Tuesday, September 30, 2008

HIMYM's Best Burger in New York

How I Met Your Mother has to be one of the best shows on TV right now. So imagine how happy I was to see last night's episode, a virtual love letter to Chowhound? Marshall (and, inexplicably, Regis Philbin) search for the perfect burger in New York.

It's all here, everything that makes this show great - the writing ("I said I don't like Chinese"), the facial expressions (Marshall clearly in love with the burger), the little things you barely even see (like Robin licking the glue off the deposit envelope out of hunger). Plus, the episode dispensed with Ted's search for the Mother of the title and instead focused on the group of friends (the thing that truly makes the show great).

Whether you like food, the chowhounding process, HIMYM, or just good comedy, definitely give this episode a watch.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Geeky Pie Chart Humor

song chart memes

I love GraphJam, especially when there are food-related posts (see here and here).

Cheap Eats: Aceituna Cafe

Aceituna is a Spanish word for olive, and considering the use of olives and olive oil in Mediterranean cuisine, it's a perfect name for Aceituna Cafe in Kendall Square. The restaurant features Lebanese and Mediterranean food hot and fast.

The menu at Aceituna Cafe has lots of options, mostly under $10, ranging from pita roll-ups to heartier entrees with meat, rice and salad. The real deals, though, are in the vegetarian plate and the combo specials. The vegetarian plate has a choose-3 option ($7.79) and a choose-5 option ($9.79), although three choices provides plenty of food. Try the tabboule, predominantly made of finely chopped parsley and served in heaping scoops, or the falafel, large, crunchy, heavily spiced patties with a more chunky texture than at most falafel restaurants. Other choices include hummus, babaghannouge, rice with lentils, grape leaves, and couscous salad. If sandwiches are more your speed, try the combo specials, featuring fries, a soda, and a falafel roll-up ($7.25) or a chicken or beef shawarma roll-up ($8.75).

Aceituna Cafe is located at 605 West Kendall Street in Cambridge. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11am to 8pm.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Aceituna Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pumpkin and Spicy Cheddar Souffle

I'm not usually one to make recipes found in advertisements for brand-name products. But when I saw the ad for Cabot's Pumpkin and Habanero Cheddar Souffles in a magazine, I couldn't wait to give them a shot. Nothing says Fall quite like pumpkins, and these seemed like the perfect way to start the season. Luckily, I already had some of Cabot's 50% Light Jalapeno Cheddar at home, so all I had to do was pick up some mini pumpkins.

Before finding this recipe, I would never had thought to cook with mini pumpkins. We're talking about the tiny little things that can be found with the other small ornamental squashes. I didn't even consider how much flesh was actually in them. But each pumpkin has about half a cup of meat to it - good eats! And very easy to deal with!

Pumpkin and Spicy Cheddar Souffle

4 mini pumpkins
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 tsp flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 ounces spicy cheddar (I like Cabot's 50% Light Jalapeno Cheddar), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Place pumpkins in shallow baking dish and add water about halfway up the sides of the pumpkins. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool.

Reheat oven to 375°. With a paring knife, remove tops from pumpkins. Remove seeds and scoop out flesh, leaving about 1/4-inch-thick walls. Place pumpkin meat in a bowl. Add egg yolks, flour, baking powder, and cheese, and mix well. Whip egg whites into stiff peaks, then fold gently into the pumpkin mixture. Spoon mixture into the pumpkin shells. Place on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and starting to brown.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheap Eats: Crazy Dough's Pizza

Pizza is a quintessential cheap eat, and Crazy Dough's Pizza has a wider variety of toppings to choose from than usual. The counters are always spread with tons of gourmet pies in both thin crust and Sicilian-style, like the potato bacon cheddar, the buffalo chicken and bacon, and the rueben.

Crazy Dough's also has some great specials that help you keep the costs down. A personal-sized (9-inch) pizza, paired with a soda, goes for as little as $4, and it's definitely big enough for a meal. For a few dollars more, you can have the gourmet toppings on your personal pizza. The crust (white or wheat) is super thin and gets a nice crunch to it in the oven. Two slices and a soda are a comparable price. And if you're still thirsty, you can get $1 drafts or $4 pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Crazy Dough's Pizza has two locations, at 1124 Boylston Street in Boston (near the Hynes T stop) and at 36 JFK Street in Harvard Square (in the Garage).

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Crazy Dough's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mmmm Ciao Bella

God, what a gorgeous day! It was the perfect day for wandering around Harvard Square and free ice cream!

