. Slowly but surely, the Food Blogger's Creed began to come together.

I do not eat with my hand; she who eats with her hand has forgotten the face of her mother. I eat with my fork.
I do not eat with my mouth; she who eats with her mouth has forgotten the face of her mother. I eat with my eyes.
I do not eat with my stomach; she who eats with her stomach has forgotten the face of her mother. I eat with my heart.

I know it doesn't hold quite the same resonance as the original, but I think it sums up a lot of what food writers talk about. As I continue on into my second year with this blog, I will remind myself not to forget the face of my mother.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Smoothie Weather

God, wasn't today beautiful? It won't be long now before the winter coats can get packed away and the flip flops can make their way back into my wardrobe.

So on my way to class this evening, after pushing my way through the crowds that tend to hang around outside Fenway before a game, not knowing what they're doing, I stopped at a new smoothie place on Boylston to celebrate the amazing weather. Robeks is in the new Trinity building, and I'm not quite sure how long it's been open. There were a lot of people gathered inside waiting for their smoothies, and it was a little hard to tell who was waiting for their drinks and who was waiting to order and pay.

I ended up with a small Malibu Peach, which has papaya juice, peaches, non-fat yogurt, and ice. It was really delicious, and I could have easily had more than the small 12 ounces. It was also the smoothest smoothie I've had in a long time, probably because there was very little actual fruit involved (a recent berry smoothie from another shop left me picking seeds out of my teeth for hours).

And while I thought the drink was really good, $3.99 for a (small) small was a bit steep. Will I go back? Sure, especially since it's something different on my route to school. Will I go often? Probably not... for the same price at Starbucks, I also get caffeine to help me stay awake during lectures (plus, flavored syrups are now free!).

One last thought: how can anyone stand to work there? The blenders were so loud, much louder than any I've heard before, that my ears hurt while I waited. I can't imagine what spending an 8-hour shift in there would do to you...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Latest Obsession

First off, I swear there will be real cooking and posting this weekend! I have no big paper due next week, so I'll have a chance to breathe (and eat!).

What has been keeping me fed lately is Chipotle. One of the few Boston-area branches opened down the street from me a few months ago, and I couldn't be happier to have it within walking distance. I've now tried enough variations to have gotten "my" order down - a steak burrito bol with black beans, tomato salsa, and corn salsa. The corn salsa is awesome - spicy and just a little sweet. One bol (I find that hard to write, why can't it be "bowl"?) is enough for two meals, unless I'm starving.

And overall, my order's not a bad choice, nutrition-wise. Some of the other ingredients, though, are a little scary, and I definitely need to kick my chips and guacamole habit (but it's so addictive!).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Root for the Red Sox with Free Ice Cream

To celebrate Opening Day at Fenway, JP Licks, local purveyors of some tasty ice cream (and wacky flavors), is offering free scoops at all their locations today. You can order any of their unique ice creams or yogurts, but why not use the chance to try one of the Red Sox-themed flavors?

-- Rice Dice Kream -- This tastes a lot like a frozen rice pudding, with short grain rice, lots of vanilla, and just a hint of nutmeg.

-- Green Monster Tea -- Just like the name says, this is a strong green tea-flavored ice cream.

-- Manny's Mocha Chip -- Chocolate coffee ice cream shares the batter's box with big chunks of chocolate.

-- One Sweet World Series -- Bostonist's favorite, and not just because of the name. This one features a really strong coffee ice cream with swirls of caramel and chunks of heath bar for crunch.

-- Cherry Garciaparra Ortiz -- This one is clearly not new, but just like Big Papi, cherries and chocolate are always magic.

Bostonist thinks a few more Red Sox flavors should be added to the board. How about some BoysenBeckett, or Coco's Choco Crisp (chocolate ice cream with chunks of Crunch bars)? And of course, Cherry Ortiz should be renamed Cherry Remy, since that's just a name that rolls off the tongue of any local sports fan.

And if the ice cream doesn't fill you up, visit any of the local Chipotle Mexican Grills for free chips and guacamole throughout the day as well!

Originally posted at Bostonist. Victoria Welch and Jocelyn Noyes contributed.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cheap Eats: The Lower Depths

Don't have tickets to opening day at Fenway? Well, Bostonist can't help with tickets, but we can definitely help with the food.

The Lower Depths Tap Room is located on Commonwealth Avenue in Kenmore Square, only a few short blocks from where all the action will be tomorrow. No matter how busy it gets in the neighborhood, though, this bar and restaurant stays relatively peaceful. It's no sports bar - while there are two small TVs over the bar, they're definitely not the best place to catch the action. Where the Lower Depths shines is with their cheap eats.

