Friday, August 31, 2007

The Spotted Apron, Beacon Hill

A few weeks ago, I had a day off from work, so I wandered around Boston, exploring areas I don't usually go. I started my day at the Charles/MGH T stop to visit a new bakery, The Spotted Apron.

The bakery is nicely decorated in yellow, khaki and gray. Polka dots are everywhere (even the handpainted dishes), and there are some gorgeous food "portraits" on the walls. Two whole walls are devoted to tall windows, but I still felt comfortably removed from the bustle of the street and the hospital across the way. I could see this as a great place to hang out for hours.

This was just a snack to get my day going, so I didn't try one of their sandwiches or empanadas. I opted for a scone and some fresh mint lemonade (a special).

The lemonade was delicious, not too sweet, with just a hint of mint. The mint sprig on top made it feel extraordinary. I could have had a couple of these.

I also could have had a couple scones. I picked a lemon, cornmeal and dried cherry scone, which was a fine baked good example. It was very moist, and surprisingly not rough from the cornmeal. The cherries were very plump, and the dough had a nice buttery taste. However, it was a tiny scone - about the size of the base of my lemonade glass. I believe the scone was $2 - I would have wanted a little more for the price. What I had just kind of felt like a tease - a delicious tease, but still...

I'd be curious to try more of the menu, especially the more meal-like items. Has anyone else eaten there?

Spotted Apron in Boston

Grille Zone, Allston

Another celebratory meal - lunch with my friend Josh (what was I going to call you on here? JoshB? J.O.S.H.?) in anticipation of the end of the summer/start of school. We both begin new grad programs next week and needed to commiserate before the hectic sets in.

I've met Josh for lunch at UBurger before, since it's so close to my office (and one of my favorite spots). This time, he wanted me to try Grille Zone, located on Comm. Ave. near BU West.

Grille Zone is very similar to UBurger, foodwise. The menus are almost identical (fresh burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, fries), although Grille Zone also offers chicken wings, grilled cheese, and sweet potato fries. (Do you hear that, UBurger? SWEET POTATOES!!)

I opted for a chicken sandwich, for sake of comparison. The chicken breast was cooked perfectly, as it was still very juicy, and it was well seasoned... but the seasoning wasn't as addicting as UBurger's crack chicken. And I'm not crazy about plain yellow mustard, either... I tried to get sweet potato fries, but they ran out the person before me, so I was offered double the regular fries instead. The fries were tasty, but a tad underdone for my tastes - I like 'em crispy!

So the food didn't wow me, but I really like Grille Zone's concept. It's a green restaurant - 0% waste. Every disposable item is compostable, and the trash is collected every other day by a company that adds the waste to a giant compost. By next summer, my plate and napkins and plastic cup will be helping someone's garden flourish - pretty cool, huh? Click the picture above for more details of the project. I'm really impressed by this, and I hope the restaurant is able to thrive while doing this.

So if my office were closer, I might eat here quite often. However, it's a trek from Kenmore Square, so I doubt I'll be back much for lunch.

Grille Zone in Boston

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Publick House, Washington Square

I've been meaning to try the Publick House ever since I moved into the neighborhood. Luckily, my childhood pal, Melody, just moved back to Boston, so she stopped by to see my apartment before heading down the street for a celebratory Welcome Home dinner - and the Publick House was the first place we came to.

The restaurant has great decor - it's like the common room in a small medieval castle. Before I even ate anything, I could see why this place is so popular. It's a really relaxed and cool place to hang out, and we hung out for quite a while without being hassled (but our waitress was easy to catch when we needed something).

I've probably mentioned it before, but I'm not a beer drinker. So it's kind of odd that I ended up at a place with about a million Belgian beers. I was pleased to find that the two cider options they offer were not the regular, but were Original Sin (from Vermont) and Cidre Normandie (from, obviously, France). The menu claimed that the Cidre Normandie was the "best in the world," so it was my obvious choice. After my first sip, I believe my words were "This is the Champagne of ciders." It was pricy, though (I think it cost as much as my meal).

And my meal, wow was it good. I once again only pretended to be healthy by negating my veggie burger with an order of fries.

Now, take a good look at that picture. Click through to enlarge, if you must. What do you see? The burger is GREEN! Know why? Because there are actual VEGETABLES in this veggie burger! I know, it's a novel idea. It was flavorful, fantastic, moist, and... damn, I want another one right now.

