Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maine Cuisine

In celebration of my friend Ashley's birthday, here's a tribute to Maine cuisine: my first whole lobster.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hot "New Style" Jewish Deli

In honor of Passover, a tribute to the array of top-knotch Jewish eateries in my local Brookline neighborhood must be paid, and among the best is Zaftigs Delicatessen in Coolidge Corner. Hailed as "ain't your grandma's deli", this non-traditional Jewish restaurant is incredibly popular among local clientele, with a crowd of patrons waiting outside for easily an hour for weekend brunch in the spring and summer. Voted one of the Ten Best Delis in the World by Reader's Digest in 2006, Zaftigs has fast become a neighborhood favorite since its opening in 1997. It's casual ambience and low-key Brookline location is the perfect antithesis to the fast-paced New York deli, but with equally great food.

Zaftigs serves breakfast all day as well as classic lunch reubens and more traditional dinners such as brisket they claim "your Jewish mother will kvell over." Yet in addition to the classic gefilte fish, knishes, and matzo ball soup, Zaftigs also ventures away from the traditional with the BBQ brisket quesadilla and grilled salmon cakes with mustard-dill sauce that outdo cold and clammy smoked salmon. Beginning the meal with bagel chips (though it must be noted that nearby Michael's Deli has better bagels, and quicker), Zaftigs is known for its brunch for good reason. Its challah French toast is incredible, with mouth-watering options such as the banana-stuffed French toast in a vanilla-bourbon batter or the grilled chocolate brioche with raspberry sauce. (Though I found the cheese blintzes a bit bland, everything else was delicious.) The bakery offers a tasty selection of sweets as well, and on holidays Zaftigs busts out extensive special menus. For those following a Kashrut diet Zaftigs is not a fully kosher menu; after all they offer pork sausage and bacon cheeseburger. Still, its corned beef and potato pancakes are some of the best in town. Not to be missed - though anticipate a wait!

3.5/5 stars.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Motto in Life

All those who live to eat (rather than eat to live) will agree with the infinite wisdom of Oscar Wilde:

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals."

*Though I must note that though I am serious about food, I still have fun with it - after all, the point is to enjoy!

Tilapia Goes Thai

Recently I've made some fish dishes with good cuts of fish (citrus glazed salmon, pineapple chile Chilean sea bass) but I think even a more typically bland white fish can be dressed up with an interesting twist. Here's one I really like:

Tilapia in Thai Red Curry

4 tilapia filets
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. minced peeled ginger
2 garlic cloves minced (eyeball it)
1 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped green onions (I use less - too many green onions will overpower a dish)
1 tsp. curry powder (I of course use more like a tablespoon ...)
2 tsp. red curry paste (Thai Kitchen is brand I recommend)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (again I double that)
4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce (less salty and better for you)
1 tbsp. brown sugar (I love the fusion of sweet with the spice!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can light coconut milk

1) Heat 1/2 tsp. oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, cook one minute. Add bell pepper and onions, cook one minute. Stir in cumin, curry powder, paste, cook one minute.
2) Add soy sauce, sugar, coconut milk, salt, bring to simmer (do not boil!) Remove from heat, stir in cilantro garnish (which I use sparingly.)
3) Brush fish with oil, sprinkle salt, place on baking sheet with cooking spray, broil 7 minutes.
4) Serve basmati rice topped with fish, sauce, and lime wedges.

~I tested this recipe on Giulio, who gives it four stars.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Experimenting with Appetizers

Grape tomatoes stuffed with avocado and goat cheese

It is important to make the distinction between appetizers and tapas. Tapas, small dishes served in Spain, are one an excellent way to taste a variety of different mini-meals. According to legend, the tapa tradition began when Castile's King Alfonso X or Alfonso the Wise recovered from an illness by drinking wine mixed with small dishes between meals. After the king recovered from his illness the king ordered that taverns were not allowed to serve wine to customers if not accompanied by a small snack or tapas. The word became a kind of loophole in the law to allow drinkers to imbibe alcohol.

The serving of tapas is also designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.

