Joe and I slipped out for a date on Friday night to Inman Square in Cambridge. That place is just full of good restaurants, but I rarely make it over there because it’s an awkwardly long walk from the T. Ever-so fortuitously, Blacklane offered us the chance to try a ride with one of their chauffeur cars. (Blacklane is an international company that offers black car service in Boston and all over the world.) I scheduled it several days before, alongside our sleep sitter, so all we had to do walk outside when they texted me that the driver had arrived, and be whisked away in a rather glamorous ride. What a treat! We met first at City Girl Cafe, which was the coziest. A place to order a big bowl of freshly made pasta and share a bottle of wine. I particularly loved that they only had three bottles of red wine on the menu. No endless deliberation needed and you knew each one was going to be delicious.
I also noticed several diners eating alone at City Girl, which to me is a sign of the reassuring and relaxed hospitality of the place.
Then we walked down to Puritan & Co. The ladies of our foursome split a berry tart with vanilla flecked whipped cream and the men ordered matching whiskey cocktails (unplanned, supposedly). Because of the spacing of the tables you could tell that even when busy, the restaurant would allow for conversation and elbow room, two things that are getting harder to come by at newer spots in Boston.
I am rescheduling all our play date plans this week because it’s supposed to be HOT. One last foray into the sweaty 80s, and just before all the city pools close. Lucky us.
I enjoyed my friend Melissa’s post about eating her purse for dinner (spending more than she planned, saving the money on her grocery bill for a week). I thought of it because I did a similar act this week, though it was still in the name of sustenance. Rummaging in the pantry in the evening to make do without a trip to the store, so we could eat outside the kitchen as much as possible. I took the girls the greenway to judge how dead the grass is (quite dead) and ordered hot squishy squares of pizza for $3.30 from galleria umberto, served up by two old men who tie the box tightly with baker’s twine when you ask for it to go. Joan gave the pizza a cursory nibble before she switched to the grass. This made me very satisfied, “Here we are, all eating the same thing, what a happy family.”
Chocolate croissant, a brioche roll, “and some coffee for Mama” from The Thinking Cup, eaten slowly walking back home through the Common. It’s our usual, to the extent that Lux orders the croissant for herself. Do I have a spoiled city child? Potentially. Ice cream sandwiches and a movie with Joe, followed by belgians and sweet roasted nuts in the depths of State Park (“And one pickled egg please” ordered Joe. The waitress didn’t bat an eye and it arrived, bright pink, on a plate moments later). For a celebratory Friday night, Pad Thai takeout that came with a paper bag for Joan to chew on.
All in all it was quite well spent, and now I’m ready to restock the freezer with butternut squash cubes and blueberries and feel again that the house is well supplied with good and plenty. Good and plenty is a very brief feeling that I have for 48 hours after my weekly grocery trip, it dissipates at the same rate as the greek yogurt.
Things have felt a little crazy, but the kitchen has looked lovely which just goes to show you can judge a book by its cover in this day in age, but you can’t judge how someone is feeling by the the looks of their instagram account. The sunlight has been magnificent.
It feels as if everything is falling into place, even the earth and the moon, for a moment. There will be a lunar eclipse. You’ll have to get up at 3:08am in the morning to see it, but whatever it takes, right?
I’m feeling really really good about life these days.
The lunar eclipse is Tuesday morning–one of only two days this week, Holy Week, that does not have a church service at the end of it. A near week of church services, many of them in the dark or lit by candles with breathtaking music in movements of mourning and celebration.
However, it’s also my birthday week! So Joe and I will go out for to a long anticipated meal at O Ya instead of going to the Good Friday service. This amazing Japanese place has been on my list for a long time, several people have told me they had the best meal of their Boston lives there. We will not order any alcohol, the whole budget will be put toward tasting delicious things and watching delicious things be prepared.
How are you feeling these days?
Photos of Rishi Green Chai tea (my super favorite lately) and bread from a Deborah Madison recipe. I’m going to start linking to the foursquare of restaurants I mention. It disrupts the reading a bit, but it is worth it for those collecting places to try in Boston.