I finally managed to stop by the Ciao Bella truck in Harvard Square on their final day in town. They were giving out scoops of five different flavors - vanilla gelato, pistachio gelato, maple ginger snap gelato, blood orange sorbetto, and blackberry cabernet sorbetto. I snagged tastes of both the pistachio and the blackberry cabernet and was blown away by both. I shouldn't have been surprised - the blood orange (the only flavor I've purchased before) is unbelievably, intensely flavorful, and these flavors were no slouches, either. The pistachio actually tasted like the nut (and thankfully, was not bright green), and the pistachios in the mix were still crunchy! The blackberry cabernet started out with a rich wine-taste, and the berry intensity grew over time.

One thing I particularly like about Ciao Bella (especially the sorbet) is that the quality is amazing, and it actually helps with portion control. I know, sounds weird, but hear me out - with such intense flavors, I feel so satisfied with a good scoop (and not the whole pint). This is truly a dessert worth savoring.

Blood orange is still my favorite... but I guess that means I'll just have to keep trying more flavors.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Apple Season

Apple season is here now! Hopefully, apple picking will be in my near future, but for now, I have to sustain myself off Gala apples from the supermarket (since class on farmers market day has really cramped my style).

While visiting a much nicer supermarket than my local, I found these little cups of Marzetti caramel - perfect for apple dipping! They're just the right amount for a good-sized apple, and the individual cups are awesome for throwing into my bag to take to school. I have five more left... let's see if they last until that aforementioned apple picking happens...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free Ciao Bella Gelato This Weekend!

Free ice cream? Yes please! Ciao Bella will be in Harvard Square this weekend giving out scoops of their incredible gelato and sorbetto on one of the last stops of their Discover-Savor-Share tour. I love their blood orange sorbet - it really captures the essence of the fruit, which only appears for a few weeks in the winter. Can't wait to try some other flavors!

The bright pink and orange Ciao Bella truck will be on JFK Street in front of Staples on Friday, September 19 from 5-8pm, Saturday, September 20 from 12-5pm, and Sunday, September 21 from 3-7pm. Ciao Bella products can be found at Whole Foods and other, smaller retailers around Boston.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rosewater Pizzelles

Pizzelles are one of my favorite Italian treats... there's nary a time when a trip to the North End doesn't end with me swinging a big bag of pizzelles in my hands as I walk back to the T. But on my last visit, when I realized that two packages of these cookies set me back about $10, I decided it was time to make my own. Thankfully, my friends gave me a pizzelle iron for my birthday - you can't make these without one of these mini-waffle makers.

My first try, though, did not work out as I had expected. They were way too sweet, and there was no anise in the house, so they were a bit boring in flavor. For this batch, I wanted to try something a little different - rosewater. I love baking with rosewater because the heat of the oven (or iron, in this case) really calms the floral taste, leaving just a hint of rose behind.

Rosewater Pizzelles
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rosewater
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and rosewater and beat until smooth. Add flour and baking powder and mix with a large spoon.

Heat pizzelle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. Spray with non-stick cooking spray before the first use (do not spray for each cookie, though). Using two spoons to scoop the batter into rounded spoonfuls, put batter slightly behind the center of the iron, so it doesn't smoosh out when you close the top. Pizzelles take 30-45 seconds to cook. Lift cookies off the iron with a wooden spoon and let cool on a wire rack. Cookies can be shaped (over small bowls, around wooden dowels, etc) while still hot. Store in an air-tight container.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cheap Eats: Canto 6

Bakeries can be a great choice for delicious meal options, but it often seems that the meal doesn't justify the price. Not so at Canto 6, a small bakery in Jamaica Plain. Their menu boasts some great sandwich combinations, all for under $7. But the real value lies in Canto 6's pies and quiches.

Personal-sized pies and quiches make a quick and easy meal that will definitely fill you up. The scallion, bacon, and cheddar quiche ($3.25) has a fantastic balance between all the different flavors. The crust is especially good - buttery and flaky goodness that surrounds the filling. The peach and berry pie ($3.75) features the same perfect crust, plenty of sweet, fresh fruit, and a tender crumble topping. Pair them together, and you have a huge, delicious meal.

Canto 6 is located at 3346 Washington Street (at Green Street) in Jamaica Plain. They are open Monday-Friday, 7:30am-6:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 8am-8pm.

Originally published on Bostonist.