Last Night's Dinner

Chicken stuffed with spinach, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, pine nuts, gouda

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Culinary World Tour - Paris

Beef bourguignon I had in a tiny place near Rue de Rosiers in the Marais, the Jewish quarter in Paris

Friday, March 26, 2010

On the French

"How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?"

-Charles de Gaulle

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Metropolis Cafe: South End Chic

Metropolis Cafe in Boston's historic South End first caught my eye when I noticed its Parisian cafe style facade, but the food was not exactly that of the City of Light. Still, with an intimate setting - Metropolis can accomodate less than a few dozen diners at a time - the cafe is a good pick for a romantic date. Strolling down fashionable Tremont Street, one can pretend it's a trip to Paris ... Metropolis Cafe's servers were certainly as snooty as the French stereotype. And the wine list offers a nice selection.

One of the Aquitaine Group's restaurants, which include its namesake Aquitaine and the Gaslight Brasserie (also in the South End), Metropolis is Executive Chef Seth Woods' first Boston restaurant after his move from Manhattan's world renowned Union Square Cafe. Yet it's clear the cafe is lackluster in comparison to his more recent ventures, as the menu lacks a certain "je ne sais quoi." Offering the standard bistro entrees- chicken, steak, pork chop, fish, it lacked creativity. The gnocchi with duck confit, Vermont brussel sprouts, rosemary jus and parmiggiano reggiano was the highlight of the meal, with a nice hint of herb infused in the dish without overpowering it. The warm beet carpaccio with crumbled feta, toasted walnuts and frisee was poorly executed, however, with the beets overcooked so that they melded to the plate, forming an almost leathery skin. The risotto simmered in "market ingredients" (code for root vegetables in the winter, take into account) and sweet butter had the gluey consistency of so many risotto attempts outside of Italy; to be fair, achieving perfectly-cooked risotto is a difficult feat. The seared sea scallops with lemon fragola, golden corn and sweet pepper salsa was quite tasty, but the meager portion hardly satisfied the appetite or justified the price of a $20 plate. Though a pleasant, mellow atmosphere, the poor execution of the first courses left an unenthused impression. The chic decor may have reeled me in but the food itself left me unimpressed.
A better choice for a nice glass of wine to enjoy the atmosphere, perhaps after an evening at one of the local jazz hot spots as it's open until 11 pm most nights, than for a sit-down meal.

3/5 stars.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Barcelona Mercado

One of my favorites: a market off La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain

Culinary World Tour - Markets

The discussion about farms and farmer's markets got me thinking of some great markets I've been to - here's a fish market in Valencia:

And a market by Rialto in Venice, Italy

Monday, March 22, 2010

Growing Green

When discussing food it is crucial to address the source of the ingredients themselves, as any dish is only as good as the quality of its components. The freshness of produce, for example, can make or break a meal, just as can the cut of meat or quality of olive oil used in the pan, I have learned. Sofra highlights this principle perfectly, as the produce used is all local, which ensures greater freshness (and seasonal appropriateness, our macrobiotic diet enthusiasts would argue.)

Sofra Chef Ana Sortun's farm Siena Farms also follows the community supported agricultural model, which is a small-farm marketing model that provides year-round income for the farmer and "an intimate season-long farm experience for the customer." Siena Farms visits area farmers markets in the spring and summer and participates in a BoxShare membership program, which sends produce-filled boxes regularly to pick up locations at Sofra in Cambridge and Copley Square in Boston. Community supported agriculture is an offshoot of the greater sustainable agriculture movement, which has gained increased attention and growing support in recent decades.

Sustainable agriculture is agricultural production that can be maintained without harming the environment. The aim is to make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and integrate natural biological cycles on the farm, ultimately enhancing the environmental quality and natural resource base. This model also helps to sustain the economic stability of farmers and in the long-term helps to fight worldwide hunger in an environmentally-conscious way.

