Sunday, June 28, 2009

Denian's, Lexington

I have officially left the semi-urban landscape of Brookline (where the T stopped right in front of my building) for the more suburban town of Lexington. I'd gotten so used to have amazing food within walking distance, and now... well, at least I have a car.

That being said, I was very happy to notice a new restaurant that had opened in Lexington. Denian's is a small take out shop that focuses on Chinese buns, located right next to the Royal Pastry Shop on Marrett Road. It's strictly for take-out - the only seats are a few along a small bar on the wall (although there is room for a couple of tables, which would definitely help the place out).

Denian's offers seven different types of buns - pork, beef, chicken, green veggie, carrot, sweet bean paste, and taro paste - and you can buy them in quantities of 1, 3, 4, 6, or 12. I opted for three, trying one each of the pork, chicken, and carrot.

The dough itself was light and a little fluffy. Each bun holds a decent amount of filling, which matches up with the amount of dough very well. As for the fillings, the ones I tried ranged from fine to very very tasty. The pork was pretty standard, much like you'd find in any potsticker - it definitely didn't wow me. The chicken (above), on the other hand, was delicious. There was lots of ginger and scallions in there, making each bite flavorful. My favorite of the three, however, was the carrot (top) - both sweet and savory, and wonderfully spiced with five-spice powder and a touch of sesame oil. The chicken and the carrot were both a little unusual, and the flavors were very well balanced.

My three buns made for a decent-sized lunch, but when I saw the scallion pancakes on the menu, I had no choice but to order them. They are one of my favorite foods, and although I make them at home, I prefer to order them out. Sadly, this version wasn't fantastic. They were a little on the chewy side, but that may have been because a miscommunication left them steaming in their take-out box a little too long. That being said, the flavor was good and I would definitely give them a try again.

Denian's also offers noodle soups and bubble tea. Since it's right down the street from Lexington High, I'm sure it will get a good deal of business from students once school starts back up in the fall. The bubble tea flavors are all powder, though, so if that's not your thing (I think the powders are gross), you've been warned.

Denian's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Carry That Buzz With You

I don't like jello at all. In fact, I hate it. I find the smell and the texture absolutely abhorrent. Which is why I'm mystified over how I could enjoy coffee jello so much.

Last fall, when Lily of Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen and I embarked on our Ye Olde Boston Food Toure, we started our evening at Durgin Park and ordered, amongst other things, their coffee jello. We picked it because it was cheap (only a couple of bucks) and it sounded so odd. And we named it "astronaut coffee" because it was like a strong cup of coffee in solid form. I couldn't stop eating it, totally grossing myself out, and the coffee jello was definitely the stand out of the trip.

Fast forward months to what should now be the summer - ice coffee weather (although some would argue that it's always ice coffee weather in Boston...). And yet, we've only had 3 days of mostly sunny weather (the best we've gotten) all month. In an attempt to make it feel a little more summery, I finally gave making my own coffee jello a try.

And lo and behold, I'm horrifying myself again by loving this! Luckily, the coffee flavor and smell are so strong, the gelatin isn't overpowering. If I had a desk job now like I used to, I'm pretty sure I would bring along a little tupperware of this stuff as a quick pick-me-up during the day.

Coffee Jello
4 cups coffee (this is a great way to use up leftover coffee)
2 packets unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup sugar

Bring coffee to a boil in a small pot. Whisk in the gelatin and sugar and cook until they are dissolved. Pour into a shallow pan (I used a Pyrex lasagna pan) and refrigerate until firm. Serve with whipped cream for the full coffee experience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cheap Eats: Pho Republique

Another week, another great bar deal. But, while many establishments don't venture much past fries and wings, Pho Republique in the South End offers tasty treats for $2 a pop. Their dim sum bar menu has eight varied options - choose one for a snack along with your drink, or they them all for a meal or to share.

All of the choices are tasty (even the crispy tofu, considering that this Bostonist is not a fan of the tofu), but there are a few real standouts in the bunch. The candied garlic spare ribs, 2 per order, are sweet and savory, with a crispy caramelized exterior and meat that falls right off the bone. The veggie rangoon, which looks more like an eggroll, is filled with cream cheese and tender shredded vegetables. And the edamame gyoza are crunchy envelopes stuffed with pureed edamame, an excellent combination of crispy and smooth textures.