I hate veggie burgers that pretend to taste like meat because, as a meat eater, I'd rather just have a real burger (I understand, though, that some vegetarians would want a meat-like burger now and then). This burger had visible pieces of pea and carrot, amongst other vegetables, and it actually tasted fresh.

The fries were delicious Belgian-style, a little thicker with a nice crunch on the outside. They also serve these as an appetizer or as bar food with different dipping sauces, again a traditional move.

The menu is not huge (certainly not as large as the beer menu), but there is a good amount of variety. Lots of traditional pub foods have a slight spin to them, upping their quality. I can't wait to go back and try some more!

Mel, this picture's just for you to laugh at (so comment, damn it!).

The Publick House in Brookline

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Defense of Caesar Salads

I read this Michael Ruhlman post a few weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it a bit. I agree with much of what he says - that the ubiquitous chicken Caesar is something that is expected to be on a menu, not something that a chef would necessarily choose to serve. I mean, what does it say about the American palate (or psyche, for that matter) that people order "healthy" by ordering the least nutritious green covered in basically garlic-flavored mayo?

But I also agree with Ruhlman that restaurants should be taking the Caesar, obviously popular, and playing with the dish. My favortie Caesar in Boston is at, of all places, a small Tex-Mex chain.

The Border Cafe has branches in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia (although for years, I thought the one in Harvard Square was one-of-a-kind). It's been one of my favorite restaurants since my brother and his now-wife took me out for my birthday during middle school. The margaritas and chips saved my sanity during stressful times in college. For years, I would only order the quesadilla or the burros, both basically melty cheese wrapped in a tortilla (which I would push aside in favor of more chips). I don't know when I finally tried the Border's Caesar, but I am now unable to order anything else when I go.

Yes, it still uses Romaine lettuce, virtually devoid of nutrients. Yes, the dressing is sometimes globbed on. And yes, you can order it plain or with grilled chicken. But the dressing has more flavor than just garlic - there's a brightness from lemon that adds a nice amount of zing to the dressing. You can also top the salad with blackened chicken, blackened salmon, or my personal favorite (and pictured above) spicy, sauteed shrimp and crawfish.

I mean, how often do you think to yourself "Today I'm going to have a salad with creole seafood on top!"?

OK, now I'm making myself drool...

Border Cafe in Cambridge

I'm not sure if I love this or if it frightens me...

Yo Gabba Gabba is a show on Nickelodeon, a station I loved as a kid. Now, I feel like some of the stuff they show is a little strange...

So I'm not entirely sure what this is saying. Should you let veggies guilt-trip you into eating them? Is food really that excited to get eaten? Didn't the cheese look a little frightened right before he was gobbled down?

By the way, my niece was singing this song all weekend, and it wormed its way into my head. Thought-destroying is the only way I can describe it.

Edit: If that wasn't disturbing enough, there's always this clip from the same show, starring Elijah Wood.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Aquitaine Bis, Chestnut Hill

I haven't seen my parents much this summer, between my moving out and their spending most of the time down the Cape. When I do see them here in town, though, we've been enjoying great meals at places we've never tried before, ostensibly as fuel for this blog (which I think my mom gets a big kick out of). So the other day, they picked me up at work and we headed on our way.

"Let's just drive up Route 9 and see what looks good," my dad said. So we headed down Route 9 in Brookline as I pointed out a few restaurants I had been to recently. Not long after, though, traffic came to a halt - a big section of the street was blocked off by cop cars, and there were ambulances flying past on the wrong side of the divided street. We spent the next hour or so driving through a horrible detour, only to end up about a half a mile down Route 9.

By the time we made it past the detour, we were all starving and in bad need of a restroom. We headed into Chestnut Hill and my mom says "Oh, there's that nice place we had lunch a few weeks ago. Let's just try that." Yes, the car ride defeated us, and instead of braving the road further to see what we could find, we pulled into an unassuming strip mall.

And am I glad we did. I've never been to Aquitaine (Chestnut Hill or South End), but I have of course heard the name many times.

The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived, but it filled up quickly. There was a surprising number of solo diners - nice to see them so at home in their neighborhood restaurant. As soon as we were seated, fresh gougeres were brought out that made me instantly ravenous. Bring on the food!

For my entree, I ordered the seared scallops with sweet corn pudding, arugula and browned butter. The scallops were delicous, if a bit overcooked. The corn pudding, though, was the star - a large piece of very light pastry dough topped with plenty of corn custard. It was smooth, but with some whole kernals, for great texture. I could have used more than 4 leaves of arugula, but then, I'm an arugula hound.