Siena Farms produce is also used by the chefs of popular Boston-area restaurants such as the Beacon Hill Bistro, Henriett's Table, Persephone, O Ya, and Upstairs on the Square. For more information visit

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Culinary World Tour: Morocco

Couscous I had in Fez, Morocco - with chicken, carrots, zucchini, chickpeas, spices

Sortun's Sofra Shines

From the chef of acclaimed Cambridge restaurant Oleana, the Middle Eastern bakery and cafe Sofra shines in its first year. Sofra executes its proclaimed "modern twist on the traditional mezze" brilliantly with an assortment of flatbread panini sandwiches to choose from, using fresh local ingredients from owner Ana Sortun's local Siena Farms, located in Sudbury, MA. A triumph of the rising sustainable agriculture movement, the cafe's menu incorporates homegrown baby greens and vegetables into its salads and flatbreads, using Lebanese and Syrian spices to give items an interesting spin. Seasonal specials such as the butternut squash soup, a favorite among the cafe staff, and sandwiches and shitake mushrooms provide a changing variety of options to choose from. The homemade mozzarella in the spinach stuffed flatbread sandwich had the perfect light, milky consistency, the spanikopita was delightfully flaky, and the hummus bar selection truly authentic. Sofra incorporates a range of cuisines into its culinary repertoire, from Armenian bean and pate to Moroccan style goat cheese to Lebanese croissants to Greek yogurt to Turkish breakfasts to Egyptian shortbreads ... Sofra has it all. The busy regular clientele is clearly not predominately American, a true testament to the food's authenticity. The attractive decor of the eatery has Middle Eastern-inspired designs and low tables reminiscent of the east Mediterranean and Morocco, with a wine shop attached by a glass partition to create a wine cellar-like backdrop to the cozy cafe.

The assortment of delectable bakery pastries are not to be missed - the earthquake cookie is so rich and decadent it's to die for, and the chocolate hazelnut baklava with cocoa honey provides an interesting spin on the traditional dessert. Rustic items such as "Mom's fruit tart" remind of the ties to Siena Farms, creating an interesting fusion of Middle Eastern and New England fare; as does "Farmer Chris' basil sandwich," named for Chef Sortun's husband. The wonderful arrangement of savory and sweet treats is worth the trek up Belmont Street to the bakery's less than ideal location, and it should be noted that the cafe closes at 7:00 on weekdays and 6:00 on weekends, catering to the lunch crowd. Though not cheap for the moderate portion sizes (by American standards) the food is a tier above the average corner lunch shop. The helpful staff lives up to the Sofra name, which comes from the ancient Arabic word meaning dining table or picnic and is synonymous with generosity and hospitality. Sofra is one of Cambridge's best-kept secrets, but not for long.

4/5 stars.

Culinary World Tour - Stop One: Spain

Spanish tapas I had in Valencia, Spain - polpos (sauteed octopus) con ajo

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tasca: Tantalizing Spanish Tapas

Though in a slightly obscure location down Comm. Ave in Brighton, Tasca was packed both times I went, both on a weekend and Thursday night. Its bustling, cozy atmosphere adds to the rustic interior with decorative wall hangings and romantic candlelight illuminating the dining room; though in the bar area it can become over-crowded. The must-have sangria is still worth the wait.

With tantalizing aromas wafting through the air, Tasca has a fairly extensive variety of hot and cold tapas to choose from. Traditional favorites such as sizzling garlic shrimp, patatas bravas (potatoes in cheese sauce), and ham croquettes were all delicious; likewise the setas al jerez, Portabella mushrooms braised in a sherry cream demi-glaze with roasted garlic tostados was delectable. There are also more creative options, such as the tortas del cangrejo, pan roasted black bean and crab cakes served with fresh tomato and cilantro salsa, which was a unanimous crowd-pleaser. Yet Tasca shines more in its classic Spanish dishes than some of its attempts at culinary fusion; the pan-seared yellowfin tuna left something to be desired compared to a nice sashimi. Leave this one to the Japanese, please.

Though the paella lacked enough of the rice crust that forms a coating on the enormous paella pans in Valencia, the "Valenciana paella" with chicken, chorizo, and duckling in saffron-infused rice was still better than most paella attempts this side of the Atlantic (though with noticably undercooked peas), and certainly filling enough for a table of six. The tarta de chocolate grand finale, a flourless chocolate terrine served with a raspberry coulee, was to die for.