Last week, alongside six bloggers and a rather hip Twitter up n comer, I attended a Popup dinner for the launch of Soon Spoon. A new startup, they discover last-minute reservations at fine dining restaurants in Boston and tweet, email or text them to you. These are restaurants which would often need at least a week’s notice to get you a table. A super helpful service to locals, and for tourists who only have a few days to eat at Boston’s best spots.
People who book frequently with Soon Spoon are rewarded with invitations to popup dinners catered by local chefs. A twist on your typical promotion, it’s a communal local foodie idea that I love.
Our dinner was six courses, with wine pairings. Hello. Lucky ducks we were.
Soon Spoon introduced us to our chefs for the night: two guys getting PhDs in Immunology from Harvard Medical School start a side catering project. PhaDe Food Labs. They can only cook like this two or three times a month, but when they do, they brainstorm the menu for days, tweak endlessly, and throw in a few last minute dishes based on what they saw at the grocer the day before. It was my first real encounter with what I think of as “Modernist Cuisine” style cooking–foams, dried powders, and using the sous-vide method to cook one of the meats. It was fantastic. Everything was just a little bit quirky but delicious and satisfying.
And they were game to discuss their technique on just about anything, going into tangents about chemicals and taste, and explaining the tools they used. So, basically my dream come true in a cook: knowledgable nerds who love food and discussion.
The dinner was held at a lovely and warm South End brownstone. Each dish was paired with an equally spectacular wine, all of them selected by Jonathan Fenelon from Clio. Based on what we drank, evidently Clio’s wine list is dynamite.
I loved this “dish”–a puree made from the first fava beans of the season, underscored with pickled ramps from last seasons, finished with a salty crunch and a pretty flower. Fresh, tart and green–it tasted simply like Spring.
But, this dish was my favorite! Nantucket bay scallops wrapped in black pasta, a smear of uni, and what they termed “sea and sand”: froth made from clam broth (see the foam?) enriched with a little kombu for an extra seaweed kick, and brown butter powder which had the slightest sand texture to it. Yup, brown butter powder as the sand. It was delicious, and clever to boot.
⌃⌃Here are the cooks leaning out of the tiny apartment kitchen, mid-pro-con delicious debate.⌃⌃
At the very least I recommend that you follow Soon Spoon on Twitter to keep up (+ they retweet a lot of food Boston news). You can book PHaDe for a private event in your home using Kitchensurfing right here, and follow them on Twitter. Soon Spoon, call me again, anytime.
It’s a treat to visit a place you’ve been watching from afar. I saw Alden & Harlow, a new restaurant in Harvard Square next to Brattle Theatre, photographed on a thought for food, and then thoroughly written up on tiny urban kitchen. Between the two of them, and this Boston Magazine post about AH’s cocktail menu, I was positively desperate to check it out. Fortunately Natalie and Anna are always game to visit new spots and we got a date on the calendar quickly.
What is really fun about the menu is the fact that everything is a small plate, but very shareable and priced well. Three of our favorites–the kale salad, the butternut squash salad, and charred broccoli (with squash hummus!)–were priced at $9 and completely divisible by three. In all, we shared eight plates, including dessert. It was so nice to get to try so many flavors–especially when each plate was packed with different textures and tastes–nuts, seeds, oils, yogurt, seasonings of all varieties. The flavor medleys matched our conversation as we found ourselves talking almost exclusively about travel–past trips and future dreaming. Natalie, just back from Thailand, is planning trips to Turkey and Argentina. And Anna has a nearly perfect West Coast trip just a month away.
The service style is spot on–no rush to continue ordering, we were encouraged to just enjoy and relish, and order more as we wished. The cocktails are wild–local, extremely seasonal, and unlike anything I’d seen. I hesitate to recommend a specific one for you, but I will tell you not to miss the house bitter with your dessert.
One last thing–I couldn’t believe how good the chips and dip where. You’ll hear from everyone all about their salads and amazing veggies, but I love a good chip & dip snack and this three-onion-dip was delicious and the chips were so crunchy and fresh. Best chips, best dip, respect for that.
The advantage of visiting a wonderful new spot early in its existence is that you get to sprawl on the couch and walk up to the counter three different times to order three different things and let your daughter trot around the place, and tell yourself the other customers are smiling in reminiscence, not distress, as they watch her circle.