Now, I rarely order dessert when I go out (Restaurant Week is an obvious exception to this). My parents (especially my mother) aren't big on ordering dessert either. So when my mom mentioned that they had had a great tarte Tatin the last time they visited and that she wanted to have it again, I was surprised. Then my dad pointed out the profiteroles (my mother's dessert weakness) on the menu, and we almost had a Sophie's Choice moment. Instead, we went for both (shocking!), and they were delicious. I preferred the tarte Tatin, with its smooth caramel sauce, over the profiteroles, with ice cream that was a little too hard.

An excellent meal, thanks to a little traffic and a good deal of impatience!

Aquitaine Bis in Chestnut Hill

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Monochromatic Pizza

So what do you do with monochromatic veggies? Make monochromatic pizza!

It was refreshing to have pizza that wasn't heavy or too salty. The vegetables were the star (although the herb dough from Trader Joe's was awesome too), and they tasted fresh and bright.

The trick is to slice all the veggies very thin. As the pizza cooked, it looked like there was too much water, but by the time it was done, the water had mostly evaporated/soaked back in, leaving juicy veggies and a crisp crust.

1 Trader Joe's herb pizza dough
1 medium (or 2 small) eggplant
1 purple pepper
1/3 red onion
2 plum tomatoes
6 Kalamata olives, chopped
olive oil
about 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Stretch dough out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spray with olive oil. Layer eggplant, pepper, onion, tomato and olives evenly over the dough. Spray lightly with olive oil again, then top with mozzarella. Bake at 450 for 15-18 minutes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Monochromatic Farmers Market

Can you tell what my favorite color is?

I know that veggies with deeper colors have more nutrients, so I can just pretend I bought them to be healthy. But really, I just loved the jewel tones.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sibling Rivalry, South End

For my final Restaurant Week meal, I headed to Sibling Rivalry. I've heard lots of mixed things about the restaurant and was excited to finally get to try it myself. Overall, I was very pleased by my meal (by the decor, less so). There were 11 choices each for appetizers and entrees, which, by RW standards, can be good or bad, depending on how the restaurant handles RW to begin with. Sometimes, that many offerings means the restaurant is just trying to cater to the wider range of patrons that RW will bring in. Other times, as in this case, the restaurant is proving what it can do with a full menu, just like any other night.

I have a hard time passing up calamari on a menu, and this Vietnamese version sounded more intriguing than the typical red sauce-accompanied fare. The squid itself was well-fried, but was not very flavorful. Or maybe it was just overshadowed by the Thai basil, cilantro and chilies. The batter was light and crispy, mirrored by still-crispy carrots, onions and jicama.

My entree was delicious, although I admit it's not much to look at here. The filet of beef was served with creamed onions, tomato jam, and black pepper gnocchi. The tomatoes and gnocchi were in limited supply. I needed more of the two little gnocchi after my first bite; they had a fantastic texture, and the black pepper flavor was powerful without being overwhelming. I've never had creamed onions before, but these made a perfect side dish to the steak, with the sweetness from the onions balancing out the richness of the meat.

For dessert, I chose the lemon tart with fresh berries. The lemon filling was perhaps a bit too stiff, but was at least flavorful. The berries sang with summer - I could have just had a bowl of them, topped with the accompanying hazelnut praline, and been perfectly happy.

Sibling Rivalry in Boston

Monday, August 20, 2007

What the hell is Cristle?

While shopping at Eastern Lamejun in Watertown for provisions, this candy caught my eye, thanks to the darling love birds on the wrapper. I've had this type of sesame candy a million times before (as I have mentioned), and this one wasn't particularly good. I just liked the birds... and the fact that it's called "Cristle". (click the picture for details)

So what the hell is Cristle? Do they mean "crackle," or "crystal"? Or maybe the Lebanese word for this sounds like "cristle". Any thoughts?

Vomit Soup

The other day, as I was reading about Ugly Soup over at The Best Bite, I was thinking that her soup wasn't really that ugly. It wasn't beautiful, no, but it wasn't something that should be hidden from view.