Pho Republique is located at 1415 Washington Street in the South End. The Dim Sum Bar Menu is offered Monday through Thursday, 5:30-7:00pm at the bar.

Originally published on Bostonist.

Pho Republique on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheap Eats: Penguin Pizza

It's hard to imagine one slice of pizza being enough for an entire meal, but at Penguin Pizza in Brigham Circle, one slice can definitely fill you up for only around $3. Each slice is roughly the size of a dinner plate, or two good-sized slices anywhere else. In fact, the slice is much easier to eat if you just cut it in half to begin with. Penguin offers four types of pizza by the slice daily: cheese, pepperoni, and two changing flavors.

Penguin's toppings are also different than those at most other pizza shops. You can still get the basics, but Penguin really shines with its more gourmet offerings. The Bird, pictured above, is topped with a homemade sweet and smoky barbeque sauce, caramelized onions, and pulled chicken. The Caribbean Jerk Shrimp pizza is a white pizza, topped with jerk shrimp and a fresh mango pineapple salsa. This Bostonist loves The Seasonal, featuring sweet butternut squash puree, tangy goat cheese, braised leeks, and crispy fried sage leaves - a perfect pizza for the rainy weather we've been enjoying this week.

Penguin Pizza also offers a variety of pastas, sandwiches, and salads, as well as a wide range of interesting beers. They are located at 735 Huntington Ave in Boston and are open Monday through Friday, 11am-1am, and Saturday and Sunday, noon-1am.

Originally published on Bostonist.

Penguin Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rhubarb Cosmos

With plans for a Girls Night In last Friday, hosted by someone who has been talking for weeks about how much she loves rhubarb, my mind starting turning. A quick search for rhubarb in Tastespotting won me this recipe for rhubarb cosmopolitans, which I tweaked once I started mixing. These drinks had an unusual and slightly different taste - I don't think I could have placed the flavor as rhubarb if I hadn't made the syrup myself, but everyone enjoyed the taste.

The syrup is easy to make and even easier to drink. Don't throw out the strained rhubarb - eat it with a spoon, or on toast, or over ice cream...

Rhubarb Syrup
1 lb (about 4 big stalks) rhubarb, chopped
2 cups sugar
3 cups water

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The syrup will become bright pink and the rhubarb will break down. Strain through a fine strainer and let cool before using.

Rhubarb Cosmopolitan

2 ounces rhubarb syrup
2 ounces vodka
1 lime wedge
splash of lemon-lime soda

Combine syrup and vodka in a shaker with ice and shake until cold. Strain into a martini glass, squeeze in the lime wedge, and top with a splash of lemon-lime soda.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Boston Day-cation

My high school friend Sarah was in town Friday and Saturday, bringing along her friend Dominique, who had never been to Boston. The plan for Saturday, therefore, was to fit in as much touristy stuff as we could and show Dom the town.

After a trip to Regina's on Friday, we were driving along when we heard a commercial on the radio talking about "day-cations." If "stay-cations" were all the rage last year, it seems "day-cations" are this year's trend. But we soon realized that the ad was for Mobil's convenience store, On The Go, and their "day-cation" deals. Seriously? Because if I only had one day off to relax, I highly doubt I'd be hanging out at my local Mobil station...

Anyway, we crammed a lot into Saturday, and hopefully, Dom got a lot out of Boston. It's always fun to play tourist in your own town, and the weather couldn't have been better for it. We walked over 7 miles, proving that Boston really is a walking city.

After picking up our friend Kristen, we started by strolling down Charles Street, ending at the Public Gardens for a Swan Boat ride. I miss the days when everyone would be dropping bread off the sides so that the boat was just trailing ducks as it glided along.

From there, we started the Freedom Trail, making a stop at the Granary Burying Ground. There was a guy handing out pamphlets about some of the famous inhabitants of the cemetery, including Mother Goose and Samuel Adams. I had a good time photographing the tombstones - I did some research in college about the motifs on New England tombstones, and I think it's fascinating how the imagery changed over the years.