We traveled out to Brookline Village to see Rifrullo cafe, recently opened without so much as a sign over the door outside yet, but with the loveliest interior already established.
As I looked around the thoughtfully crafted room, I said to myself: yup I’ll never be able to come here once word gets out. It’ll be packed. The menu felt like what I would serve if I was cooking my best ideas–healthy, hearty and simple. The owner & chef, Colleen, strode out from the kitchen every now and then to say hello. They sold crunchy kale chips in small wax paper bags and bundles of homemade biscotti at the counter. I tried the loaded tallegio sandwich and ordered a smoothie for Lux. After our sandwiches, we sampled their dense chocolate chip cookies and couldn’t leave without buying a few for the road.
Rifrullo Cafe 147 Cypress St Brookline MA 02445
Two wonderful local drinks, pictured here for identification out in the field.
I picked up this growler of cold brewed coffee at Dwelltime in Cambridge after contemplating buying every pastry option on the shelves. Their pastries are unbelievable. And so unpredictable. There seems to be something new and avant-garde and just quality every time I visit.
Dwelltime brews Barismo coffee which is considered Boston’s most elite coffee. The owner does direct trade with the grower’s for their beans and often prints the growers name on the label. Quite unparalleled, quite delicious. I’m no expert but I feel that they specialize in lightly roasted floral flavors. I love the idea of a cold growler of coffee–what a tasteful hostess gift for a weekend away. And even better for a mom sneaking a half glass here and there throughout the week. I left the milk out and there was no acidity whatsoever–just light and toasty.
32 oz for $12, $10 for a refill.
I mentioned this amazing cider in my pizza post. Fortunately you can also find it at select stores (see Bantam Ciders site here for listings). Buy this if you see it on shelves. Here’s the important thing to say: IT’S NOT TOO SWEET. I know you’re thinking it’s going to be sappy and apple juicy. It’s seriously light and dry and tastes like honey and apples jumped on a raft and floated down the river together.
22 oz bottles for $8.25
I had two really amazing pizzas in the last week and I feel they should not go undocumented.
On Saturday after going to Nahant Beach we drove back by way of Cambridge and stopped at Area Four. I thought of Area Four because the restaurant sits on an enormous lawn and has outdoor seating, two very rare accessories in Boston. Rumor among chefs in Boston is that no one has a pizza oven like Area Four. It’s a legit-blazing-stacks-of-firewood type of thing. I think their coffeeshop is pretty slick too, if you’re by yourself and don’t mind listening to hussy startup business talk from the MIT boys who go there and will be forced to sit right next to you by the community-table-style seating.
Joe ordered some murky craft beer and I ordered a Bantam cider that came in a big glass and looked like straight champagne. Made in Cambridge, local apples and honey and fizz and 6% alcohol…delicious. We split one large fennel sausage and pickled banana pepper pizza, $25. I think the tomato sauce might have been composed completely of tomatoes roasted by hand. OR SOMETHING. I kept saying “this sauce…is amazing.” And then there was the housemade sausage. The waiter told us they make 300 lbs of it a week. The most crumbly delicious sausage, doused in fennel seeds. After you’ve had this sausage you just want to never order sausage again until you can eat there. The next day we were sitting on the Common debating whether to go eat there again for lunch. We didn’t, but maybe we will this weekend.
Then on Monday I met some girls with their kiddos over by the North End. We wanted pizza…and fortunately I remembered my friend highly recommending Galleria Umberto (actually I didn’t “remember” but I had saved the place as a bookmark on my Yelp app and looked it up, thank goodness). I’d been wanting to go for awhile but trouble is Galleria Umberto is only open for lunch, only on weekdays, and when they sell out, they close up. Since we were in the sweet spot we called ahead and sent two delegates to bring it back to the park. Now, I am a burned cheese fan. I once put just cheese on a tray, put it in the oven, burned it, and ate it. Clearly these fellows are too because this pizza was like a volcano seen from an airplane. And the dough–almost a sourdough? So proofed and thick that Lux ate it like a sandwich. Perfect for kids because they could trot off holding a square and it didn’t decompose on the way….if you’re wondering if stay at home moms in Boston just eat great food all day, yes, that is the case.
Anyway, two pizzas, one week. Can’t stop thinking about them.