And then, last night, totally without meaning to, I one-upped Andrea in the ugly soup department. A simple name of Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup won't do for this one. No, all I can picture is my 10-year-old nephew playing some nasty practical jokes on his teachers, and now the name Vomit Soup has stuck in my head. It tastes fantastic, though, uses the late summer crops, and was ridiculously easy to make. It's wicked healthy, too. This recipe yielded about 6 cups of soup, or 3 big bowls-worth. I served the soup with Trader Joe's Southwest Style Gourmet Flatbreads, little flat breadstickets baked with chilis and cheese.

Perhaps next time, I'll serve it in the dark in front of the TV.

Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup (aka Vomit Soup)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp cayenne pepper (I think I used more, I didn't measure)
1/2 tsp salt (again, I didn't measure)
1/2 cup water
5-6 ears of corn, kernals cut off
fresh tomatoes (I used 3 small tomatoes and a pint of cherry tomatoes)
about 1/2 cup skim milk (you can also use whole milk or cream)

In a large pot, saute the onion in the oil. Add cayenne and salt. After 4-5 minutes, when the onion is tender, add water, corn and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes, until corn is tender. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender. Add milk as you puree. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

And no, I'm not going to give you pictures, because I like having readers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tremont 647 Earns a Hearty "Meh"

For my second Restaurant Week meal, I headed to Tremont 647 in the South End. I've been there before and had a pretty good meal. Their RW menu has lots of different and intriguing options.

The restaurant is small - long and narrow. The tiny open kitchen splits the room into front and back sections; with the kitchen being right in the center, there's a lot of noise in the room. The front bar and patio looked lovely, but we were seated in the darker back area.

I started with the Crab Gnocchi with Fresh Tomatoes and Caramelized Corn. Everything tasted good, but the flavors didn't necissarily mesh. The part I didn't like, though, was the gnocchi; the texture was just wrong. Is there something between dry and gummy? These gnocchi had an almost grainy texture that was off-putting.

For the entree, I chose the Lemon Roasted Half Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Chili Spiced Corn. The chicken was very juicy (although I could only eat half of what I was given because it was a big bird). The mashed sweet potatoes were fantastic, with hints of chili peppers and cumin. The corn was also very tasty, but it's definitely not a dish to order on a date... Luckily, I was with friends who didn't care that I had the sauce all over my face. This was definitely the best of my three courses.

One friend ordered a steak dish and asked for his meat cooked medium. The waitress told him that, since they were so busy, they were only cooking to medium rare. It seemed a little strange, since only about a third of the dishes required the grill and everyone in our half of the restaurant was on their dessert course. When his meal came, though, his meat was cooked to his liking. When he told the waitress, she said "Well, you must have gotten lucky with that." Does that seem like the wrong response to anyone else?

And finally, for dessert, I had the Raspberry Cream Eclair. This just didn't work, in my opinion. The raspberry filling was too heavy with the delicate eclair, while the chocolate topping was didn't have much flavor. The part that really turned me off, though, was the over-whipped whipped cream; it seemed kind of sloppy to have that on top.

The service was also a bit hit or miss with this meal. Besides the meat miscommunication above, we had to repeat things too often. It was like pulling teeth. For about half of our meal, the room was only about half full, so I wasn't buying the "we're really busy" spiel. It was clear that the restaurant was trying to do RW right, but it failed in the details.

Tremont 647 in Boston

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Excelsior takes Restaurant Week to a New Level

Walking into Excelsior is like entering a James Bond film, all glass and shiny metal. After checking in with the host, we were escorted into a glass elevator and sent to the second floor, travelling through the wine room on the way. Impressive.

We were quickly shown to our table overlooking the Public Garden. The dining room is a classy and modern room. There are a lot of tables, but it doesn't feel crowded. The service was very good considering how busy the restaurant was.

I started with the Native Corn Bisque, with Hot and Sweet Roasted Peppers and Smoked Shrimp. This was spicier than I expected, more of a slow burn in the back of the throat. The corn flavor was deep and rich, but not overly heavy. The best part of the dish, though, was the shrimp, with a smoky flavor that made it taste like bacon. I wished there had been more shrimp (there was only one, sliced in half), but it made me savor the flavor a little more.

Continuing with the seafood theme, I had the Peppered Linguini with Seared Sea Scallops and Crabmeat, Zucchini, Smoked Tomato, and Scallop Cream. This was a fantastic dish, with each component standing strong on its own but mixing with the rest to form a wonderful entree. The scallops were cooked perfectly, with a dark seared crust and a buttery soft center. The smoked tomato stood out, adding the same meaty quality that the shrimp had added to the bisque. There was a good deal of cream coating the pasta, but it wasn't overly heavy. There was an excellent ratio of pasta to meat and vegetables.