Tasca is definitely worth going back to, to taste more of the plethora of dishes; I still want to sample the gratin de verduras: roasted leek, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables baked with manchego and smoked gouda, and served with reduced aged balsamic and black truffle oil. Enticing. Not to mention their classical Spanish guitar nights and flamenco performances (though the Tasca website is unclear about when they will actually be.)

My second visit was during Boston Restaurant Week, during which diners had the option to select from a pre fix menu (Tasca offered an appetizer, entree and dessert for only $16.) Another pleasing dining experience, in my opinion. From the tapas menu I highly recommend the queso fritos de cabra, herbed goat cheese fritters served with greens and oven-dried vine ripened tomatoes. The light sauce, a basil puree I believe, and tomato's stewed flavor mixed well with the fried goat cheese's rich and creamy center. Also quite spectacular was the calamari, which is lightly fried and melts like butter in your mouth - perfection.

From the special pre fix menu for an appetizer we tried the Bacalao cake with a mixed green salad, which was not at all tasty. The fish cake looked like a cold biscuit with some chopped peppers thrown in for color, but upon tasting it I was overpowered by the taste of raw red onion that destroyed any hint of cod. Furthermore, the charred tomato vinaigrette accompaniment was too acidic and failed to compliment the Bacalao, so the dish was a flop in entirety. For the entree choice of specials we had the sauteed filet of haddock, which was cooked well. The artful presentation of colorful vegetables served as a nice contrast to the white fish, and the sweet chile sour creme was an excellent accent (though their was too much butter on the carrots.) Served with an overly generous portion of scallion mashed potatoes and a somewhat bland blackened corn succotash, the haddock was still a tasty but lighter dinner. From the dessert specials my inner chocolate addict had to taste the duo of housemade chocolate truffles, another truly exquisite finish.

Tasca's at its best in its most authentic Spanish dishes rather than some of its more eclectic specials, but ultimately worth the trip.

3.5/5 stars.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Kind Diet

In The Kind Diet actress, activist, and committed conservationist Alicia Silverstone shares the insights that encouraged her to swear off meat and dairy forever, and outlines the spectacular benefits of adopting a plant-based diet, from weight loss, increased energy and smooth digestion. Alicia provides the encouragement and the tools to make the transition to a plant-based diet "deliciously empowering."
(For my own vegan substitute recommendations and recipes, see posts below.)

The Kind Life

I came across Alicia's Silverstone's book The Kind Diet by chance when I was at the Boston Book Festival this past October. I went to hear Alicia Silverstone speak about her new book enticed by the prospect of seeing a celebrity - who didn't love "Clueless"? - but was surprised to find her to be a very compelling speaker. She explained how The Kind Diet delineates how to lead a vegetarian and subsequently vegan lifestyle by changing dietary habits in a three-step process, ultimately aiming for a macrobiotic diet. The book serves as both an informational resource and a cookbook, including some of Alicia's own recipes.

Naturally I bought a copy of the book for one of my vegetarian friends and read it cover to cover. I have attempted a vegetarian diet in the past but did not consume sufficient protein, iron, and B12 amounts, and was curious to see what food source alternatives Alicia's recommendations have to offer. So I tried making some of her recipes, which include an artichoke, mushroom and leek crostini topped with pesto, baked seitan, and a black bean kalbocha squash stew recipe that I really want to try. I found her vegan lemon poppyseed bread to be less than satisfying compared to the buttermilk versions - it was dry and didn't use enough lemon zest to give it the tang that I prefer - but I found her vegan product recommendations to be very helpful. Alicia suggests Earth Balance buttery spread as a butter substitute, which I tried using in my cooking and discovered it still achieves the desired buttery taste for my pie crusts, yet is easier on the stomach. I also experimented with using agave syrup as an all-natural sweetener rather than refined sugar, which I use in my coffee to avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes; and milk alternatives such as soy (light Silk is my favorite) and almond milk, which I highly recommend. It's rich, creamy, and great for baking. The Kind Diet lists many helpful vegan substitutes for cooking, as well as a variety of meat-free recipes that cater to different levels of vegetarianism, from those that still include eggs and dairy in their diets to the "Super Star" macrobiotic diet.