Canto 6 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Michael Phelps Diet

During the Olympics, there was plenty of blogger-hype about Michael Phelps' 12,000-calorie-a-day diet. Thankfully, even the Golden Boy himself thinks it's a little ridiculous. My favorite is the butter-wrapped meatballs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Roadhouse, Brookline

If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge fan of the Publick House. The roomie and I eat there a lot, but I hate waiting for a table, so we usually sit at the bar where he can talk beer with the bartenders and I can stare off into space. So when we heard a few months ago that they were opening another restaurant, this time 2 blocks closer to our place (as if PH was sooo far), I became giddy.

And so Roadhouse, Publick House's sister restaurant, opened this week, to excitement from beer-lovers and food-lovers alike.

We went on the second day they were open, meaning I had plenty of time to read all the poor reviews beforehand. I tried to steel myself for a crappy time, knowing I would chalk it up to opening kinks that would get ironed out later. But I was pleasantly surprised and am looking forward to going back now.

Overall, the atmosphere leaves a little to be desired, especially if you're used to the more homey feeling of the Publick House. The two-bar setup is nice, though, with a larger, circular bar at the entrance, and a smaller, straight bar at the far end of the restaurant. There's also a huge patio, but it was closed due to yesterday's deluge.

For right now, Roadhouse only has beer on tap - no bottles. They also have no ciders on tap (I don't do beer), so I'll have to wait until the bottles come in to try their selection.

I opted for the pulled pork platter, which comes with one side and a chunk of cornbread (plain or cheddar jalapeno). The pork came in larger chunks than I expected, doused in a sweet and vinegary sauce. There was a lot of gristle in with the meat, though, which left me happy that I ordered the platter and not the sandwich so that I could more effectively pick through the fat. The meat was tender and a beautiful shade of pink, thanks to the smoking process. The side of cornbread was also very good - cakey and not overly sweet. The cheddar and jalapeno were not pronounced, but instead just added hints of their flavors.

The major failing point for the evening, though, was the collard greens. They came in huge chunks (the leaves weren't cut at all) and were very dry and somewhat undercooked. Oh, and (I think) vegetarian - there was not enough salt in the greens for there to have been meat in there at all. The fries that I stole from my roommates plate, though, were very good, with skin on and a decent dose of salt. I'll be opting for something other than the collards next time I go.

Sorry for the crappy picture; it was dark and I was trying to go for the no-flash thing. Hopefully I'll have better pictures if we can get out on the patio before it gets too cold.

Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ice Cream Cakes from JP Licks

My friend Nathaniel, a fellow August baby, also shares a fondness for ice cream birthday cakes. So, to celebrate his birthday this year, what could be better than an ice cream cake from JP Licks?

We went for a medium Oreo cake - two layers of well-packed oreo ice cream with a layer of fudge between, crushed oreos on the sides, and oreo halves decorating the top. The medium is an 8-inch round - six of us ended up eating half of it, so there's plenty left for the birthday boy to graze on over the next week. The ice cream itself was, as usual, fantastic, and the layer of fudge - pure chocolate - was a much tastier alternative to that waxy frosting that is on so many other ice cream cakes.

JP Licks keeps other flavors of ice cream cakes in stock as well, or they will make a custom cake with 48 hours notice.

J.P. Licks on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 5, 2008

Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, Brookline

Recently, every time I've been in Coolidge Corner with friends, it's been hard to make a decision on where to eat. This place has a long line, that place isn't what we're in the mood for. Somehow, the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse gets suggested and we'll go in because nothing else sounds right. And then I order my favorite chicken sandwich and start berating myself for not thinking of the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse sooner.

The menu at CCC is huge, broken up into salads, grilled chicken, burgers, mixed grill, fajitas... and it keeps going. But the thing I've been ordering lately is the Tom Brady (yes, many of the sandwiches have Boston-based sports names... what do you expect from a "sports pub"?). Grilled chicken with boursin and bacon... sounds like heaven, right? It really is. The chicken is well-cooked and moist, and the boursin is all kinds of garlicky and delicious. The curly fries on the side, which come in a vast heap, are crunchy and fried to perfection. They're also great for cleaning up any boursin that may have escaped the sides of the sandwich.

The chicken sandwiches at CCC are huge and will keep you filled all day. There are many other great sandwiches (and meals, for that matter) on the menu, but I've had a hard time not ordering the Tom Brady.

Coolidge Corner Clubhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2008

This is What Sunshine Tastes Like?!

Last month, I was at the Market Basket near my parents' house and, while browsing the "healthy" section, stumbled across a new cereal from Kashi. Now, I've been known to go on Kashi kicks - the Go! Lean Crunch bars were a feature of a particularly long kick, well over a year - and it's clear to me that this new cereal, Honey Sunshine, will be in my pantry for quite a while to come.