For dessert, I had the Dark Chocolate Cake with Coffee Chicory Ice Cream and Candied Orange Zest. This was a perfectly balanced dessert. Too often, a dense chocolate cake is cloying after a meal... a bite or two will suffice. This, on the other hand, was fantastic, and I loved every bite. The cake and the ice cream were well paired. The chicory really evened out the coffee flavor, making it a better accompaniment to the sweetened, creamy dark chocolate. The candied orange zest was more of a flavored simple syrup pooled on the plate, just hinting at its fruity origins. For textural contrast, the plate was scattered with cacao nibs, a very tasty garnish.

This meal at Excelsior was a prime example of what Restaurant Week should be (but often isn't at many restaurants). The portions weren't huge, but the food was carefully crafted. Maybe these weren't the most expensive ingredients, but they were handled with flair, and I was left wondering what else the kitchen could do. Excelsior has now be added to my list of "special occasion" restaurants, but if I had the money, I would eat there more regularly.

Excelsior in Boston

Bottega Fiorentina, Coolidge Corner

Bottega Fiorentina, right in the middle of Coolidge Corner, doesn't look like much. Push open the door, and the small space is filled with a long counter and picnic bench seating. Various Italian groceries line the wall, mostly dried pasta and canned tomatoes.

Everyday, the Bottega offers 8 or 9 hot specials, including pasta, soup, and meat dishes. The also make fresh sandwiches and salads that look great. When I peeked in, though, I wasn't looking for a meal; I was dying to try their focaccia.

And the focaccia was not a disappointment. The dough was salty with just a touch of sweetness, and it had nice layering to it. The bottom was crisp but not hard, and there was a nice crumb to the edge. This particular piece was topped with oily and sweet onions and lots of black pepper. I could eat only this for a meal and be completely happy. This was, by far, the best focaccia I've had since my last trip to Italy.

For dessert, I tried the Nutella calzone. It was small, about the size of my palm, and not as good as the focaccia. The entire calzone had been fried, which left the dough too chewy. Overall, though, the taste was good: the dough was not overly sweet, and the Nutella was... well, Nutella.

I'm looking forward to trying their meals, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to order anything beyond the focaccia because it was so tasty.

Bottega Fiorentina in Brookline

Friday, August 10, 2007

Farmers Market Love

Nothing better than a meal made entirely from market fresh goods. It tastes like love...

An Ode to Pinchy and Grabby

My long weekend down the Cape was very peaceful. I managed to read three books, fall asleep on the beach, and get in plenty of shopping. We only got to see the sunset one night, thanks to fog and rain, but it was a spectacular one. I especially liked the tiny toy truck we found as we shuffled our feet through the sand.

As promised, there was lobster. My mother and I enjoyed our meals while my father looked on in not-quite-horror. And I didn't make too much of a mess of myself! The lobsters were so sweet, and we paired them with some extra-sweet, local corn, for the freshest of meals.

I named the lobsters Pinchy (above) and Grabby (not shown). I feel that (without getting into a big moral debate), if you're going to eat meat of any form, you should be able to watch the animal get killed. Now, I don't live near many abattoirs, but cooking lobsters is something that can be done at home. So I salute you, Pinchy and Grabby! Thanks for the perfect meal, boys!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ice Cream Cake is Better than Regular Cake - Discuss

My wonderful coworkers got me an ice cream cake today for my birthday (which was followed by a sugar-fueled conversation about America's Stonehenge, the best pseudoarchaeological site in New England). It wasn't a special cake, food-wise, but the fact that they remembered my preference for ice cream over regular cake meant the world. Thanks guys!!

So I'm off to the Cape to celebrate. When I return, there will hopefully be lots of posts filled with lobster carcasses, because I always say the best meals end with a plate full of carcasses...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Blogging about Writing about Food

Brookline Booksmith, my local independent bookseller, hosts fantastic readings. I've seen some of my favorite authors (Mark Z. Danielewski, Chuck Palahniuk) read there. I pay close attention to their Ministry of Events author series, especially for books or authors that sound interesting but I've never heard of before.

That's how I became obsessed with getting a copy of Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. I read the description on the events page and knew I had to go to that reading... and being the complete nerd I am, I tend to read the book before the talk. I was greatly disappointed when I realized it hadn't been released yet... so I had to wait until mid-July. I didn't get to Brookline Booksmith for a while, though, so I had to wait to pick up my copy until last weekend (since the crappy Barnes and Noble next to my office never has the book I want).