I have mixed feelings about the macrobiotic diet, which focuses on whole grains supplemented by vegetables and beans, avoiding highly processed and refined foods. While I support the philosophy of healthy eating behind the macrobiotic diet, such as consuming locally grown produce and seasonally appropriate meals - I naturally eat more raw vegetables in the spring and summer as a result of their availability anyways - I still find some aspects of the macrobiotic lifestyle troublesome. Macrobiotic cooking avoids the use of nightshades, which include peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant, and advocates sparing use of spinach, beets, and avocados as well - I think that spinach is a wonderfully nutritious vegetable and crucial natural iron source for a vegetarian diet, and frankly don't see the logic behind eliminating it. Furthermore, peppers are great source of vitamin C, helpful to the immune system, and have such a wide variety of species to accent dishes in completely different ways, from spicy habeneros to dried chili peppers to fresh, sweet yellow bell peppers ... to avoid them seems almost criminal to me. (Furthermore I just happen to love eggplant and beets, so following a truly macrobiotic diet is out of the question for me.) So while I condone the emphasis on healthy eating and a balanced lifestyle, I much prefer the "Mediterranean diet."

Though at times The Kind Diet can become too preachy about the vegan lifestyle, which I respect but choose not to follow, thank you, it successfully serves as a good resource for vegetarian cooking.

3.5/5 stars.

Visit Alicia's website The Kind Life ( for more tips and recipes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Fare

In honor of St. Patrick's Day today I decided to bake beer bread last night, using a simple recipe I came across a while ago:

3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 bottle beer (I used Guinness of course)
1/4 cup butter melted

1) Preheat over 350 degrees.
2) Mix first three ingredients with electic mixer until smooth.
3) Pour batter into greased 9x5 inch pan, bake for 45 min.
4) Pour melted butter over top of bread (I cut slits in top with a knife to let butter seep down) and bake another 10 min.

The result? This recipe calls for way too much butter! The bread has an almost fudgy consistency, it is so rich, and the taste of butter overpowers the flavor of the beer. Definitely not what I tasted at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin when I went St. Patrick's Day weekend a few years ago, I must say. My advice to bakers attempting this recipe: first melt butter so that it is 1/4 cup in liquid form, not 1/4 cup then melted (half a stick of butter.) That may be where I went wrong. Although the bread is still edible, this baking experiment warrants a second try.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Princess Peach's Kitchen

Last night I made salmon for dinner, two ways: 1) broiled and topped with a Dijon mustard and garlic sauce, and 2) in an orange-soy-ginger glaze, topped with orange slices. I served it with rice pilaf and a salad of baby spinach, gorgonzola, granny smith apples, and almonds, with balsamic dressing and followed by a fruit and cheese plate. So I thought as a writing exercise I would review Princess Peach’s Kitchen.

Though always atmospheric and renowned for the head chef’s creativity, meals at Princess Peach's Kitchen can be hit or miss. Past specials that have hit the mark have ranged from traditional French dishes such as French onion soup, beef bourguignon, and cassoulet, while a variety of ethnic cuisines crop up on the menu from time to time: Moroccan tajine, Thai curry stir-fry, and some Indian favorites. Classic staples of the Princess Peach's Kitchen menu include Chef Matt’s specialties: penne alla vodka, Greek burgers stuffed with feta and spinach, and a spicy beef chili slow-cooked to perfection. The dessert menu varies seasonally, ranging from cheesecakes to pies and fruit crisps a la mode.

Yet there have been flops as well, such as the “blackened” Southwestern chicken chili experiment, and the rather deflated chocolate soufflé dessert. Where Chef Peach lacks in execution she makes up for in ambition, with adventurous dishes such as a pear ginger chutney that’s unlikely fusion of flavors is just bizarre enough to work.