Kashi calls Honey Sunshine "puffy cereal pillows," and that's a pretty accurate statement. They have a fantastic crunch and tons of honey sweetness. I've never been one to put milk in my cereal, so I've really enjoyed the crunchy goodness of this stuff. It's reminiscent of Cap't Crunch, only less-sugary and more satisfying (thanks to an increase in fiber).

Unfortunately, Market Basket has been the only place I've been able to find Honey Sunshine, and that means a drive out to the suburbs. On my last visit, I ended up buying 4 boxes, which she keep me happy for at least a little while. Anyone seen this anywhere else around Boston?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

RichArt Florals

Not too long ago, I was wandering around the Copley Mall and stopped into the RichArt chocolate store. I've always passed this place by before, because I generally only use the Copley Mall as an indoor passageway between Copley Square and the Prudential Center (although occasionally, William-Sonoma or Banana Republic will entice me in). But on that day, I was feeling liberal with my money (I don't know why, I don't have any) and went in.

And fell for the sales pitch. Because the last thing I needed was a box of 20 gourmet chocolates. But I was really interested in how they break down the different flavors into seven categories. The sales woman walked me through the different categories of balsamic, roasted, fruity, citrus, herbal, floral, and spiced. They all sounded good, but I went with the florals, because I love rose-flavored foods.

The little booklet that comes in the box suggests sampling the chocolates in a particular order so that nothing gets overwhelmed. And I could see why after tasting just a few. The first, the Neroli Ganache, was light and only vaguely floral. The Wildflower Ganache was my least favorite of the bunch, overly lemony and almost antiseptic. Next was the Alpine Flower Ganache - I'm not sure which Alpine flower this was supposed to be, but again, it was only vaguely floral and not overpowering at all. The next two, Ylang Ylang Ganache and "Rosae" Geranium Ganache, were my favorites. The Ylang Ylang was bright in flavor, like tropical fruit, and almost tasted like banana, while the Rosae Geranium had a lovely, intense but not overwhelming rosey flavor. Next up was the Lavender, which had a very subtle lavender flavor and was not at all soapy, which can be a problem with lavender-flavored things. The last in the list was the Exotic Flower Coulis. Because it was a coulis and not a ganache, the filling all came out with the first bite, intensifying the flavor - I think it would have been more enjoyable if I hadn't gotten it all in one bite. As it was, the flavor was a little too perfumey for it to be enjoyable, although the flavor mellowed over time and became almost nutty by the end.

Now that I've tried 7 of the 49 different flavors, I'm intrigued to try the rest. Overall, the flavors were subtle, balanced, and well-done, not too in-your-face. There are a lot more unique choices (like basil) that really have me interested, so I may go back out of sheer curiosity. And I think the small boxes would make a great hostess gift, since they're under $25 and offer a variety of tastes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Personal Peach Upside-Down Cakes

I'm not a big fan of peaches on their own - too fuzzy - but peaches incorporated into other things - skinless - are awesome. So while watching the Peachy Keen episode of Good Eats the other day, I was excited by Alton's recipe for individual peach upside-down cakes. Portion-controlled cakes, topped with (skinless) peaches, hot out of the oven and topped with ice cream? Upside-down cake without overly-sweet pineapple? I'm there!

The recipe below is with my edits; the original is in the link above. The recipe makes 4, but I was making 6, and math is not a strong suit... so I've left my recipe for 4. Although the picture above is just the cake, we served these with ice cream... which melted almost right away, making another picture impossible. But it was delicious, so ice cream is definitely the way to go.

Personal Peach Upside-Down Cakes
2 medium peaches
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 2/3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Blanch the peaches in boiling water for about a minute, then cool. Peel off the skin, then cut in half and remove the pit. Cut each half into thin slices, about 16 slices per peach.

Divide 2 Tablespoons of butter between 4 (6 ounce) ramekins (1/2 Tablespoon in each). Melt the last tablespoon of butter and set aside. Divide the brown sugar between the ramekins (2 teaspoons in each). Arrange peach slices on top of the brown sugar. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted butter. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Spoon mixture onto peaches, dividing evenly among the ramekins. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Wait a few minutes before serving. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekins to loosen the cakes. To serve, place a small plate over a ramekin, and then turn over to release the cake. The butter and brown sugar will have formed a sauce. Top with ice cream and serve quickly.