(Jeff at C for Cooking also fueled my search for this book. He got his hands on an advance copy and started a writing challenge based on the book. He'll be posting submissions next week.)

Man, am I glad I picked this book up. As I've mentioned before, I recently moved into my first post-collegiate apartment and am using this blog as a way to teach myself how to cook. This book, focusing on what it means to cook and eat alone, is exactly what I needed, and I flew through the essays in no time.

Cooking for yourself allows you to be strange or decadent or both. The chances of liking what you make are high, but if it winds up being disgusting, you can always throw it away and order a pizza; no one else will ever know. In the end, the experimentation, the impulsiveness, and the invention that such conditions allow for will probably make you a better cook. - Jenni Ferrari-Adler, in the introduction

I have already noticed this to be true - my inventions are tasty to me (my roommate occasionally says whatever I've concocted is good, but God knows what he's actually thinking), and they have led me down creative paths of culinary expression.

Some of the 27 authors focus on cooking or dining alone. Others discuss specific ingredients or times in their lives. Some include recipes, hoping that by showing you a slice of their life, they've tempted you to take a bite as well. Some are humorous, while others take a more serious bent. This book really has something for everyone.

My favorite essays are:
*Dinner for One, Please, James by Ann Patchett, about finding peace and pleasure in eating alone.
*Beans and Me by Jeremy Jackson, a funny look at a humble ingredient.
*Asparagus Superhero by Phoebe Nobles, about Nobles' quest to eat asparagus every day for two months.
*The Legend of the Salsa Rosa by Ben Karlin, which brought me back to my time in Italy.
*Que Sera Sarito: An (Almost) Foolproof Plan to Never Ever Eat Alone Again by Steve Almond, a hilarious recipe in story form for an open-face quesadilla.
*The Year of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami, an etheral story about eating Italian in Japan.
*Protective Measures by Jami Attenberg, comparing food to a drug (and rightly so).
*How to Cook in a New York Apartment by Laura Dave, about learning the rules of your kitchen.

So if you're near Brookline, mark your calendar for Thursday, August 9 at 7pm, when Jenni Ferrari-Adler, Steve Almond, and Laura Dave will speak to the Booksmith crowd.

Coincidentally, I did find myself alone in my kitchen with an eggplant (well, 3 tiny eggplants) the other night. I made an eggplant, summer squash and goat cheese pie, using up some leftover pie dough, and it was really tasty - but I don't know if anyone else would tell me they liked it.

Icarus Doesn't Fly High Enough

Icarus spent the month of July celebrating its 29th birthday with a special $29, 3-course menu. The menu consisted of 6 appetizers, 5 entrees, and 4 desserts. I don't believe they were offering a regular menu as well, but really, at $29 there was no reason not to order off the prix fixe.

Everything I had was very tasty (sorry no pics, it was way too dark and I'm not crazy about using a flash in restaurants). I started with corn chowder with crispy bacon and scallops. Three decent-sized scallops floated in a thin broth, accompanied by corn, potatoes and thick, red slivers of bacon. The broth was a little too thin for my tastes, but I'm rather particular about chowder. Because there was little integration between the broth and the solids, I really had to chase the pieces around in the shallow bowl in order to get them onto my spoon. But everything tasted really good.

For my entree, I had the grilled lamb with socca stuffed with peppery greens and a lemon caper vinaigrette. The meat was nicely cooked, with a hint of rosemary, but I think I've been spoiled by my parents' lamb skills at home, because this should have been better. The socca was the primary reason I ordered the dish, and I enjoyed them heartily. Socca is a thin pancake made out of chickpea flour, popular in Italy and southern France. The chard inside was a little tough with the crispy socca, but it was a great side dish for the lamb.

Dessert was surprising. I ordered the lemon buttermilk panna cotta, and we all laughed a lot when it was brought out as we jiggled our plates for a few minutes, watching it dance. The buttermilk gave it a very bright and clean flavor, and the accompanying blueberries gave it a burst of fruitiness.

So overall, it was a good meal, but I don't think I would hurry back to Icarus any time soon. It's not that I didn't like the food... it's just, at their regular prices, I can think of many other places I would rather dine. Boston has tons of great restaurants (although sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees), and I would rather not settle for something that's just "good."