This four-course Italian meal was no exception. The freshly baked onion foccacia bread and spinach artichoke dip appetizer complimented each other well, followed by Portobello enzo, warm Portobello mushroom caps topped with fresh spinach, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and drizzled in balsamic, classically made in Modena. The mushrooms sautéed to achieve a rich, meaty texture, taking the “mushroom burger” to an Italian domain. Spinach was the persistent theme of the evening, as the entrée of the night was spinach linguine with lobster tails, scallops, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and fresh spinach, tossed with freshly grated parmesan and basil-infused olive oil. Though the flavor combination marinated well the scallops were decidedly overcooked, and the pancetta-wrapped scallop side dish did little to mask their almost rubbery consistency. Be certain to request your meat rare when coming here: the chef has a tendency to overdo it. The wine list was not extensive this evening and a sauvignon blanc would have complimented the seafood better, but the pinot grigio paired nicely with the dessert course: chocolate ice-cream topped cookies (an all-American favorite) and a key lime cheesecake with a nice tart kick. Never lacking in dessert options, Princess Peach's Kitchen can be counted on to leave you feeling satisfied.

3/5 stars.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Indian Recipes

After our Kashmir dining experience I got to thinking about the Indian food that I’ve cooked at home that was honestly better than some I’ve had at restaurants, so I thought I’d include some tasty recipes. Here are two vegetarian Indian dishes I made last month (which I served with rogan josh chicken, basmati rice, and naan):

Indian Dahl With Spinach

1 ½ cups lentils

3 ½ cups water

½ tsp. salt (I’m not a big fan of salty-tasting food so I only use the required amount to bring out the flavors of the dish)

ground turmeric (the recipe calls for ½ tsp. but I used probably three times that; I tend to adjust seasonings as I taste the dish)

chili powder (again suggested ½ tsp. but I like my food much spicier so I doubled that at least)

1 lb. spinach (I used fresh baby spinach to give it a fresher taste than with frozen chopped spinach, which is hard to drain)

1 onion chopped

2 tbsp. butter (better if you use ghee – traditional Indian cooking method of clarified butter)

ground cumin (recipe says 1 tsp. but I doubled that)

1 tsp. mustard seed

garam masala (1 tsp. – obviously I added more. Garam masala is a great aromatic Indian spice with a unique flavor)

½ cup coconut milk (I use light coconut milk, which you can find in the international food aisle near Thai and Indian cuisine)

1) Rinse lentils and soak 20 min.

2) In large saucepan bring water to boil, stir in salt, turmeric, chili powder, COVER, reduce heat to low, simmer for 15 minutes

3) Stir in spinach, cook until lentils are soft (says 5 minutes but really took closer to 10 for me) Add water as needed (the trick is to keep them moist so the lentils don’t dry out and yet boil the water off enough so that it forms a sort of pasty consistency. This can take practice.)

4) In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter (or ghee if you’re using it,) sauté onions with cumin and mustard seeds, stir often – cook until onions are transparent

5) Combine with the lentils, stir in garam masala, coconut milk, cook until heated through (this took much longer than expected – I found that I the longer I let the dish simmer the better this tasted, so I put it on low and let it marinate for at least another half an hour.)

*Fun for option to try for leftovers: lentil balls. Roll the refrigerated leftovers into balls, dip in a little flour or cornstarch, fry in canola or peanut oil and they’re so good it’s almost like a meatball – great appetizer for entertaining (especially for vegetarians)

Charam Masala

1) Heat two tsp. olive oil (always extra virgin in my kitchen!) over medium heat, add 1 chopped onion, 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger (I love, love, love! ginger), 1 clove minced garlic – cook five minutes

2) Stir in 1/8 tsp. salt, cumin (it calls for 1/8 tsp. but I used at least a whole teaspoon of course), 1/8 tsp. red pepper – cook one minute

3) Add 1 ½ cups chickpeas, ¾ cups vegetable broth, ½ cup chopped tomato (you can do fresh or diced from a can if you’re trying to save money), cook five minutes until liquid evaporates (like with the dahl, took longer than five minutes when I made it)

4) Remove from heat, stir in garam masala (I took the “1/8 tsp.” as suggested and put in around a teaspoon)

*This can be garnished with fresh cilantro (which I don’t love to be frank, so I omitted that)

These recipe was tested on my roommates, neighbors and friends and well-received.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kashmir: Newbury (not New Dehli)

We went out to celebrate my roommate Matt's birthday last weekend, and what better way than a big Indian meal?