We stuck to the Freedom Trail for a while, then split off to wander through the financial district over to the waterfront. We grabbed lunch at the Barking Crab, which has fun ambiance but just ok food. It's loud and crowded, but when the weather's nice, it's always great to sit on the water and enjoy a beer and some fried food.

I hadn't been to the Barking Crab in years, though, and was surprised at how limited their menu was. I was expecting all kinds of fried food baskets, but all they offered was fish and chips and a fisherman's platter. So I ordered off the appetizer menu instead, choosing calamari and onion rings. The Rhode Island-style calamari was decent, with almost no chewy pieces, but the peppers were too wet and turned a lot of the basket soggy by the end of the meal. I always prefer when the hot peppers are battered and fried as well - the texture matches the calamari a little better. The onion rings, on the other hand, were delicious - light and ultra crisp, well-seasoned and thinly sliced. I might have been happier just eating the onion rings...

After lunch, we wandered down the Harborwalk to the aquarium, where we got on a harbor cruise. For 45 minutes, we soaked up the sun as we sailed in a big circle, viewing the coast of South Boston, East Boston, and Charlestown. I even got to wave hello to the USS Constitution, where I worked last year.

As we disembarked on Long Wharf, The Landing was right in front of us, and we were lured in by the hordes of people drinking from plastic fish bowls. The four of us shared the giant drink as we took in the surroundings and enjoyed the sun a little more. Long Wharf is always a mob scene, so it was nice to have a little piece of real estate to ourselves from which to watch everything going on. And for $25, our fish bowl wasn't outrageous - we probably would have paid more if we had each gotten our own drinks. The bowl was a little fizzy and tasted exactly like the blue ice pops that we all enjoyed as kids - mmm blue!

Slightly tipsy, we wandered through Quincy Market, over Beacon Hill, down Commonwealth Avenue, and over to Fenway. We ate at Boston Beer Works (after an earlier discussion about sweet potato fries, it seemed like an obvious choice), then headed over to the Bleacher Bar for drinks. What a cool space! The bar is at field level, looking right out onto the warning track. If you're lucky enough to snag one of the tables, you can see all the way to home plate.
The men's room even has a window at eye level so the guys don't miss one pitch. I'm looking forward to heading back to watch another game (and hopefully actually grab a table at some point).

Lunch at the Barking Crab got me thinking, though - there really aren't a lot of places to get clam shack-type food in Boston itself. Anyone have any suggestions for good (cheapish) seafood?

Barking Crab on Urbanspoon - Barking Crab

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cheap Eats: Sage

Sage, formerly of the North End, now of the South End, doesn't seem like the best spot for cheap eats. Pastas hover around the $20 mark, and entrees run between $20 and $35. But between the hours of 5:00pm and 7:30pm on Monday through Friday, only $10 will buy you a heap of food in the form of delicious little bar bites.

The stuzzi menu is part of the dinner menu, but don't be afraid to make them your whole meal. For your $10, pick any three of the dishes. Everything is great for sharing - or you could just selfishly keep them all for yourself. Sage's short rib arancini (below), crispy little rice balls stuffed with savory meat, are an excellent choice, as are the hearty potato panzeroti with fontina cheese, the meatballs (polpetti - either with meat or veggies), the chickpea caponata (a lovely light salad with plenty of chickpeas and pickled eggplant), or the lightly fried zucchini (above). Depending on how hungry you are, the stuzzi could make up your entire meal or could just start your night out right. The menu on the restaurant's website is a little out of date - there were 22 choices available when this Bostonist visited.

Sage also offers pizzas for $10 each. They offer a traditional Margherita with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, as well as a white pizza with spinach and mozzarella. With a crisp crust and served on a wooden board, these pizzas are big enough for a meal, or you could split a pizza and 3 stuzzi with a friend.

Sage is located at 1395 Washington Street in the South End. The 3 for $10 stuzzi deal is available from 5:00-7:30pm Monday through Friday.

Originally published on Bostonist.

Sage on Urbanspoon