When was the last time you got a hot dog at Fenway for $1? The Lower Depths offers $1 Fenway Franks year-round - plump, grilled dogs served on buttered and toasted New England-style rolls. They also offer a Tokyo dog (aka the Dice K Dog) ($2), a panko-crusted hot dog that serves its time in the deep fryer. The coating isn't thick like on a corndog, but is instead light and extra crunchy. In addition, there is a housemade, hot pretzel on the menu ($2.50) that blows away the premade pretzels at the park. It is warm and yeasty and slightly greasy, topped with sea salt and served with a fantastic chunky ale mustard, perfect for dipping.

With prices like that, you might be able to affort a ticket to the park (ok, maybe not). Be careful if you eat there before a game, though, as service can be very slow. Also, be forewarned that they are cash-only.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Lower Depths Tap Room in Boston

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I'm a Sucker for Promotional Marketing

With a mere month and a half before Indiana Jones once again graces the big screen, the promotional marketing machine is firing on all cylinders. The latest Indy marketing tools? M&M's and Snickers.

Everyone's favorite saucy candy, Green, can even be seen flirting with Indy on the bag of the limited edition Mint Crisp M&M's, proclaiming that "treasure is a girl's best friend." May I take a moment and stress, as an archaeologist, that treasure-hunting is bad?

Taste-wise, these candies are just ok. They're overly sweet (I know we're talking candy here, but it was still a little too much), and the crispiness is not something I'm really looking for in an M&M. They taste kind of like the chocolate mints you get at restaurants, only not so good. I almost bought the Indiana Snickers too, but it weirded me out with the addition of coconut and the vague promise of some sort of "spice."

I'll be taking the rest of these in to my office, where the rest of the archaeologists can laugh at the altered M designs.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Croissants with no effort

Last week, I was talking to my friend Z, and she was asking where to find a good croissant in the area. I didn't know what to tell her. I mean, I've heard good things about Clear Flour (I usually just get their Venetian olive rolls at the farmers' market) and Canto 6, but I didn't have any solid recommendations.

Until now. And they're in my freezer.

Trader Joe's has recently started selling frozen croissants - 8 mini or 4 chocolate per box. Just lay the frozen croissants on a baking tray and let them proof, or rise, overnight (7-9 hours). Then, just brush with egg (optional) and bake for a few short minutes, and voila, hot and fresh croissants!

With almost no effort, I felt like a whiz in the kitchen. The interior was light and airy, and the exterior had a nice crunch to it. They were even good the next day after having sat on the counter for way too long. The hardest part was remembering to take them out the night before.

All I know is that I am now going to keep a box in my freezer all the time. I mean, you'll never know when you'll need a hot, fresh croissant.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

You Can't Eat That in the Theater...

I, like 96% of all food bloggers, love Top Chef. And since I’m a big movie geek as well, last night’s episode was awesome. The cheftestants had to build a course around their favorite movie. While some were well thought out (Willy Wonka and A Christmas Story were my two favorite dishes), some utterly failed, either at picking a movie that would help them in any way or in making a dish that represented the film.

Of course, as soon as Padma announced the challenge, I turned to my roommate and asked what film he would choose. This led us off onto a whole discussion of which foods tie in to which movies and what we would make for this challenge. Here’s what we came up with. I realize that we took it all more literally than the cheftestants did, but hey, no one has to actually eat this stuff.

Indiana Jones – A dish involving snake meat. We didn’t go too far with this because we got sidetracked with dessert – monkey brains! Peeled fruit (like grapefruit) in a sorbet or ice cream, served in a hollowed-out coconut. Oh, and “bad dates” somewhere on that dish too…

Big Night – Big ‘50s red sauce flavors - risotto, timpano, and a whole roast pig. Or simply a perfectly cooked omelette, like the one in the last scene of the film – so evocative of the brothers’ relationship.

Wicker Man – I’d go with something involving apples and bacon, but my roommate wanted to build the apples into the shape of a person (and then light it on fire!).

Lord of the Rings – Rabbit with a hard “lembas”-style bread.

Donnie Darko – Pizza with the toppings split right down the middle – red tomato sauce and pepperoni on one half, blue potato slices on the other half. (This would work for any politically-themed movie, but I love the family’s political talk over pizza in this movie).

Sadly, I couldn’t come up with anything for some of my favorite movies – Empire Records (peanut M&Ms, cupcakes, rock music, and pot brownies?), Mulholland Drive (espresso… and loathing of loved ones?), The Commitments (beer and cigarettes?), or Zoolander (water?).

What would you make?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Quiet Time

So my brand-new computer died on Sunday. I'm more pissed than you can imagine - I was in the middle of writing a big paper and I had just written 4 weeks worth of Cheap Eats posts for Bostonist when it died. I'll be getting a new hard drive soon, and hopefully I'll be able to salvage everything from my old hard drive, but until then, Dell is on my shitlist and I won't be posting.