Yet the resounding agreement of our party of nine was that Kashmir on Newbury Street is grossly overpriced. With prices clearly jacked up purely as a result of its trendy location, the quality of the food itself did not suffice the hefty bill – a $17 entrée at Kashmir tastes just as mediocre as $9 carry-out from an arguably more authentic Indian restaurant in Allston. So while the former “Best of Boston” restaurant claims to have “the best Northern Indian food on the United States!” Kashmir failed to meet expectations.

The service was slow, as is often the case in Indian restaurants, it should be noted, but the wait for our server to appear, then furthermore to bring us the menus was prolonged (let alone the eventual bill.) The complimentary dipping sauces wet the appetite well – try the green sauce, it’s delicious! don’t believe me? ask the dishes! – and the assortment of appetizers were the crowd favorites. The vegetarian samosas stuffed with the undercooked potato and pea mixture was markedly tastier than the lamb-filled alternative, and the chicken tikka was dry. The reshmi pakoras, chicken dipped in chickpea batter and fried, was only a little better, and the seekh keba, hearty chunks of dark meat were more tender but too fatty. Nearly every dish served throughout the night was overcooked, it became clear, including the Tandoori shrimp. The best dish was the Halal goat curry, for which the well-spiced sauce could mask the meat’s tough consistency.

The Kashmir Maharani, marketed as a traditional vegetarian Indian meal served in a Thali, offered an assortment of flavors to try; the Mulligatawny lentil soup starter was too watery and underspiced, and the raita, likewise, was too wet as if the cucumbers had not been drained properly and lacking the desired citrus tang. Similarly the spinach in the saag paneer was too wet (and not spicy enough for my taste), throwing off the dish’s consistency. The sahi paneer korma had a hearty creamy tomato sauce that served well to dress the less flavorful dishes, such as the (surprise!) overcooked rice of the biryani dishes, of which there was little to distinguish the beef and chicken options I sampled. The rustic appearance of the nuts and delightfully sweet golden raisins dispersed in the basmati rice was still less than satisfying, and the carrots were unquestionably bland. The mango lassi provided a cool, creamy compliment to the meal; other beverage favorites included the espresso martini, which tasted like kahlua in a glass, and the sangria pitcher, likely the only “bang for your buck” options on the menu. Surprisingly the mango crème brulee was a hit, with a gorgeous presentation of glistening golden top adorned with candied mango – the dessert may have exceeded our meal.

While known for its atmosphere, the swanky restaurant’s décor still failed to make up for the less than stellar food, and the funky-smelling “hot” towels at the end of the meal was the real cherry on top to the evening.

2/5 stars.

Scallop dinner

Lime and chili-crusted sea scallops sauteed with bell peppers, served over greens and jasmine rice.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Enter the mind of Princess Peach

I've often been told, "do what you love, and then it won't feel like work." First and foremost, I am a writer. Since I was a child I have known that I want to write in some capacity for the rest of my life, but I was never exactly sure in what domain. So I asked myself: what am I interested in? What do I love?

I love gourmet food. I have been cooking for years and with time have only become more captivated by the culinary arts; I'm sure the fact that one of my closest long-time friends is a professional chef has only fueled this "foodie" obsession. It has come to the point in which the highlight of my day is researching new recipes for dinner, exploring new cooking styles, and studying different cuisines from all over the world. Then one day I thought, "I could really do this for a living."

So as I embark upon my journey as a food writer, I will use this blog as a vehicle for honing my food critiquing skills, and hopefully create a greater discussion about food. I will provide restaurant reviews, new recipes and cookbook recommendations, and welcome any comments to further my exploration of all things epicurean. Let the adventure begin.

Yours truly,

Princess Peach
(the petite domestic goddess)

Thursday, March 11, 2010